"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “Spider-Man: No Way Home”

Ah, where to start this review … Maybe it’s not a good idea to write with impressions so fresh but I really wanted to express all which I’m keeping within before the emotions have calmed down. At moments I feel how my inner child rises up and wants to scream out of joy …

There are several movies that have left a mark in my mind and not because they were something never seen before but because they have appeared in the right moments. Therefore I’ll never forget the first time when I entered the cinema salon and had the opportunity to see the seventh art up close (or at least it was the first time, parts of which I clearly remember). The year was 2002 and the movie was – yes, you’ve probably figured it out already – “Spider-Man”. I don’t know whether the fact that I was little and appreciated everything happening on-screen, Toby’s charisma or the superhero cinema in general were one of the main reasons for the almost entirely developed FANaticism within me but it can’t be denied that ever since that young childhood age Spider-Man has been my favourite and undisputed, forever and ever, superhero and this will likely never change (or if there’s someone else, he’ll be on par with him at most). Oh, and just to mention it here, the fact that I had the opportunity to watch Fox Kids for quite a lot of time back then definitely didn’t help things to happen otherwise …

We’re jumping 10 years in the future and to be more precise, at the end of the world that never came, a.k.a 2012, only to mention another not-so-random movie – “The Impossible”. A movie event with a great impact on me due to a couple of reasons – the cinema in my hometown reopened again and this was one of the first movies that they were showing and therefore, the first one that I managed to watch in our reborn movie salon. Somewhere there (well, to be honest, a little before that) I started scribbling down some stuff and publish it here and there as well (not that it’s different now) and perhaps I even wrote something about this movie too and at the moment I regret that I don’t know where and if I saved any of my writings about it at all. In any case, this doesn’t really matter, the fact is that this movie, which was kind of unknown to me back then, not only impressed me but also found its constant place in my mind. You’re wondering why I even mention this? As irrelevant as it might sound, I wrote all of this to give you a bit more context which is kind of ironic – “The Impossible” is maybe the first more popular movie where Tom Holland acts. Nice, huh? The boy is one year younger than me – look at where he stands now (and where he will, as it seems) and where I do, telling you about him …

One of the most memorable Spider-Man poses in one of the movie’s sublime moments – very nice!

I got distracted again, so let’s jump another 10 years in the future and here we are, almost two years since the great pandemic, i.e. the beginning of 2022. I won’t even mention how many movies have come out since then, some that I’ve already watched, some that I’ve already reviewed, some that fall under neither category but I will say that we are more or less in the end of the third Spider-Man cinematic era with all of its spin-off content, no matter whether we’re talking about deliberate attempts, lack of movie rights or some other reason. And here’s where I have to be honest – I’ll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible but in the end I believe that every self-respecting movie fan should have already watched Marvel’s latest creation and if you still haven’t – shame on you!

“Spider-Man: No Way Home”, deliberately or not, marks the end of an amazing trilogy which is more or less somewhat of a franchise reboot, but in MCU’s context, as well as a closure of a20-year movie cycle of the superhero, turning the current movie into a fabulous trip both in the past and the future. Jon Watts’ creation sets huge and extremely ambitious goals for itself and the impressive thing is that it actually manages to achieve most of them. What we get as viewers is a fiesta of nostalgic memories, tons of references and cool cameo appearances, filled with solid action, a mini league of supervillains and a killing dose of adrenaline.

It’s a well-known fact that overpopulating a movie of such calibre, especially a superhero one, with so many active characters on-screen is usually not a good sign. This time, though, I was quite surprised to observe the almost formed Sinister Six (if we count the tree, it’s well-formed indeed), perhaps because we more or less already know the characters that are part of it, get more than enough screen time and see each one of them go through their development towards a beautiful end to their story. Not to even mention the good side of the characters that got their dynamic, dramatic and epic conclusion … Well, actually, why not talk about them? Props to Marvel for having heard, listened to and done everything that fans wanted to see in this movie and even managing to upgrade on it, putting into the story an exchange of witty conversations, jokes and old-school references and even live-action memes. The heartwarming moments are quite a lot and the whole disentagling of all the webs that have been entagled in the last two decades, uncovering the landscape for tons of future adaptations in the process, was masterfully presented by Watts & co.

The schizophrenism in William Dafoe’s green alter ego doesn’t betray him here as well and the goblin is exactly what I expected him to be, like he hasn’t been off-screen for the last 20 years.

