In the vast pantheon of Marvel superheroes, Spider-Man may be the shiniest jewel on the roster, with his high-flying, web-slinging antics being an easy sell to new customers to the cinematic universe. Where the likes of Captain Marvel, Hawkeye and many of the heroes in the Eternals seem stuck in a rigid uniformity, the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man has always projected a boyish charm and cheek that has long enthralled die-hard fans.
For the past 20 years the web-slinger has been entertaining generations of superhero fans, with Sam Raimi arguably sparking the very cauldron of genre activity that we’ve seen in modern cinema, from Marvel’s cinematic universe to the sub-par efforts of DC. Taking blockbuster cinema to new heights in 2002, Tobey Maguire was the first to don the red-webbed mask of the hero, starring three times as the hero before Andrew Garfield took over in a rebooted series in 2012.
Such has led to Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, the final film in the (last?) trilogy for Tom Holland’s iteration of the character, an altogether sharper and more polished version of the dark character we’ve seen in the past. As part of a wider cinematic universe, Holland’s Spider-Man has slotted easily in with the prize-winning Disney formula, with his quick quips and good looks fitting in with the rest of the celebrated Avengers.
With the knowledge that the love for the character has indeed come after a 20-year passionate romance with the series itself for audiences, Spider-Man: No Way Home turns into a showcase of the character’s ‘best-bits’ that works to serve the ardent fans and fails to do much more. A swan-song of memorable characters and scenarios, the film sees a return of Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, Alfred Molina as ‘Doc Ock’ as well as Jamie Foxx’s Electro among a whole host of other surprises.
It’s an enjoyable ‘who’s who’ of characters that surprisingly holds its own without feeling too conceited, with Dafoe particularly revelling in his opportunity to return to the blockbuster franchise as the expressive, cackling Green Goblin. Joining a considerably sized pack of angered villains, Dafoe is, rather predictably, not given enough time to flourish in his role along with each of his fellow antagonists who often feel like sideshows at their own party.
As an exhibition and throwaway comic-book thriller, it’s certainly an exciting time, though such aspects pale in comparison to the central relationship of Peter Parker (Holland) and MJ (Zendaya) who ground the film to some semblance of genuine heart. As an item in real life, their chemistry remains the trilogies finest aspect, and despite MJ given little to do as Parker’s girlfriend, she and best-friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) are given ample screen time in this surprisingly emotional bookend to Tom Holland’s journey as the character.
Almost like a HBO reunion show, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a celebration of just why the character remains a staple of pop culture, bringing back all the famous faces to rekindle the magic of their respective tenure as the web-slinger. Having influenced the landscape of superhero movies ever since the release of Sam Raimi’s original film at the start of the new millennium, the latest Spider-Man movie is glittering proof over Disney’s suffocating control over their most lucrative franchise.