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5 Huge Lessons We Learned From “Spider-Man: No Way Home”

December 21, 2021

Okay. If you haven’t yet seen Marvel’s newest installment in the current iteration of Spiderman – No Way Home – and don’t want spoilers:

Stop Reading Here

Cool. Only people who’ve already seen it here still? (Or people who are okay with spoilers?) Cool.

Y’all, the MCU just got a whole lot bigger and this movie is clearly knocking it out the ballpark. Not only did I tell my sister right after that “Marvel fans just saved movie theaters across the country…(and likely caused a possible Covid outbreak)” but it does a whole lot right as a film. Let’s break it down the same way our emotions did in the two-and-a-half hours we witnessed it.

  1. Nostalgia Works

After months of hype and rumors of who would and wouldn’t be in the film, we saw a lot of faces and characters brought back to life (quite literally). First we met the villains we grew up with: Doc Ock and Green Goblin (played by their original actors – Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe) appear back to back to fight Tom Holland’s Peter in a beautifully shot action sequence on a bridge. Lizard/Curt Connors doesn’t get as glamorous as entrance – we get our first shot of him as he’s already been captured by Doctor Strange – and I don’t know about y’all but I would have loved to see that action sequence as well.

Later we get another back to back re-introduction into Electro and Sandman (again reprised by their actors in “The Amazing Spiderman” adaptations). While it’s not the Sinister Six we were expecting, it was hard not to feel joy at seeing these devilish faces on the screen once again. Plus we got some amazing call-backs to these guys – “I’m something of a scientist myself” once again uttered by Osborne and Doc Ock holding the arc reactor in his palm, just like the power of a sun.

But that wasn’t the end. Audiences all over the world seemed to lose their minds as we got our first glimpse of Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, in costume I might add, followed by Tobey Maguire just minutes later. For the past 24 hours since seeing the film, there’s only two scenes that have been on replay in my head: the three Peters having some candid, light-hearted conversation atop the Statue of Liberty while waiting for the villains to arrive, highlighting the combination of great screenplay writing and the chemistry between the three actors, followed just a few scenes later by them jumping into action together, using each other’s webs to keep moving, and landing in chronological order in each of their iconic poses.

I wouldn’t call myself a big fan of Spiderman – I was one of the people who was annoyed at yet another adaptation coming to live in the MCU at first – but if I could get a screen print of just that frame, it would be on display in my living room. 

The leads and villains from all the previous Sony films were honestly one of the biggest drivers of the film, but the nostalgia punches kept coming. Jonah Jameson once again returned as our favorite anti-hero. Charlie Cox reprised his role as Matt Murdock of Netflix’s Daredevil fame (which if you’re also watching Hawkeye the week before it came out, you’ll remember the big bad was revealed as none other than Wilson Fisk). Eddie/Venom make an appearance in the first credit scene, that while it was mostly a comic relief moment, may have left its mark on the MCU. That last one takes some critical thinking to understand, but could be an interesting cause for future chaos.

  1. Redemption Can Be Just As Good As Revenge

Once the shock of seeing all of these faces on the screen again wore off, it went deeper. And while redemption may not make for a great superhero story, I enjoyed this part of the movie the most. Our five villains were given a second chance, spurred on by the grace and understanding of May, and “Peter cubed” saw the opportunity for what it was: a chance to change grim outcomes. Witnessing the initial transformation in Doc Ock’s character was enough to warm my heart, but seeing the rest become who they truly were before their unfortunate accidents in all five cases, was captivating. We see their human side come out in their reactions to seeing their Peter: a conversation, an embrace, laughter, and apologies.

Thankfully – once again – it didn’t end there.

Tobey’s Peter Parker had the chance to grow up. We hear snippets of what his life has been like after the storyline of his three early 2000s films. He’s worked through his grief and guilt, and salvaged a relationship with Mary Jane. He’s processed his actions as Spider-Man and knows what weight that title carries.

Andrew’s Peter Parker gets a light-hearted therapy session from Tobey later in the film, reassuring him of his greatness despite the grandiose of the other two Peter’s. And, as predicted by fans everywhere, a chance to forgive himself for the guilt he feels around Gwen’s death. He’s processed his actions as Spider-Man and knows what weight that title carries.

In one of a few dramatic scenes towards the end, Tom Holland’s Peter has a decision to make. Will he break the innocence he’s so far carried and carry out his revenge for the death of May? In a moment of pure rage, we see him about to make that life-changing decision. But Tobey’s Peter is quick to step in, a gentle reminder of what could happen next. In a split second, Andrew follows course by ensuring Tom has the cure in hand and releases our final villain from a state of disgrace. 

Redemption may seem counterintuitive to the dark twists we’re used to, but it made for an extra layer of heart to the MCU’s take on a true schoolboy, teenage Spider-Man.

  1. Details & Emotion Matter – even in action films

Like many of Marvel’s other films, this one is cinematically beautiful and full of Easter eggs. I won’t even attempt to list them out here, but the attention to detail is once again unparalleled. Every set matched the mood of the sequence perfectly, highlighting the characteristics of whoever was on screen – the night and dark suit to punctuate Electro’s entrance, the shadowed places letting up only to reveal Andrew and Tobey, the fluorescent shades to pierce through the rain that fell around Tom as he began to mourn in silence. 

No Way Home also has the perfect balance of action and emotion, and in my opinion, we got to witness Tom Holland knock it out of the ballpark on this one. 

