I know I'm not going to convince anyone who isn't a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to suddenly give it a chance because, at the end of the day, superheroes aren't for everyone and they really don't need to be. I've been collecting comics since the mid-1980s and so every time I go see a new MCU movie, I end up seeing five or 10 things I never thought I would get to see come to life on the big screen. So, as a 40- year-old deep in the throes of nostalgia, I'm directly in the dead center of their (birth-to-death) demographic.
Some of the complaints about Marvel are accurate in that there's definitely a "house style" to how their films are lit, shot and structured (although this year's "Eternals" is a welcome diversion from that) and that the setups for future MCU plot points can sometimes overwhelm the story they're trying to tell in the moment, but the one I really can't understand is how there are "too many movies to keep track of and watch." Sure, with the inclusion of "Spider-Man: No Way Home" that's 27 movies, not counting the dozen TV shows that all connect the MCU into a, ahem, tightly woven web of storytelling, but don't tell me that's too much content as you go through your fifth rewatch of all 201 episodes of "The Office" or while you set your DVR to record the new episodes of season 18 of "Grey's Anatomy."
- Photo courtesy of Spider-Man: No Way Home/Marvel Studios
- Spider-Man is not a kid anymore. He can poke you furiously.
Let's just be honest with each other. The MCU is absolutely a time commitment, but as someone who has watched it all in real time ever since 2008's "Iron Man," the payoff has been immeasurable. The experiences of watching an entire sold-out theater erupt in tears during "Infinity War" or cheers in "Endgame" have been some of the best non-concert related communal moments of my life. As a fan of storytelling on its most basic level, it has been astounding to watch a single massive story get told, one single chapter at a time, across years of my life.
Now with "Spider-Man: No Way Home," Marvel is so confident with its world-building that the massive corporation (along with returning director Jon Watts) can retroactively go back and make the last two decades of Spider-Man movies stronger in retrospect. Without going into heavy spoilers, "No Way Home" brings the multiverse crashing into the MCU, meaning that Tom Holland's Spider-Man must do battle with the villains that his previous incarnations in completely different franchises took on. So we have Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus, Thomas Haden Church's Sandman and Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin from Tobey Maguire's "Spider-Man" series with Jamie Foxx's Electro and Rhys Ifans' The Lizard from Andrew Garfield's "Amazing Spider-Man" series all together now in the MCU.
As far as I can tell, no one has ever bridged past franchises together into one big story before. By connecting these villains into the modern series, it is absolutely hands down some of the rougher edges left by the much maligned "Spider-Man 3" and Garfield's "Amazing Spider-Man" films. But "No Way Home" isn't just an exercise in nostalgia-bating fan service; instead, the emotional arcs from "Homecoming" and "Far From Home" pay off beautifully and the performances (especially from Holland and Zendaya) are layered across the board.
"No Way Home" isn't perfect. There are a few moments of clunky dialogue and some of the action sequences fall a little flat, but there's no sign of fatigue in the stories being told in the MCU. I know "The Eternals" was the worst-reviewed Marvel movie so far, but even that was still trying to be something weird and different in a cinematic universe where people complain about the MCU always playing it safe.
"Spider-Man" is a lot of folks' favorite superhero and "No Way Home" will do a very good job reminding people why that's a thing. Ultimately, Peter Parker knows that his own happiness and safety must always be sacrificed to make the world somewhat more decent and to help anyone, anywhere, at any time who needs it. He's the little guy always punching up at the bullies, which is impossible not to root for and is also why this movie is on track to be one of the biggest moneymakers of all time. Not that making a billion dollars is really a sign of quality, but if the MCU can keep audiences this happy for a few more decades, then I guess I'll grow old writing about Marvel movies. Not that I'm complaining.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home"
Dir. Jon Watts
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