There are films. There are hyped films. There are super-hyped films. And then there is Spider-Man: No Way Home – a super-duper-mega-hyped film, which arrives in cinemas this week.

Why is this film so super-duper-mega-hyped? Because for the past couple of years, Spider-Man: No Way Home has been the subject of endless rumours, constant stories, potential leaks, and a never-ending guessing game in which fans try and work out what characters and storylines feature in the movie.

The film has trended multiple times online, has been the subject of much media coverage (and much secrecy), and has delivered a couple of suggestive preview trailers that have got Spidey fans in a tizz. The suggestion from these trailers is that Spider-Man: No Way Home is the biggest, craziest, zaniest, and most ambitious Spidey movie to date, making it appointment cinema for anyone even remotely interested in comic book movies.

For those who have no idea what I’m on about, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a movie which sees Peter Parker come face-to-face with various iconic super villains from the past – it’s a sort-of team-up ‘greatest hits’ movie, if you will. Only these aren’t villains from THIS Peter’s past, but rather villains from the past of OTHER Peter Parkers.

Confused? OK, then let me make things a little clearer.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a movie in which Peter Parker has a brush with the multiverse – a place in which various alternate realities co-exist. This multiverse allows characters from different realities (aka different Marvel movies of the past) to make their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In layman’s terms, this means Doctor Octopus from 2004’s Spider-Man 2 can tussle with the Tom Holland version of Peter Parker, despite the fact he usually kicks it with Tobey Maguire. Likewise, Electro from 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can be lifted from that old Andrew Garfield Spidey movie, and placed in this new one.

The multiverse is a way for different takes on different characters to all co-exist. Essentially it says that all those different Marvel movies of yesteryear, i.e. the non-MCU ones (X-Men, Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four, etc), are all alternate timelines that can converge with the MCU if the story wishes it, and this is the movie in which it all begins to happen.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel has been flirting with the multiverse for a little while now, with references and storylines being featured in shows such as WandaVision (2021), Loki (2021), and What If? (2021). But Spider-Man: No Way Home is the first MCU movie to explore the multiverse in depth.

Of course, it’s not the first Spider-Man movie to deal with the multiverse, that particular milestone goes to 2018’s animated movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. However, it is the first live-action feature film to traverse this landscape, and the one which has the ability to draw on a wealth of old live-action Marvel movies.

And because fans know the multiverse inside and out, and are more than aware of the story-telling capabilities of such a concept, there has been a lot of speculation as to where this Spider-Man movie could go. There has also been a great deal of speculation as to which past Marvel movie characters could crossover with this one, now the door has been opened.

Suggestions have ranged from Daredevil and Venom, to Howard the Duckand a trio of Bruce Campbells (no, really). These possibly-true/possibly-false suggestions have helped to build all of the hype which is now surrounding this movie, which in turn has made this the most eagerly-anticipated film of the year.

Now of course, I have seen Spider-Man: No Way Home, so I know exactly who appears in this movie, and where the story goes. However, I’m not here to spoil things for anyone, so not only is this review SPOILER FREE, but I’m also only sticking to key information that has already been revealed about the film, beginning with the cast list.

Spider-Man: No Way Home stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Benedict Wong, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Jon Favreau, and J. K. Simmons. All of these actors have been announced for quite some time, so none of these names should come as a surprise to anyone.

As for other details you should know, the movie is directed by Jon Watts and is the 27th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man: No Way Home is playing in UK cinemas from today, and will arrive in the US on Friday.

The film is exclusive to cinemas (for now), so pandemic permitting, if you want to see the film before Christmas, you need to head to your local big screen to see it. However, if you don’t mind waiting a couple of months, it will pop up on video-on-demand services in the New Year.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

OK, so that’s a lot of the preamble out of the way, now let’s talk about the plot. And once again, this is a SPOILER FREE plot summary, so I am keeping things very simple, to ensure nothing gets ruined for anyone.

