PG-13 for general Spider-Man superhero MCU action. There's some death in this one, so it might not be for the feint of heart. We took our kids out to see this one --the first movie they've seen in theaters since the pandemic...which may not have been the best decision considering the general state of humanity --and my son really did not care for the death. He seemed to take it really personally. I suppose his empathy had to show up somewhere. Per usual MCU faire, there's a bit more cursing than I would care for. There's some violence because it is a superhero beat-em-up. PG-13 seems accurate.
DIRECTOR: Jon Watts
There's a really weird element to writing about every movie you see. As much as I love love love love LOVE movies, I know that, when I watch a new film, I have to write about it. I know. I could just quit. After all, browsers have now decided that my website is a phishing page, which is really weird because I don't know what could be doing that. I have a theory that when I get in touch with Weebly customer support, they will do nothing to help me with that. But we'll see how this plays out.
Before I go into the deep dive into one of the most anticipated movies in the MCU, I want to talk about the state of movie theaters. Have people gotten ruder or have I gotten older? We planned on going to the fancy, socially-distanced theater for this one because Omicron waits for no man. But we accidentally found out that the theater that had seats was in no way socially distanced. Now, I remember that there would always be kids trying to draw attention to themselves because teenagers are the absolute worst. (Okay, I'm sure that my students are great and completely well-behaved in public.) But there was a kid who straight up dropped the f-bomb during the Aunt May scene. Yeah, way to go emotional vulnerability. Also, people were just getting up during the movie over and over again. I don't know if that's me becoming an old person. But it was something that colored my viewing of the movie because I don't think I've ever sat through such an anticipated film with that much anxiety. While I thought the movie was pretty darned great, I probably would have had more fun if at least one other person in the theater decided to wear a mask.
Okay, actually about the movie. Tom Holland said something along the lines of No Way Home being the most ambitious superhero movie of all time. I can't understand how much hype was actually brought to this film. Originally, Kevin Feige wanted to keep the multiversal stuff a secret, which --speaking of the multiverse --would love to imagine what that world would have been like. The real tightrope that Feige has been pulling with the MCU is that he keeps giving audiences part of what they want. He gives way more than any other producer would do in terms of fan service. But rarely does he give everything. While I heard some mumblings that we were going to see the X-Men in this movie and get some hints about every Marvel property all coming together, it's insane to think of the gets that this movie had. I mean, look at the cast. This was just everyone coming back for the sake of making a conclusion to movies that really didn't have a close to them.
(Note: The Spider-Man Home Trilogy might be one of those few near perfect trilogies.) But the Sam Raimi trilogy really left off on an anticlimax. In Spider-Man 3, Pete and MJ end up in this holding pattern. While Harry gets his plot paid off to a certain extent, Peter's story seems completely like an open wound. We have to imagine what would have happened to him after the mess that Spider-Man 3 caused. Similarly, the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man franchise was really cut off far before its time. Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker had just lost the love of his life, mimicking the comic book inspirations and killing off both Captain Stacy and Gwen through his own lack of control. With Spider-Man 3, at least the Osborn threads were cleaned up. But with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there was a plan to extend these movies into something far bigger than what we got at the end of Garfield's run.
All this takes the key theme of No Way Home and puts it on the shoulders of Kevin Feige and Jon Watts. Feige and Watts were in this position where they almost should have played it safe. Both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home played with the notion of a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. The central idea was that there were these battles out there that Peter would be involved with when fighting alongside the Avengers. But when Peter was removed from universe-wide threats, his life would be remarkably difficult with these small threats. Yes, Far From Home escalated the story. But really, all of that was a mislead. When we thought that Peter Parker was going to take over the big leagues, we discover that it was Mysterio, a super-charged con man the entire time.