I’ll be honest, up till this movie I had been underwhelmed by this evolution. His acting is great and balances comedic moments and grit better than many I’ve seen. But in the first five films, we didn’t really see any “change” in Tom Holland’s Peter. From his first introduction in Civil War, he’s a naive and energy-filled character ready to be the hero but not able to understand the weight of a hero title. That doesn’t seem to really change until the death of Tony Stark and he struggles to find the balance between being a normal teenager, a neighborhood guy, and an universe-saving Avenger.

Through all of those moments in Endgame and Far From Home, I didn’t get the impression that this Spider-Man was even trying to figure it out – more just avoiding it in his naivety, which again, seems to be the point the MCU is driving home in this portrayal. We see glimpses of this in his interactions with Doctor Strange in No Way Home.

But this recent installation felt very different. Tom’s Peter lost his adolescence and entered into a new stage of life: one where he’s deciding who he wants to be. This is perfectly captured in two distinct scenes in my mind. The first is where MJ and Ned pull him into their arms as he continues to mourn the loss of Aunt May. We don’t know how long he’d been sitting there in complete despair, wanting nothing more than revenge and the pain to go away. But the raw emotion Tom Holland displayed at that embrace felt a little too real and struck deep. His innocence was completely shaken by losing another loved one who shaped him into who he is.

The second comes at the end of the film, when after going through all of the consequences of the original botched spell, he knows what he has to do, no matter how much pain it will cause just him. He’s once again looking out for everyone around him – and this time it’s not just out of naivety. He wants them to be able to live on, even if that means forgetting him completely. He’s suddenly forced into a world he never really wanted. A world without May, Happy, MJ, and Ned. A world where his individuality is erased from his actions with Tony and the Avengers. A world without highschool reputation to protect, worry about college admittance, and a place to call home. What happens next is really up to him. And I can’t wait to see our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man back in action as a changed man.

A tweet I came across a few hours ago summed this up perfectly: “From an eager youthful boy wanting to be an Avenger, to handling the responsibility of being a hero, and now a man realizing the true cost and the price to pay for doing the right thing for the greater good. This is the best Spider-Man trilogy.”

One final aside for this point – I, along with many others that I know, weren’t a big fan of Andrew’s Spider-Man. But with a great script and most likely better directing, he absolutely shined in this film. Every scene he was in was executed so perfectly that I honestly want another Andrew Garfield adaptation now. 

  1. The Lead Up to What Happens Next

We don’t know the ramifications of Stephen’s spell. It seemed to have had an effect on earth and those entering from other universes. But we won’t know how far that has reached until upcoming films. I’m curious to see how it plays out with Nick Fury, Captain Marvel, The Asgardians, and more, in space. 

With all the nostalgia, action, and emotion, I didn’t expect more from a movie, but they had more for us. The MCU just got a whole lot bigger. Literally. The Multiverse has been teased countless times in the previous films but mostly in the Disney+ shows and everything is building to that moment where it all comes crashing down. The post credit scene gave us a glimpse into what seems to be a mistake caused by Doctor Strange, the Multiverse opening up completely, and him seeking out the help of Wanda/Scarlet Witch. 

Endgame is starting to feel like it was just the beginning. 

  1. The Only Downside: The Plot Holes

As fun as it was to see the cameo of Matt Murdock, it seemed to just brush the fallout caused by the death of Mysterio and subsequent murder invetigation into Peter and his ensemble under the rug. With just a line delivered, that part of the plot was nearly left behind in favor of the rest of the film. I say nearly because it led to Peter’s rejection from MIT and his visit to Doctor Strange that caused the botched spell, but still didn’t feel finite. They definitely didn’t have the time to build those first moments up more without getting to most-anticipated scenes. And while it didn’t truly matter by the end of the movie what the outcome would have been, it felt like a huge build up in the film’s first minutes. 

Two character’s introductions also don’t make too much sense without putting a lot of thought into it. Electro never actually knew the identity of Spider-Man, so it doesn’t really make sense that he was coming for “Peter Parker”. Venom’s appearance in the credits is another head-scratcher. He has no relation to any of these three Peters, unless you really think about how the symbiote is a hive mentality with knowledge of the past, and Tobey was once infected by the symbiote. Marvel has some explaining to do with this one right after they let us see the rogue symbiote left behind once again. But I’m letting them brush aside because it made for great storytelling.

We also never learned of the outcome of Happy, other than being told to lawyer up, his condo being wrecked, him being arrested moments later, and ending with him grieving the death of way. 

Lastly, making sense of that final spell is just too much. “Peter Parker” was erased but not “Spider-Man”. Things seem to remain unchanged. Everyone still remembers the hero who fought alongside the Avengers, disappeared in the snap, helped Aunt May fundraise, and was involved with Mysterio. MJ still has the necklace. Flash is probably still as obsessed with Spider-Man. The only thing erased from the equation is Peter, which opens up a Pandora’s Box of questions. Does he still have a birth certificate or any record of him at all? How was he able to rent somewhere? How did he even get his belongings without an ID? How will he ever take the GED or get a job without having any personal identification? Can he no longer use the nanotech suit since Stark tech won’t have a record of him? And how does this erasure change the memories of everyone he loved and loved him in return? Are there just blanks in their memories? That’s just me getting started. Marvel – again – has some explaining to do with this one, which I predict will happen in the next few films. 

Overall, this movie packs a punch and will leave you ready to talk about it with friends for hours on end. It was everything you could have expected and more, and Marvel did a great job about building anticipation and delivering on it. Just when the MCU could have began a decline post-Phase Three, they’re setting us up for years worth of excitement to come. Time to enter into the Multiverse. Stan Lee would be so proud.

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