‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Is a Love Letter to the Fans
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" isn’t just a movie; it’s an experience. It's one of the best superhero movies thanks to the amazing writing, the fantastic performances from the actors, and a healthy helping of fan service.
Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t just a movie; it’s an experience. Like Avengers: Endgame, it is a monumental moment in the MCU. It changes everything. This is the best superhero movie I’ve seen since Avengers: Endgame. Spider-Man: No Way Home is a top tier cinematic and comic book superhero movie thanks to the amazing writing, the fantastic performances from the actors all around, and, maybe most importantly, a healthy helping of fan service. This movie is littered with easter eggs and references that made my theater explode into cheers and applause. It’s an experience unrivaled, even nonexistent, among any other movie genre. As an avid Marvel fan who’s watched and enjoyed everything associated from the brand, this movie was so rewarding to watch. With that, let’s dive into what made this movie so incredible.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up right where Spider-Man: Far From Home left off. It makes you forget two years have passed between these two films. Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) identity has just been revealed. He scoops up his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) as she’s harassed by onlookers and they escape. Soon enough, the FBI is after Peter. They arrest him and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), MJ, his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). The agents and Peter’s loved ones have some interesting debates about whether a minor should be a vigilante and how responsible his legal guardian is for his actions.
Peter and the gang then meet with Peter’s lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox)! My theater exploded in cheers when he showed up, which made me so happy because I had no idea Netflix’s Daredevil was so well known. That show is arguably the best superhero TV show of all time. The cameo is brief, but Charlie Cox portrays the character without missing a beat, as if he’d just stepped off set from Daredevil. I can’t wait to see more of him in the MCU.
Peter and May move to Happy’s apartment to lie low. Peter applies for college. However, he, MJ, and Ned all get rejected because of the controversy surrounding them. This leads Peter to visit Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and ask him to make everyone forget who Spider-Man is. Strange performs the spell, but Peter alters it by asking Strange to make his loved ones remember his identity. The spell becomes unstable and Strange contains it before sending Peter to plead his case to the vice chancellor of MIT.
Peter catches the chancellor on a bridge, but they’re interrupted by Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) from Spider-Man 2 (2004). Like Cox, Molina doesn’t skip a beat. He feels exactly like the same character, ripped right out of the original movie. He chases Peter before removing his mask and discovering that this Peter is not his Peter. Doctor Strange brings them both back to his basement.
Strange explains to Peter that his mistake caused people who knew Spider-Man’s identity in other universes to come to them. Strange has already caught the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and entrapped Doc Ock. Now Peter has to find and capture the others. Peter finds Electro (Jamie Foxx) from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) charging up. Electro has more charisma than in the original film. Foxx steals every scene he’s in with his booming voice, confidence, and a great new look.
Peter gets help from Sandman aka Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) from Spider-Man 3 (2007). They capture Electro before Sandman warily turns on Peter, who captures him, too. Back in the basement, the villains from the same universes recognize each other in a very meta moment that’s satisfying for anyone who’s watched any of these films. Peter gets a call from May that one of the villains is with her. He finds her with Norman Osborn aka Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) from Spider-Man (2002). Dafoe’s duality is fantastic. He is just a scared, vulnerable man when Peter first finds him. May, who’s always drawn to help the disenfranchised, suggests to Peter that they try to rehabilitate these villains. I appreciated this more nuanced approach. Instead of making the villains one-dimensional, stereotypical “bad guys” who get killed in the end, May and Peter seek to help them change.
Peter suggests this to Strange back in the basement, but Strange refuses. He claims all these villains’ fate is to die fighting Spider-Man. Peter steals the spell and fights Strange in the mirror dimension. Peter wins using, of all things, geometry. I had a hard time believing Strange would lose so easily, but this is clearly a plot device to keep him occupied for most of the movie.
Peter brings the villains to Happy’s apartment where he works on a cure for each of them. He repairs Doc Ock’s chip. But as he works on another, his Spidey Sense goes off. This sequence is shot with muffled sound and an extremely intense look on Peter’s face, building tension to the reveal that Norman Osborn’s Goblin persona has taken over his mind. (Peter’s Spider Sense is portrayed better in this film than in previous ones.) A fight ensues. All the villains escape, but not before Osborn taunts Peter and throws a pumpkin bomb at May.