And even if we ignore all the fan service which the studio provides and the fact that we’re talking here not about one but multiple developed storylines, we still get a phenomenal ending (at least for now) to the story of the newest and youngest Spider-Man. We can’t deny that unlike his predecessors, Tom Holland has always been more or less, both as an actor and as a hero, under the wing and somewhat in the shadow of his fellow colleagues-avengers. Having started more as a side character and under Iron Man’s mentorship, the teenage Parker didn’t get his moment to actually shine and to tell his origin story like everyone expected. Well, in this case, however, with huge satisfaction and with a huge sigh of relief for everyone I can safely say that Holland’s character development reaches its climax, going beyond the family and love cataclysms and clashing with the hard reality but at the same time reaching his personal “awakening” like his older versions have done one way or another in their own franchises.

Of course, Holland isn’t the only one that undergoes serious character development even when having in mind the sort-of-a reboot that we got in the end of the movie. We already mentioned the new-old villains who not only got reborn under the projector lights but also got their absolute redemption through their newer selves. Doc Ock and the Goblin have been crowd favourites since ages, to be fair, but they still manage to give more to their characters, not to mention others like Electro, for example. In addition we get Sandman, the Lizard and the one and only JJJ who add even more nuances to this already colourful entourage. With more modern and much more accurate costumes, an adequate plot development and the original actors’ comeback things can happen in a much different and better way and this is more than obvious in their acting on-screen. The rest of the cast involved I wouldn’t even mention since they’re basically the icing of the cake. Somehow I’ve never liked applauding or shouting during the movie screening since I always found that quite unnecessary and annoying but, luckily, while I was watching the movie there were no such things. I have to admit though that at several occasions during these almost two and a half hours I clenched my fists out of joy because I had to somehow perceive and truly appreciate what was happening in front of me.

Going back to the movie’s main theme, I’m inclined to agree with the critics’ and fans’ consensus that Holland has managed to find the “golden middle” for his hero in this adaptation – where Toby Maguire was a pretty authentic and solid Peter Parker but a mediocre Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield was maybe too cool for Peter Parker but also most likely the closest equivalent to the comic book Spider-Man, Tom manages to combine best of both worlds and to be equally convincing in both of his roles. Frankly, when a few media sources shared his words that he’s thinking of taking a break from the character (and maybe the cinema as a whole for a while) I was a bit surprised but now, after I’ve watched everything on the big screen related to this hero so far, I don’t think there’s anyone who would mind this actually happening (well, I want to see him in “Uncharted” too before that and I truly hope that he and Wahlberg won’t disappoint me).

The tendency that every new reading of the superhero turns into a trilogy sounds logical indeed (and yes, I know Garfield didn’t get the cherished third part but the fans’ speculations and hopes have been increasing more and more lately so who knows, maybe Sony will now see reason, with a little push from Marvel) and in this case, like I already said, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” can undoubtedly be seen as the most climactic and conclusive part of the series, as well as the epilogue of this Spider-Man’s story.

Scenes with such a charge (both literally and metaphorically speaking) remind us of the villain squad in “Spider-Man 3” but here it was presented way, way better.

Thinking about what other superlatives I can address towards Watts’ movie I realise that maybe nothing is perfect and there are indeed a few small quirks which the more observant fans of you will definitely not miss. For example the beginning of the plot’s development and its whole concept definitely had some holes and the appearance and, respectively, the disappearance of Strange were equally logical and half-baked at times. The most dramatic part of the movie was a bit obvious even though it still made me sad when it happened, some of the cameos were too short and some of them were announced beforehand which kind of killed the whole vibe of these characters’ appearance to some extent but they still re-awakened the inner fan within me, the whole 3D was completely unnecessary, if you ask me, but then again, is there a movie that came out recently where these effects were actually worth it? The truth is, though, that all of these things are rather quite small flaws which seem to be there only so that they exist at all and which pale compared to everything else that’s happening on the screen. Even though it might be imperfect, the movie is the best thing that could have happened (and did happen) to the franchise, so the team behind it definitely deserves hats off from everyone.

Maybe there are other things that I could or wanted to say about the movie but maybe it’s not really necessary. If this review, the critics’ scores (look at the Rotten Tomatoes score, for example) and the fans’ (look at the IMDb user score, also works) don’t convince you that you have to watch the movie then just go and convince yourselves. I guarantee you that after that you will also have a hard time waiting until May like me when an epic sort-of a sequel awaits us in the face of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, especially having in mind that the director’s seat is taken by no other than Sam Raimi, a.k.a the creator of the Raimiverse, i.e. the director of the original Spider-Man trilogy!

I’m still not sure if there’s a way home, as the title itself suggests, and whether Spider-Man will find it in a future reincarnation but I’m convinced that he managed at least to find the right way towards the hearts of the wide, as well as the more critical audience. If I have to use a popular idiom, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a fantastic and a nostalgic trip down memory lane and is the best Christmas gift for everyone not only from Marvel but also from 2021’s cinema in general which we as viewers and fans could have received.

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