Release Date(s)2021 (April 12, 2022)
Studio(s)Columbia/Pascal Pictures/Marvel Studios (Sony Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Reviewers try to avoid spoilers while still providing a reasonable idea of the plot. This is especially difficult with Spider-Man: No Way Home, the latest adventure of the teenaged superhero, so what follows is a brief overview of the film that avoids revealing details that viewers should discover for themselves.
The story immediately after the events in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Before dying, the devious Mysterio has revealed Spider-Man’s identity and falsely accused him of murder. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is trying to balance applying to college with fame and its not-always-pleasant aftermath—hostility, fan adulation, lack of privacy, and unwanted media coverage. He turns to Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who, though annoyed, agrees to help. However, a spell gone wrong opens up the multiverse and allows supervillains from alternate realities to enter. These include Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Electro (Jamie Foxx), all from previous encounters with Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: No Way Home shows Peter navigating life without his valued anonymity. Instead of resorting immediately to special effects and fights, the film takes its time exploring the question of identity. Is Peter Parker valued more because he’s Spider-Man, or resented because he’s kept his alter-ego a secret? Notoriety has made his life an open book, and he tries to forge ahead while simultaneously trying to be a typical teenager and a superhero confronting bad guys.
Like its comic book source, No Way Home shakes up the storytelling to keep the saga fresh and to dole out surprises. Once again, MJ (Zendaya) and Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), Peter’s best friends, are on hand to provide romance and humor, and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) returns as Peter’s sympathetic, loving guardian.
Director Jon Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers provide a number of dialogue scenes between the villains, who reveal more humanity than in earlier films, and between Spider-Man and some surprise visitors from the multiverse. These scenes are clever and witty, and elevate the film from just another, routine installment.
Tom Holland by now has his character down pat and looks perfectly comfortable as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man in his body-hugging suit. Looking younger than age 25, when he made the film, he conveys adolescent energy, insecurity, burgeoning hormones, and occasional recklessness, which makes him relatable. Viewers may see elements of themselves in him. When he’s Spider-Man, Holland is cocky, courageous, and focused. In almost every scene, he easily carries the film on his young shoulders.
Dafoe chews up the scenery as Green Goblin and seems to enjoy his dastardliness. With a maniacal grin and a lunatic laugh, Dafoe makes the Goblin a crazed, vengeful creature with no conscience. His villainous Goblin is a formidable match for Spider-Man. Of the villains in No Way Home, Dafoe has the best scenes. Molina, as Dr. Octopus, is rather philosophical and contemplative, and seems far more reserved than in previous films. Molina adds humor with his delivery and devil-may-care manner. Unfortunately, Foxx’s Electro is underwritten and doesn’t have enough dialogue to show off his character. For pretty much the entire film he’s supported by unseen wires, hovering in space, far removed from the fast-paced action below.
As in all Marvel movies, action is a prime ingredient, and it’s here in all its dazzling glory. The blending of live-action wire work with CGI is flawless and looks great, though Spider-Man seems to be flying a lot more than swinging from webbing. In one sequence, in which he holds onto MJ, the two appear to be racing over and between buildings at Superman-like speed. In a superhero film, the bar for exaggeration is pretty high.
My major criticism of Spider-Man: No Way Home is that at two and a half hours, the film is too long. A good 15 minutes could easily have been cut without hurting the narrative flow.
Spider-Man: No Way Home was captured digitally by cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Avatar, The Kingdom, Infinite) in the ARRIRAW codec (at 4.5K) using Arri Alexa LF and Mini FL cameras with Panavision Panaspeed lenses, and it was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate framed at 2.39:1 for its wide theatrical release (and 1.90:1 for IMAX release). The Blu-ray contains only the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Clarity and contrast are excellent. Complexions are natural, and minor bloodied injuries on Spider-Man’s face are distinct. The color palette is bright, vivid, and often suggests panels in a comic book. Primary colors in the costumes are striking. More muted lighting is evident in indoor scenes during a night scene at the Statue of Liberty. Considerable green-screen work is used to simulate real backgrounds and cover a great deal of wire work, accentuating Spider-Man’s agility and the ability of other characters to hover in space. Details, such as Zendaya’s hair, patterns on the Spider-Man costume, pores on skin in close-ups, and Peter Parker’s cluttered room are nicely delineated. The blend of live action and CGI is exceptional and mostly imperceptible.