Peter helps May up and tells her how he regrets helping the villains. May then says a slightly altered version of the famous line: “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” The line feels more powerful in Spider-Man: No Way Home than it did in other movies. While Uncle Ben was giving Peter advice in the older movies, May knows Peter’s identity as Spider-Man and understands the responsibility that comes with it. Peter holds her in his arms as she succumbs to her wounds while she’s unaware she’s dying. It’s heart-wrenching. May is the only family Peter has left. And she dies indirectly due to his choices.
Meanwhile, Peter’s friends are worried about him. Using the sling ring Peter gave him, Ned opens a portal to find Peter Parker. But the Peter who comes through is not our Peter. It’s Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker! This was another time when my theater erupted into cheers and screams. It was the moment we’d all been waiting for. It’s filmed perfectly, showing him running into the scene toward us, unmasking himself in the center of the shot. MJ tries to prove he’s really Peter Parker/Spider-Man by throwing bread at him. We even get a bit of Filipino representation, as Ned’s lola (grandmother) is present during the entire scene. She asks Ned in Tagalog to get Garfield’s Peter to clean the cobwebs in the corner. The bread MJ even throws appears to be Filipino Pandesal.
Ned tries again to call Peter, but this time Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker steps through. My theater cheered again, though his entrance is much less dramatic than Garfield’s. The two Spider-Men have a wonderfully satisfying mirror moment before realizing they can sense our Peter’s need for help. The group finds him on a rooftop, grieving May. MJ and Ned introduce him to Garfield and Maguire’s Peters. Holland’s Peter is angry, saying they couldn’t understand what he’s going through. But they do. Maguire’s Peter tells of how he lost Uncle Ben. Garfield’s Peter gets the real emotional gut punch though, as he reveals he lost “my MJ”—Gwen Stacy—through tears in his eyes. He tells our Peter that he got angry and violent, but he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to him. Garfield’s Peter has changed since we last saw him in the 2014 movie; he’s older and much sadder, but at the heart he’s the same.
Holland’s Peter reiterates what May said to him before she died. The other two Peters finish the line for him, revealing that’s what their Uncle Ben said to them before he died. This recontextualizes our Peter’s entire backstory. This means he never heard this line from his Uncle Ben. This makes May’s death the real start of our Peter’s path as Spider-Man. The other two Peters tell him she didn’t die for nothing, and they agree to try to cure the villains together.
Every time the three Peters are onscreen together it feels like a dream. The fans get all the Spider-Man interactions we ever could have wished for. This is enhanced by the natural chemistry between the three actors. In the lab where they make the cures, the Peters all banter. They marvel at Maguire’s Peter’s ability to shoot webs straight out of his wrists. They have a classic “which Peter are you talking to?” moment with Ned. Maguire’s Peter tells Ned that his best friend tried to kill him, then died, referencing his Harry Osborn. Ned promises Peter he won’t do the same, a possible reference to the comic book version of Ned, who turns into the villain Hobgoblin (though this was later retconned).
Garfield’s Peter watches Holland’s Peter and MJ share a romantic moment, and he’s filled with grief again. The wound of Gwen Stacy’s death still hurts, and Garfield portrays this grief quietly but beautifully every time he’s onscreen. Maguire’s Peter notices this and asks him about his love life, but Garfield’s Peter doesn’t think it’s in the cards for him. Maguire’s Peter talks vaguely about his own MJ, making me curious about his life. How is he doing? Is he married to MJ? After Maguire’s Peter mentions his MJ, we can see a bit of curiosity enter Garfield’s Peter’s expression. Maybe he wonders if his own MJ is out there. This little detail makes me want another Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movie. I’d like to see him heal from Gwen Stacy’s death and find his soulmate MJ.
The three Peters develop the cures and head to the Statue of Liberty, currently under construction to add a shield (a great in-universe reference to Captain America). They banter while they wait for the villains to show. Garfield’s Peter even cracks Maguire’s Peter’s back! Holland’s Peter hilariously asks Maguire’s Peter if his webs come out of “anywhere else.” They talk about all the villains they’ve fought—Maguire’s and Holland’s Peters have both fought aliens, so Garfield’s Peter feels “lame.” Like a sweet big brother, Maguire’s Peter tells Garfield’s Peter that he’s “amazing”—a reference to the title of his movies: The Amazing Spider-Man.