When No Way Home spirals out of control, it's in the face of what Peter has finally accepted about his life. After accepting his role as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, he's given a monkey wrench. J. Jonah Jameson revealed his identity to the world. While high stakes for the high school senior, on the grand scheme of it all, it's actually kind of small potatoes for the world at large. It's celebrity gossip. It's a commentary on Alex Jones and all of the abusive propagandists out there, but it isn't Thanos. But it becomes a Thanos level threat when Peter forgets all about his power and responsibility. It's Aunt May who has to present this tidbit to him. (I'm really confused about the status of Uncle Ben in the MCU. I mean, he was referenced in What If..., but that's already a multiversal Spidey.)
But this is where the theme comes in. It would be easy to finally cement the joy and beauty of a small scale superhero. In a world where Captain America can wield the power of a god, knowing that teenage Peter Parker is willing to fight a flying thief or a vengeful special effects artist is easy-peasy. But instead, Parker, through the eyes of the man on the street, imbues himself with morality that other superheroes never had the chance to. It always bothered be that the first generation of superhero movies post X-Men always killed off the villain. (I suppose the same could be said of Batman films, but Superman always saved the villain...minus Nuclear Man, whose actual life was questionable at best.) When Peter encounters his counterparts' villains, he's obsessed with saving them. Do you know how much I love this? Peter sees their humanity, despite their villainous intentions. It's through the eyes of Otto Octavius that we get how important Peter's mission statement in this movie is. Because Octavius was a good man before the accident. While Norman Osborn was problematic before the Goblin formula, Otto tried his best to solve energy crisis. The movie even stresses that he would have been parallel to Tony Stark. So when Doc Ock goes from cackling supervillain to calling Peter "My boy", that's something that's really important to the development of the story. And that's what Feige and Watts did. They gave these characters one more story. We know what happened to these characters. I mean, I don't know what happens to those characters now that the villains have been redeemed, but you know what I'm saying.
But it also fixes something that I always thought was a mistake. I always hated when the origin story shared a tale with the arch-nemesis. The Green Goblin was kind of given the shaft in the first Spider-Man movie. It's not like any part of the Green Goblin was bad (shy of the costume, which fixed it in the exact way I wanted it to be fixed). But the Green Goblin is what we worry about in the story. When Norman Osborn goes full Goblin, Peter is going to suffer. And suffer he did in the 2002 piece. But when we don't have to worry about Peter discovering his powers, the Goblin gets the screen time that he needs to be the threat of the comics. Raimi's Goblin is evil, but I'm actually a little scared of No Way Home's Green Goblin. Because there's a tie between Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. But the fact that Norman Osborn fixates on Tom Holland's Spider-Man shows that absolute psychosis that the character has. He hates the idea of Spider-Man. We also see the villainization of the emotionally abusive father on a new level. Because we get both sides of Norman Osborn, the obsessed scientist and the violent murderer, we can see what Norman should be versus what he is. It's absolutely great.
I feel bad for the other villains a bit. Maybe not Jamie Foxx because he finally got what he wanted out of Max Dillon. (Also, I just read that Max Dillon didn't know that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, so what was he doing there?) But Thomas Hayden Church and Rhys Ifans were both in the movie as well. I mean, I, at first, thought that they had stand-ins, like Red Skull under CG. But then it was them. It was them and they barely got the attention that they probably deserved. But it was great seeing them in the movie as well. I also really dug the Matt Murdock scene played by Charlie Cox. Some people are griping, claiming that it makes no sense that Matt Murdock would represent Peter Parker. Okay, slow your roll. That's Marvel through and through. If it wasn't going to be Matt Murdock, it would have been Jennifer Walters. That's just how the Marvel Universe works.
It's a pretty great movie. While I could talk about the One More Day ending or the stuff that just makes Jon Watts Spider-Man movies work, it would definitely be considered rambling. Even without all of the fan service elements we got, it's a great movie in itself. Sure, Eddie Brock makes zero sense in the movie and that seems like it was just gratuitous. But it is a solid Spider-Man film that I would have enjoyed a lot more in a socially-distanced theater.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.