Picking up directly after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, everyone’s favourite high-school-student-turned-super-hero, Peter Parker, is reeling after his secret identity has been revealed to the world. And now the cat is out of the bag, Parker suddenly finds himself the subject of a great deal of media attention.

In addition to seeing pictures of his face splashed all over the news, Parker is also the prime suspect in a murder inquiry. The police have reason to believe that Peter killed Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio) and things are looking decidedly bleak for the young super hero.

Keen for everything to go back to normal, Peter approaches Doctor Strange to ask his sorcerer pal if he will cast a spell to make everyone forget Peter’s secret identity. Peter believes that if the general population no longer know he is Spidey, he will be able to return to normal life.

Strange agrees to cast a spell, but things don’t go quite to plan. Instead of granting Peter’s request, he accidentally breaks the barriers between the multiverse, creating an even bigger problem in the process.

With reality beginning to shift, Peter soon discovers a number of new visitors have arrived in his city, including Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin. But while Peter doesn’t know who these guys are, these miscreants are more than familiar with Spider-Man, and are keen to reconnect with their old foe.

And that’s all I will say about the plot…

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

*Takes a deep breath*

So… where to even begin?

*Takes another deep breath*

There’s a great deal to talk about with Spider-Man: No Way Home, and yet, there is also a great deal I can’t talk about when it comes to Spider-Man: No Way Home. So, believe me when I say, I am going to work my way through this review as carefully as possible.

Is this the most ambitious Spider-Man movie to date? Well, I can answer this honestly, by saying it IS without doubt the most ambitious. But most importantly, it is the most ambitious Spider-Man movie to date that doesn’t mess things up.

It is big, it is bold, it delivers plenty of crowd-pleasing, fist-pumping moments, and none of the good stuff gets lost in the execution. If you have been itching to watch this movie for some time now, hoping and praying it will tick the right boxes, then rest assured that it does.

It is the Spidey film you’ve dreamed about and the one you never thought you would get. To use a seasonal and rather timely metaphor, it is every fan’s Christmases come at once.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

Now let’s be honest, a movie that is as big as this, could have been a sloppy mess. And as Spidey fans know, when it comes to big Spider-Man movies, we’ve been down this road before, and it has always been a disappointment. Whenever attempts have been made to go big with the Spider-Man films, they have ended badly.

2007’s Spider-Man 3 was a huge Spidey film, and it buckled under its own weight, serving up a terrible and rushed resolution in order to tie up all its loose ends. A similar fate befell The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which tried so hard to shoehorn villains (and future villains) into the picture, it essentially became a failed back door pilot that triggered the cancellation of a whole run of Spider-Man projects.

The goal with both of those movies was to introduce characters and concepts that could expand Spidey’s world. And in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the aim was to eventually work up to a villain team-up picture, focusing on the Sinister Six (six of Spidey’s notorious foes).

Both of those films failed because all of the new characters and ideas that were chucked at the screen were poorly judged, completely mishandled, and never fully realised. They paid lip service and nothing more, and fans, as well as general audiences, could see the sticky tape that was holding everything together.

Spider-Man: No Way Home succeeds where those movies failed, because it doesn’t rush to the finish without a clear plan in sight. It knows what it wants to do from the start, has enough story to keep things going, and director Jon Watts knows exactly how to keep all of his plates spinning.

Arguably most important of all, the film includes characters that are fully fleshed out. Sure, some get a little more depth than others, but (almost) everyone gets exactly the right amount of screen time to tell their story.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

As already noted, Spider-Man: No Way Home does include past villains, this isn’t a secret, and it is great to see them. But these are more than just cameos – the villains here are an integral part of the story, with their own arcs to justify their inclusion.

And boy, is it fun to see the likes of Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe back in a Spidey movie. I am a huge fan of the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy of the ‘00s, so any connections to that older series of films is sure welcome to see.

