Review: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is all emotion, little substance

Photo courtesy of Marvel

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

The highest-grossing film of the pandemic, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” has managed to both unite audiences and split them. There are those who consider this movie to be equal to 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” and then there are those who see the film as no more than a nostalgia-filled money grab.

I am of two minds when it comes to this movie. On one hand, there is nothing like sitting in that dark theater, completely engrossed in the action, eyes glued tightly to the silver screen. It also helps that Marvel has masterfully choreographed fight scenes with Tom Holland who has a ​background in ballet, making him an adept stuntman as well as a talented actor.

Ever since 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” in which Holland’s Peter Parker utters the famous line, “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good,” audiences have been well aware of the emotional range of the newest Spider-Man. “No Way Home” is no detour from that. In fact, Holland and his co-stars lean into this as much as possible, especially in the most impactful scenes in the movie including the death of Aunt May and Doctor Strange’s final spell at the end.

The question is, does it rely too much on nostalgia and emotional value rather than a coherent plot that’s of free of holes and unexplained inconsistencies?

I’m inclined to say it does.

Truthfully, the whole thing is contrived to be able to introduce former Spider-Man actors Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield into the movie. Many of Parker’s choices seem to make little sense overall. He takes the hard route in attempting to fix the multiverse villains, and in doing so knowingly compromises the integrity of the timeline. As a witness of the events that transpired because of Thanos — the events that cost his beloved mentor, Tony Stark, his life — I find it hard to believe that Parker would risk causing more damage than Thanos by potentially unleashing timeline anomalies across the multiverse.

Instead of trusting Doctor Strange, Parker takes the altruistic advice of his Aunt May in attempting to cure the villains, ultimately at the cost of her life. When Aunt May is dead at the hands of the Green Goblin, which would not have happened had Parker allowed Strange to send the villains back to their respective universes to be dealt with, Parker digs in harder rather than immediately sending them back.

Tom Holland’s Peter Parker enlists the help of Maguire and Garfield’s Peter Parkers in order to cure the villains once and for all. In the end, this causes more damage because Green Goblin unleashes the bad spell from the start of the film, thus inviting all those who know the identity of all Spider-Mans across all universes into theirs. Because of this, Holland’s Peter Parker must say goodbye to his girlfriend, best friend and his last connection to Tony Stark so that all universes will forget the identity of Spider-Man.

I loved the thrill of seeing all three Peters fight members of the “Sinister Six” together, and I appreciated Maguire and Garfield taking a more active role in the plot rather than just a cameo. Garfield seems to agree after having to keep the appearance secret since production of the film. However, I can’t shake the idea that the plot is flimsy and could be solved entirely within the first 45 minutes of the film if Peter had only allowed Strange to send all the villains back.