I’ve always loved Spider-Man. That being said, his transition to the big screen has been a rocky road over the last several decades. During the 1980s. the defunct Cannon Group had held the rights to the comic but the Israeli-producers of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus initially thought it was a horror movie about a teenager turning into a huge spider. They tapped schlock horror director Joseph Zito to work on the movie that never came to fruition by the time the movie production company folded in the late 1980s.
Then, the rights were sold to another production company, Carolco Pictures, which despite some big hits such as Basic Instinct, Total Recall and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that company folded in the mid 1990s with the rights flying around until Sony and Columbia Pictures were able to pick it up.
I liked the first Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire directed by Sam Raimi but it was too cartoonish to a point. Spider-Man 2 managed to improve on what didn’t work in the first one and is one of the best comic book movies ever made. Then, there was Spider-Man 3 and too many villains as well as some poor miscasting. Sorry Topher Grace.
And just like the Snap/Blip, there were five years without Spider-Man, until Sony decided to recast an already 30-something Maguire with Andrew Garfield who was almost 30 himself with The Amazing Spider-Man rebooting the franchise. It was an improvement over Spider-Man 3 but then there was the disastrous The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which had the same problems and a set up for a franchise that never happened.
Sony working with Disney decided once again to recast Peter Parker/Spidey with Tom Holland who looked like he was a high-schooler. Bypassing an origin story (thankfully), he was thrown into Captain America: Civil War before getting standalones, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home, that seemed to follow a problem with the MCU movies in the wake of the first Guardians of the Galaxy in which everything had to have comedy elements. I don’t mind some comic relief but it seemed every other word was a quip or a joke, resulting in a character lying that he was looking at porn while trying to help Spidey.
There were a lot of problems with Homecoming and definitely Far From Home that I won’t go into much detail, except for what I discussed in a previous post about the MCU. Homecoming reduced Spidey to a sidekick to Iron Man as well as making MJ (Zendaya) totally annoying. And Far From Home, while focuing on the dangers of misinformation in the digital age, didn’t seem to make sense there’d be a European trip less than a year after a devestating historic event like the Snap/Blip. I also didn’t believe Peter would be so affected by Tony Stark’s death.
But they finally made right with the latest Spider-Man: No Way Home, which seems to wrap up everything that has been wrong with the franchise in the past 20 years. Picking up immediately at the end of the events of Far From Home, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), acting as an Alex Jones/Matt Drudge conspiracy theorist reporter, has told everyone that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, causing him to seek shelter in his Queens apartment.
I’m almost wondering why this is such an issue considering people knew Stark was Iron Man, Steve Rogers was Captain America and so forth. The MCU seemed to be striking down the notion of the masked superheroes having to conceal their identities.
Yet the Department of Damage Control (which is something that just makes me cringes and I wished they didn’t use), questions Peter, MJ, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and even their friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), but a nice cameo by Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock from the Daredevil series assures everyone there’s no charges likely to be filed.
However, the court of public opinion is different. Peter and Aunt May move in with Happy whose relationship with her is iffy. Peter finds himself standing out at high school hounded like a celebrity. There’s a lot they could have done with this subplot that they don’t. Being Spider-Man gave Peter anonymity even though he was a public figure. Setting this in a high school atmosphere might have given the filmmakers something to work with, but it’s brushed aside almost as soon as it’s introduced.
Focusing on his studies, Peter tries to apply to colleges but is always rejected. When he, MJ and Ned are all rejected by MIT because of the events surrounding Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal reappearing in footage appearing in the previous movie) and other things connected to Spider-Man, Peter seeks out Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He wants Strange to help him out and the sorcerer begins to cast a spell to make everyone forget that Peter and Spidey are one and the same, but Peter keeps interrupting him causing Strange to stop.
Unfortunately, in the process, Strange has actually caused a portal that has brought Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) to New York City. And he battles Spider-Man on a bridge because we need the obligatory bridge battle. But Octavius is stunned to realize the Peter he thought was behind the mask isn’t. Then, they both see the Green Goblin before they are transported to Strange’s Sanctum where he has imprisoned Octavius and Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) in his Lizard form. Strange and Peter must work on obtaining the other supervillains who knew Peter from the alternative universes.
If you’ve been living under a rock since December, you know that they pulled out all the stops. Not only is Willem Dafoe back as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, but Jamie Foxx is back as Max Dillon/Electro and Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman. (However, they just used archival footage of Church and Ifans who only provide vocal work.) And of course, Maguire and Garfield return as well. You get three Spideys for the price of one.
Now, this could have been a gimmick that falls flat after the first few minutes. But Holland, Garfield and Maguire make it believable and director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers give each actor and character the right balance. The showdown between the three Spideys and the supervillains is very well plotted and shot.
But at the heart of the movie is that each Peter is struggling through their own grief and pain from a loss. Not to give much away by Peter Two (Maguire) is still grieving over the death of Harry Osborn, who was his best friend and later foe as Hobglobin. Peter Three (Garfield) is still grieving the loss of Gwen Stacy who died at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And Peter suffers even more loss in this movie. This leads to a fight between Peter One and Strange because in the alternative universes, Dillon, Ocatvius and Osborn are all dead, and Peter One doesn’t feel comfortable sending them back to a world in which they’re dead. So, all three Peters work on ways they can cure each supervillain of their powers before sending them back.
The one good thing I have liked about the MCU Spider-Man movies is how there is little violence. This is a nice effect Watts has used on all three movies so that when a character does die, it makes it more effective. And fans of the MCU Spider-Man may not like where this one goes, but I must admit it’s a necessary move. Even though Holland has been playing Spidey since 2016, he’s still a teenager. And this gives Spidey the time to grow up and out on his own.
However, there really isn’t a future movie in development right now in the franchise. There’s a line of dialogure that hints that the next Spidey movie may introduce Miles Morales. Holland is now 25 and even though the comics portray Peter as a grown adult, the question may be how will Sony and Disney want to continue.
After 11 movies in 20 years with three actors playing the role, it’s time to pass the web shooter to a new Spidey. Seeing how Disney has done that with the Black Widow and Hawkeye characters, I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow the Miles Morales route. The ending of No Way Home leaves a lot open to resolve in a subsequent movie. I’m sure fans will like to see it.
If they can just continue on this path, then, hopefully, the next one will be as good as this.
What do you think. Please comment.