The main audio track is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Other options include English Audio Descriptive Service, French 5.1, French Audio Descriptive Service, and Spanish 5.1. Subtitles include English, English SDH, French, and Spanish. Dialogue is clear throughout. Sound effects include Spider-Man swooshing from building to building, Green Goblin’s flying disc, crowd voices, and fists pummeling bodies. Michael Giacchino’s score is at its most exciting during action sequences and appropriately contributes to mood in quieter scenes.
Bonus materials on the 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment include a Digital copy on a paper insert and the following featurettes, all in HD:
- Bloopers & Gag Reel (4:01)
- Action Choreography Across the Multiverse (6:25)
- A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland (6:16)
- Realities Collide, Spiders Unite (8:09)
- Graduation Day (7:07)
- Enter Strange (5:04)
- Weaving Jon Watts’ Web (7:18)
- Alternate Reality Easter Eggs (4:41)
- A Multiverse of Miscreants (6:38)
- A Meeting of the Spiders – Heroes Panel (7:23)
- The Sinister Summit – Villains Panel (8:44)
- The Daily Bugle: Spider-Menace Strikes Again (1:15)
- The Daily Bugle: Web of Lies (1:18)
- The Daily Bugle: Spider Sycophant (1:41)
- Stunt Scene Pre-Vis: Apartment Fight (1:46)
- Stunt Scene Pre-Vis: Shield Fight (1:49)
- Theatrical Marketing Materials:
- Tom & Jacob Lie Detector (1:58)
- Tom’s Press Tour (1:03)
- Georgia Promo (1:15)
Bloopers & Gag Reel – Narrated by Zendaya and Jacob Batalon, this amusing series of outtakes features actors blowing lines, breaking up during filming, making humorous gestures, and mugging. There are also shots of wire work mishaps.
Action Choreography Across the Multiverse – Stunt coordinator George Cottle and Fight Coordinator Jackson Slidell discuss creating the action sequences over an 8-to-9 week period. They had to adjust the wire work so that each character moved differently and the characters were represented correctly. Often, several actors were suspended simultaneously. The more the actor can participate in a stunt sequence, the more realistic the look.
A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland – Holland notes that he has been playing Spider-Man for 7 years. Brief audition clips are shown from Spider-Man: Homecoming. The evolution of Spider-Man through 3 films is explored, accompanied by film clips. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield add their thoughts about their turns playing Spider-Man.
Realities Collide, Spiders Unite – Director Jon Watts discusses the difficulty of keeping some of the film’s surprises a secret. The story of No Way Home had to justify the film’s unusual cast.
Graduation Day – Zendaya, Jacob Matalon, Tony Revolori, and Tom Holland discuss how they have bonded over 3 films.
Enter Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch notes that Peter Parker hopes Dr. Strange will be able to straighten out his life. He discusses the design of the Ancient Chamber, which was supposed to have existed for centuries and was lavishly created by set designers.
Weaving Jon Watts’ Web – Director Jon Watts provides a quirky sensibility to the film, telling the story from a high school teenage perspective. He brings out the humor, gives actors a chance to have fun by improvising and breathing humanity into scenes. He takes the work seriously, but not himself. The best idea wins. He strives for “freedom within the parameters of what the day’s work is,” and is a collaborative director.
Alternate Reality Easter Eggs – This is a revelation of more than 20 visual references in the film to previous Spider-Man movies, comics, and general Spider-Man lore.
A Multiverse of Miscreants – Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, and Alfred Molina hang out, discuss how their characters became villains. Many behind-the-scenes special effects scenes and stunts with the villains are shown.
A Meeting of the Spiders – Heroes Panel – Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland compare notes about their experiences playing Spider-Man. They discuss their relationships with actors playing villains. All three discuss their unique styles and make a point of describing how difficult it was to get into the Spider-Man suit.
The Sinister Summit – Villains Panel – Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Foxx speak highly of Tom Holland and his knowledge of the filmmaking process. They note that their costumes were more comfortable than in earlier films because technology has created upgrades. Their performances were made easier because of this.
The Daily Bugle – Three news reports by TV journalist J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) are shown in their entirety.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is the concluding installment in a trilogy that should make fans very happy. It brings back well-known baddies, deals with the consequences of a spell gone wrong, delivers cool special effects, and balances action with witty moments. If it overstays its welcome by a good quarter hour, it nonetheless provides an entertaining story.
- Dennis Seuling