It’s been a difficult few years for Peter Parker: developing super powers, drafted into the Avengers just as they were breaking up, then again as they got back together to fight the Infinity War, blipped out of existence for five years, the death of his mentor, then betrayed by a man who he thought was his friend in the aftermath of that, but through it all he managed to somehow balance his dual life as a student and a superhero.
No longer, with the cat out of the bag thanks to a further posthumous knife in the back from Mysterio revealing Spider-Man’s secret identity, broadcast to the world by J Jonah Jameson from his basement studio, more concerned with the story than the truth and eager to scream his belief in the worst, demanding justice and encouraging others to call for the same.
The law unsympathetic towards the vigilante accused of murder and mayhem, Aunt May is able to arrange legal representation from someone who is a natural fit, seeing beyond the evidence, but Peter knows more is required and pays a visit to Doctor Stephen Strange, requesting that he perform a spell to render him anonymous once more – with a few mid-casting caveats and addendums which accidentally open a crack to the multiverse and several worlds of trouble…
Tom Holland the third actor to play Peter Parker this century following Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi’s trilogy from 2002 to 2007 and Andrew Garfield in Marc Webb’s pair of amazing adventures of 2012 and 2014, not including the multiple animated version of Spider-Man glimpsed when peering Into the Spider-Verse, he is already on his sixth appearance with supporting roles in Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame and his own trilogy of Homecoming, Far From Home and now No Way Home.
Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as the dour wizard who lives downtown, J K Simmons crosses over from the Raimi films as crusader Jameson and he is not alone, the arrangements between Sony who previously licensed the characters and Marvel who have reclaimed them allowing for a cavalcade of familiar villainy to manifest headed by Alfred Molina as Otto “Doctor Octopus” Octavius, Willem Dafoe as Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn and Jamie Foxx as Max “Electro” Dillon.
Once again directed by Jon Watts from a script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, No Way Home does its best to avoid the criticisms of Spider-Man 3’s overloading of the bases by having the multiple antagonists conveniently well behaved when not on screen, their schemes no more than revenge upon Spider-Man rather than their customary schemes of domination and power.
Despite this Molina and Dafoe are given more complex and interesting characterisation here than when the principal villains of their previous appearances, Peter inspired by the word and example of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) to give them the same second chance that he sought for himself, determined to offer super-therapy and rehabilitation whether they want it or not, though inevitably such hubris will have a cost.
That it is technically flawless and an emotional ride, from the gravity defying illogic of the mirror universe to the Statue of Liberty’s new symbol held aloft, almost goes without saying, but beyond that No Way Home is the most reflective of the Marvel films, a pause for the youngest Avenger to look at his life and see it as others do, as he might have been, as he may yet become.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now on general release and also screening in IMAX