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No Way Home — believe the hype

After his identity as Spider-Man is made public, Peter Parker tries to solve the problem but makes matters far worse when villains from parallel universes enter his world. Digital editor Dan Jensen shares his thoughts on the biggest movie of 2021.

★★★★★

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME is many things. It’s the closing chapter in the trilogy created by director Jon Watts. It’s the 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it’s arguably the biggest movie of 2021.

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the film, to the point where cinemas opened it with midnight screenings across the world. The internet has been ablaze with speculation — mostly whether or not the film would reprise previous Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield after it was revealed that several villains from past films were returning.

But every bit of hype and excitement shared by fans has been rewarded with one of the best comic book movies to ever hit the silver screen. This movie is big!

Picking up immediately where Far From Home left off, Spider-Man’s identity has been revealed to the world. With his whole life falling apart and seeing the effect this revelation has on his friends, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) asks the mystical Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that will erase everyone’s memory of him being the arachnoid hero. But things go spectacularly wrong and instead of people forgetting who Peter Parker is, the spell opens gateways to others who know the connection between Parker and Spider-Man, allowing villains from other universes (in other words, franchises) to enter the MCU.

Those who are tired of the stale superhero movie formula will find a lot to enjoy in No Way Home. Rather than the usual story of hero meets villain; hero must find way to stop villain; hero defeats villain, this movie offers something unique and interesting. When Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans) enter Parker’s world, rather than trying to figure out a way to defeat the villains, he learns that sending them back to their respective universes will result in their deaths so he embarks on a quest to cure what it is that turned them evil.

Usually when a comic book film tries to overstuff the story with too many villains, it can become tiresome and convoluted. No Way Home juggles everything perfectly. Each villain has a purpose in the story and is given just the right amount of screen time. And seeing characters from past Spider-Man films by Sam Raimi and Marc Webb now playing in the MCU realm (after having absolutely no connection) was such a treat, with the multiverse subplot as a perfect device to bring them in.

And that is one of No Way Home’s biggest strengths — the fun factor. This is a movie that is packed with so many moments to get the heart racing and have audiences cheering at the screen. It’s hilariously funny at times. The tone is balanced perfectly throughout the narrative and even scenes where characters are talking about things that don’t really pertain to the central plot are utterly enjoyable. It’s clear that writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers had a blast working on the script as that energy translates through the screen so well.

Along Parker’s journey, he’s joined once again by girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), both who play an important part to the story and provide some great comedic moments. The performances from everyone are outstanding, with Tom Holland given some heavy moments in the third act of the film and carrying them brilliantly. No Way Home packs a lot more emotion than one might expect — one scene in particular that will moisten the eyes considerably. Willem Dafoe also deserves a mention for his over-the-top portrayal of the insane Norman Osborn, providing a menacing threat to Parker and stealing every scene he’s in.

And while the film is filled with dazzling special effects, a triumphant score by Michael Giacchino and goes at a pace that leaves zero moments for toilet breaks in the 2.5 hour run time (which feels like half that), No Way Home finds room for some well-placed themes. Never before has the Spider-Man motto “with great power comes great responsibility” meant so much. There are also themes of morality and judging a book by its cover. There’s friendship and identity, there’s the fine line of doing what’s right over selfish desires. And there’s the ultimate theme of the hero’s sacrifice, another moment which will have audiences sniffling in the theatre.

It’s difficult to say much more about No Way Home without giving away the many surprises this film has in store. There’s been a strong campaign by those involved in the making of the film to prevent spoilers and it’s completely warranted. This is a film best enjoyed with minimal knowledge of what’s to come.

If you’re a Spider-Man fan, this movie is a dream come true. It’s easily the best of all the live action films featuring the character. If you’re a casual comic book film fan, you’re still going to have a blast with this one. The only thing to keep in mind is that it’s going to make a lot more sense if you’ve seen the Sam Raimi trilogy and the two Amazing Spider-Man films that came before it. It’s not essential, but it will definitely increase your enjoyment of the movie overall.

Spider-Man: No Way Home opens in cinemas across Australia today.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.

Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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