Likewise, it’s also good to see Jamie Foxx returning to the series, reprising his role of Electro from the Marc Webb-directed Spidey films from the 2010s. I was not a fan of his previous outing as this character, but here the actor is given a second chance, with an improved and far better take this time around.

All that goofy stuff that Foxx did before with Electro is jettisoned. In its place is a more confident character, and one I enjoyed seeing back on the screen.

There are of course plenty of other call-backs to the past that I would love to highlight here, but those are best left for another discussion and for audiences to discover in their own time. The fun of this movie is seeing it all come together on screen, and watching as every little detail, nod, wink, and in-joke is effortlessly placed throughout the narrative.

There is also fun in knowing that this new film adds something to all those old Spidey films. If you felt the previous Spidey movies ended abruptly, well at least this one gives those movies a second chance to wrap things up.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

What I can talk about with Spider-Man: No Way Home is the core cast of characters who return from the previous MCU movies. Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, and Jon Favreau are back, and all are a delight, with Holland being particularly strong.  

This movie gives the actor an opportunity to deliver his best performance in a Spider-Man film. If you liked him before, then you’ll like him even more now; and if he’s never quite convinced you in previous instalments, he’ll win you over this time around.

He is given weightier material and he handles it like a pro. At times he’s still playing the dorky, happy-go-lucky Parker that we’ve all come to love, but he also has to cope with some darker moments and emotional scenes, and he never drops the ball.

You can see Holland is pushing himself and also enjoying everything around him, both as an actor who gets to play Spidey, and as a Spidey fan who gets to play in a huge toybox of a film. Holland has spoken at length about how he got to play out some cool scenes in this movie, and it is obvious which scenes they are, because yes, they really are cool.

The film also includes an extended cameo for Benedict Cumberbatch who returns as Doctor Strange. He gets to provide some much-needed morality to the story, and his appearance helps to set up a future story beat.

And then there is J. K. Simmons who puts in an appearance as Daily Bugle mouth-piece, J. Jonah Jameson. While the character’s scenes in this film are nowhere near as good as what we have seen before, it is still great to have him back in the series as Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis!

Will Simmons return for more Spidey films? I hope so, because let’s be very clear here: There WILL be more Spider-Man films.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

While Spider-Man: No Way Home is the third solo Spidey film for Tom Holland, and it does go to the sort of heights audiences would come to expect from a grand finale, this isn’t the end for the character. That said, whatever comes next has the opportunity to be different from what has come before, so it does feel like an endpoint of sorts.

Essentially, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a greatest hits tour, a celebration, and a pause point for the Spidey franchise as a whole. It is a film which is very much connected to the MCU, but at the same time it is a picture which allows for a pivot and a refocus, while reminding us all about what we have enjoyed from all the Spidey films that have come before.

There are ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’, there are moments designed to recall the past, and there are plot points which look toward the future. Along the way there are plenty of jokes; there’s a great score from Michael Giacchino; and there is a sense that this really is an epic chapter in Spidey’s history.

There’s also triumph and tragedy in this movie, and one sequence in particular which is sure to produce a tear or two. But don’t worry, you will also be smiling as well, so there are plenty of emotions to go around.

Image: ©Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Disney

What I like most about Spider-Man: No Way Home is that it never takes its eye off the prize. It draws together multiple components, puts them all together, and makes them work.

It is ambitious, but it’s not cocky. It is epic, but it’s not over the top.

There are countless ideas in play, and various ways in which this film could have fallen apart, and yet it all works. OK, so some of the CGI is a little ropey in places, and one of the villains seems to have a slightly confusing motive, but these really are minor issues.

Spider-Man: No Way Home aims big and scores. It is a Spider-Man film that delivers, and if you have any love for the Spidey films of the past, then do yourself a favour and go and see it.

The pandemic could potentially derail screenings of this movie in the not-too distant future, so be sure not to sit on this one for too long. See it before you are hit with spoilers, or before movie-going restrictions are put in place, because this is something truly special.

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