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Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Benedict Wong, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans
Runtime: 148 minutes
Singapore, Malaysia - 16 December 2021
Philippines - 8 January 2022
5 out of 5 stars
With all the rumours swirling around Spider-Man: No Way Home, it felt impossible that the film would ever live up to the impossible expectations set of it. And somehow, it has. If you're a Spider-Man fan, then all the adjectives used to describe him in his various comic book titles — amazing, spectacular, sensational, astonishing — come to mind after watching this film. The plotting is tight, each character has his or her own arc, and the action is spot-on.
But before you watch the film, here's a quick recap of the previous movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home. At the conclusion of that film, the identity of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is revealed to the world thanks to the final machinations of the dead villain (Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio). That film ended on a cliffhanger, with the entire world knowing that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. And although two years have passed in our real world, Spider-Man: No Way Home begins where the previous film left off.
This superhero movie is the third solo film for the titular character that features Tom Holland in the title role. It is, of course, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film sees Spider-Man seeking out the powerful sorcerer Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help — he wants his identity to be a secret once more. Unfortunately, the spell goes awry, bringing five supervillains from different universes into Spider-Man's world. Spider-Man must put things right again, but this time the cost may be too high. Fortunately, he's got great friends and allies in his corner to help.
As a scriptwriter, I have to say this — the plotting is absolutely amazing. The script is so tight that there's always a new dramatic development (or fight) in every scene. There's literally never a dull moment in the film. That's not to say that there's no proper pacing — there is, and there are clear and distinct Acts with ebbs and flows in the story. But there's almost nothing that could be tightened about the story, and it's incredible to see how well the story has been refined to result in this film.
A large part of that is the lack of lengthy (if any) exposition in the film. It's a film for fans, and while short introductions are given for the supervillains for new audiences to get up to speed on who these characters are, that's the extent to which the exposition goes. There's a healthy amount of respect for the audience, that they're intelligent and knowledgeable (and also fans) to know who these characters are — and if they don't, they'll figure it out or understand the story anyway. Unlike many other films that are often steeped in lore, Spider-Man: No Way Home isn't scared that audiences will be confused, and consequently doesn't worry about putting in draggy expository scenes to ensure that the audience has more than enough information about the characters.
Yet, that doesn't mean that the characters don't all get their own arc. In a movie with such a sprawling cast of characters, it's impossible to give every character a detailed character arc that shows their rise and fall. But all the important characters (and arguably, almost all of them are) get their own mini-arc and character development. And for each character to have his or her moment in the spotlight, in addition to a tight story, is pretty stellar writing for scriptwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.
Of course, this movie presupposes that audiences have watched some, if not all, of the previous Spider-Man films. And that's not a bad assumption to make, although it may not necessarily be true (and not all audiences will remember what happened in films that took place almost 20 years ago. In that sense, this is not a movie that can be easily enjoyed as a standalone film. But then again, if you're watching an MCU film, there's the expectation that you've watched all the others before. It's an indication of how Marvel has changed the expectations of audiences and films.
And because of this assumption, that you've watched the previous 7 Spider-Man films with various actors taking on the role of the wallcrawler, it manages to bring together everything that you've watched into one satisfying whole (although not necessary a conclusion). When news first came out in 2015 that a new actor would be playing Spider-Man, just a year after 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there was a collective sigh at yet another reboot. But somehow, three (okay, five) films later, we've got a movie that respects everything that came before it, while still leaving the door open for more synergies for even more Spider-Man adventures.
It has to be noted, though, that the conclusion is a little too convoluted and convenient as it forces a particular outcome from the story. It's a slightly bittersweet note to end on, but the commercial aspect of it (more familiar stories to be told all over again!) was glaringly obvious. Still, with everything that the movie has given us, that's a more than forgivable flaw in what is already an incredible adventure.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of those rare movies that can live up to its own hype, thanks to its solid foundation in both story and character development. If you're a fan, you'll love it; and if you're not a fan, it's a great action flick to be watching too. There is a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene in this film, but don't keep your expectations high for the last one — it feels more like a trailer than a bona fide post-credits scene.