Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home DVD Review

Cody marvels at the multiversal wonders of Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Spider-Man: Far from Home ended with a shocking cliffhanger in which J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, playing a different version of the character than he played in Sam Raimi’s trilogy of Spider-Man films) of the news show The Daily Bugle revealed to the world that teenager Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is the man behind the mask of the hero known as Spider-Man. But Spider-Man wasn’t looking very heroic in that moment; the villain Mysterio had framed Spider-Man for his death. So the public was told that Peter Parker was both Spider-Man and a murderer. There were many different directions director Jon Watts and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers could have taken the story in from there, but I never expected them to go in the direction they ended up choosing. And I’m very grateful that they did.

Just like in the days of serials, the Far from Home cliffhanger is resolved very quickly in this follow-up. Peter’s name is cleared and he attempts to go on with his life. But the fact that the world knows he’s Spider-Man doesn’t just cause trouble for him, it causes trouble for his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) as well… so Peter seeks the help of the sorcerer Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He makes a request: remove the “Peter Parker is Spider-Man” information from everyone’s minds. It’s a request Strange can grant easily enough. But even though Peter is a gifted student, he can also be a really dumb kid, and as Strange is casting the spell he keeps interrupting. Making changes to the spell. Don’t make Ned forget that he’s Spider-Man, don’t make MJ forget, don’t make his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) forget it. All these interruptions cause the spell to go wrong. And inadvertently rip open doorways in the multiverse.

I never would have guessed that Spider-Man: No Way Home would be a multiverse story, because Mysterio had already claimed to be a multiversal traveler in Far from Home, and he had been lying. As it turns out, he wasn’t wrong about the multiverse. He was just ahead of his time. Soon Spider-Man villains from other universes start appearing in Peter’s world. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And here is when things start to get awesome. The villains that start appearing are from previous Spider-Man movies, before the franchise was rebooted to fit into the MCU. And they’re played by the same actors who played them before! Villains appear from every one of the movies that starred Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker / Spider-Man: Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin, Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, Thomas Haden Church as Sandman, Rhys Ifans as Lizard, Jamie Foxx as Electro. Church and Ifans kind of got off easy, as they only had to provide vocal performances; their characters are in sand and lizard form throughout, so they are entirely visual effects otherwise. But Dafoe, Molina, and Foxx were there on set, interacting with each other, interacting with Holland, Batalon, Zendaya, and Tomei. And it is incredible to see them back in these roles after all these years.

I was never a big fan of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, but the Tobey Maguire films are very important to me, the first two especially. I have very strong memories of seeing those movies when they were released, of watching them with loved ones. I associate major life events with those movies, like getting my dog Zeppelin when the first one was released. Special times. And I have always felt that those first two movies were the best Spider-Man adaptations. They feature my ideal version of the characters and told the stories in the best possible way, as far as I’m concerned. So it was very heartwarming to see their versions of Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Sandman back on the screen. And it was nice that the Amazing Spider-Man movies’ versions of Lizard and Electro got to come along for the ride as well. (Although Electro got a major makeover.)

Doctor Strange demands that Peter send these villains back to their own worlds, and gives him the means to do so. But he also acknowledges that some of these characters – Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Electro – are doomed to die when they return. We saw them die in the other movies they were in. So Peter decides to take a different approach. He’ll use his scientific know-how to cure them all of their conditions before he sends them back. If they don’t have their powers anymore, they won’t go down the path that will lead to their deaths. He doesn’t realize how dangerous Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin is… and Dafoe does a terrific job of making the character come off as even more dangerous than he was in the first Spider-Man. Things go terribly wrong because of Norman. Peter’s world falls apart. He's dealt with a major loss. The mood gets dark and heavy, and the kid finally gets the "With great power comes great responsibility" speech.

And just when things are at their darkest, we get two bright beams of light. The movie becomes even more fun and more heartwarming. Because the villains aren’t the only ones who cross between worlds. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parkers / Spider-Men have also entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Seeing Garfield reprise the role was cool, and he’s very entertaining in the movie. But to have Maguire back was mind-blowing.

When the first Spider-Man was released and was a massive success, there was talk that Maguire and director Sam Raimi were going to make six Spider-Man movies together in total, and I would daydream about how awesome that series of six movies was going to be. We didn’t get those six movies; there was a stumble with Spider-Man 3, Raimi didn’t have faith in the script they were putting together for Spider-Man 4, so the series came to an end. Rather than try to make a sequel without Raimi, Sony chose to reboot and we got the Andrew Garfield movies. They had big plans for those, there was a lot of world-building jammed into The Amazing Spider-Man 2… but that movie wasn’t well-received, so that series also came to an early end. Peter Holland’s Spider-Man was brought into existence and got to play in the MCU, and it was great. But to get there, two other Spider-Man series were cut short. There were things left unresolved. So to have Maguire and Garfield back in this movie, it also gives some closure to their respective series. And it was nice to hear updates on what has been going on in their lives since we last saw them.

This makes way for a joyous stretch of the film in which we get to see Maguire, Garfield, and Holland working together to fight the villains from the Maguire and Garfield movies. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home is not a movie I ever would have predicted we’d get. But it’s a movie this Spider-Man fan needed even more than I would have thought I did. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 will always be my favorite Spider-Man movies, but this one almost ranks up there with them for me, because it allowed me to give the proper goodbye to Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker / Spider-Man that I’ve been wanting for over a decade. It was a blast to watch. I laughed, I cried, I marveled.

I was glad to add a copy of this movie to my collection, alongside all of the other Spider-Man movies. (I may not be a fan of the Garfield ones, but I do own them.) Spider-Man: No Way Home came to DVD with two featurettes as bonus features. More special features can be found on the Blu-ray, and I will be upgrading to that down the line.

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