It’s hard to discuss this movie and not get into the spoilers because the biggest moments of this movie necessitate ruining several of the big reveals. I loved that not everything was in the trailer and I successfully avoided reading too much about the film, which helped my enjoyment. This was the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since Halloween Kills, so the risk of COVID-19 and all its variants didn’t keep me away* from the biggest movie of the year.
This movie arrives as so many older directors gatekeep what constitutes a movie. So let me break down my opinion: movies can be anything you want them to be. There is equal room for a high end Oscar contender as there is for the junk low end world that I live in, the places where Godfrey Ho, Jess Franco and Bruno Mattei make their home.
What else are comic book movies other than classical myths made with computers and no small amount of sound and fury? So yeah, this is the 27th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie and you know, you don’t have to watch these movies. Hollywood — the world — is still making something for everyone. But for crowd-pleasing moments, the two biggest I’ve heard in years are when Captain America lifted Mjolnir and when one of the characters arrived in this film, a literally explosion of happiness and joy from an audience that has weathered so much in the last two years.
And isn’t that why movies exist? To make us feel something?
No movie that I have seen in a theater in nearly a decade has elicited that emotional outburst and you know, it brought true joy to my heart. So I didn’t feel silly expressing my emotions, whether they were happy when a certain legal professional made his presence known or the sadness of Dr. Strange’s final words to Peter Parker.
Spider-Man has always lived by the lesson that with great power comes great responsibility. He’s a character informed — in every incarnation — by a great loss that he was at fault for and a lifetime of making up for that mistake.
Yet Spider-Man: No Way Home presents us with something new. Great power with responsibility also means being better than your enemies and at times, working to make them better people and not just punching them into oblivion. The fact that antagonists can be worth saving spoke to me, someone usually given to mad revenge schemes and years of grudges. Even when doing the right thing ends up hurting you, you still can do the right thing.
These are big concepts for a comic book spectacle. And this movie does what all great films should. It’s stuck in my mind since I saw it and I wanted some time away from it before I wrote this. Spider-Man is the story of a bully grown up and moving past the way he was treated, often finding those bullies — Flash Thompson, Eddie Brock — become if not friends, certainly no longer enemies.
This also gets into the Marvel idea of a multiverse, a connected web of other realities where small differences — Disney+ set this up with What If…? and this idea will form the heart of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — but the main part of this story remains refreshingly human in the midst of big ideas, strange science and concepts like how magic works.
Look — I don’t have to sell you on these movies. They make so much money that they’re critic proof. But I do want you to consider that even if you hate superhero movies, even if you think there are too many of them, to consider your favorite film series. What if you had more than three of the original Star Wars films and they all were progressively better? What if the last Jason, Freddy or Hellraiser movie was so much better than the original? What if James Bond got more human, more relevant and more real as the world around him became even stranger?
That’s what’s happening here. And it’s amazing.
*I’m triple vaxxed, beyond fastidious about mask wearing and personal space, and rarely if ever leave my movie basement. This isn’t a political statement. Viruses don’t have politics and if you think they do, you can kindly never read another word that I write.