The villains finally show, but they overwhelm our trio quickly. They take a pause to regroup. Holland’s Peter brags about being in the Avengers, but the other Peters don’t know what that is. Holland’s Peter takes the lead since this is his movie after all, dubbing himself “Peter 1,” Maguire’s Peter “Peter 2,” and Garfield’s Peter “Peter 3”. (Poor Andrew Garfield; why didn’t they go by seniority?) The trio swings together through the scaffolding, landing in order of seniority in iconic Spider-Man poses—another cheer-worthy moment.
The Spider-Men take on all of the villains, curing them one by one. Holland’s Peter cures Lizard. Doc Ock assists in depowering Electro. Maguire’s Peter even turn Sandman back into his human form. Doctor Strange finally returns. Maguire’s Peter reconnects with Doc Ock while Garfield’s Peter reconnects with Electro. Electro thought Spider-Man was Black since he’s from Queens and helps poor people, which makes sense. Garfield’s Peter adorably apologizes for the disappointment. Electro says, “There’s gotta be a Black Spider-Man out there somewhere,” earning audience applause at this reference to Miles Morales. He’s coming to live action sooner or later!
Everything finally comes full circle. Except, Green Goblin is still a threat. He bombs the spell, unleashing magic that breaks open the multiverse. This topples the scaffolding, and MJ falls. We’ve all seen it from the trailers—it’s a tragic parallel to Gwen Stacy’s death. Holland’s Peter tries to catch her, but he’s knocked away by Goblin’s glider. Above, Garfield’s Peter sees her fall and cries out. He can’t let it happen again. Exactly like in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, he jumps off the building and reaches for MJ to catch her, but this time he actually does! My audience cheered once again. It’s redemption for this Peter to save another Peter’s love when he couldn’t save his own. He lands safely on the ground and asks MJ if she’s okay, then breaks down in tears. It’s bittersweet. This was one of my favorite moments in the whole movie.
Holland’s Peter faces off with Green Goblin alone, filled with bloodlust and rage we’ve never seen from this character before. He wants revenge for May’s death. He physically dominates Goblin, then takes his glider and tries to stab him the same way he died in the original movie. Suddenly, Maguire’s Peter inserts himself between the two, holding the glider back. He stares at Peter with such kindness and understanding in his eyes; everything is conveyed without words. Holland’s Peter seems to realize what he’s doing and lets the glider go. But then Goblin stabs Maguire’s Peter (who ends up being fine, thank goodness). Quickly, Holland’s Peter cures Goblin so he’s back to his normal self.
Strange tells Holland’s Peter he can’t stop all the villains from coming through. We can catch outlines of Spider-Man villains like Scorpion and Rhino coming through. Our Peter decides what must be done: he asks Strange to make everyone forget who he is to set the multiverse right. Strange agrees, and Peter says his goodbyes. He hugs the other Spider-Men. I love their brotherhood. I’m not ready to give it up yet! The three need to come back for another crossover. Peter then tells Ned and MJ goodbye. He promises to find them again and make them remember. Peter and MJ share a heartfelt kiss before he leaves and the spell works.
Some time later, Peter visits May’s grave and meets Happy. He visits MJ and Ned for the first time but is unable to tell them who he is like he planned. It’s not clear whether this means he’s giving up on making them remember or if he’s just trying to take it slow. I’m hoping it’s the latter. His and MJ’s love is so strong throughout this movie thanks to Tom Holland and Zendaya’s undeniable chemistry. They need to reunite at some point in the future.
Peter goes to his new apartment, dingy and bare, just like the one from the Maguire movies. He’s lost everything: his connections to Stark, to the Avengers, his family, his friends. Peter is now the classic character: broke, suffering, alone, but still hopeful. Still Spider-Man. He dons a brand new comics accurate suit he made himself and swings through New York, and that’s the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
This movie exceeded my every expectation. It’s definitely the best Spider-Man movie to date. Spider-Man: No Way Home is truly a love letter to the fans, and I am so grateful. It brings together three generations of Spider-Man fans in a spectacular character-driven story that’s truly a Spider-Man origin story, rebooting Tom Holland’s Peter Parker as the classic character we all know and love. I can’t wait to see what they do next with him.