dir: Jon Watts
Finally, another Spider-Man movie! This is impossible to review without spoiling, because every second of its running time, instead of having a story or plot, is just a never ending cascade of surprising spoilers.
I don’t know if you missed seeing Tobey Maguire either in general or as Spider-Man, but if you were missing him, here he is again.
Do you think about Andrew Garfield much? Do you like him as an actor? He is here, also playing Spider-Man.
Tom Holland plays Spider-Man too, or should I say three. He is the main Spider-Man here, the others are just hangers-on, depending on your perspective.
Benedict Cumberbatch reprises the character he plays in The Power of the Dog as Dr Phil Strange, an angry, repressed man who takes out his frustrations on the universe by doing magical spells. For reasons that don’t really make any sense because why would you need stuff to make sense if you’ve got magic, Dr Strange casts a spell to make the world forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
Why would this matter? Well, because Peter and his friends are having trouble getting in to MIT, and the thought of having to go and work in the service industry or go to community college is too depressing for them. That’s plenty of justification for wrecking reality.
This makes villains from other universes that have a Spider-Man / Peter Parker, appear in this universe, trying to kill Peter Parker. But their Peter Parkers are played by different actors, so Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus are after Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro and some Lizard guy are after Andrew Garfield (not for being Peter Parker, but because he’s so fucking annoying).
Sandman / Flint Marko is also there, but I think that’s just because they took pity on Thomas Hayden Church, who I haven’t seen in much since Sideways, and that was ages ago.
Dr Phil Strange is somehow or somewhat angry at Peter. They have cross words with each other. But this isn’t Dr Phil’s movie, it’s Peter’s, so he gets to be top dog or at least come out on top for most of the flick’s length. Peter keeps making bad decisions based on poor motivations, but that’s okay. He’s kinda literally playing the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme.
Oh, wait, I just realised I made a reference to an animated movie from like 70 years ago. Fantasia? The bit where Mickey Mouse tries to automate a job he’s too lazy to do with a spell than nearly drowns the world?
I feel so old right now. I’m so old in fact that I remember seeing all the Tobey Maguire / Sam Raimi Spider-Man flicks in the cinema. I did, I’m not ashamed to admit, get a bit of a thrill seeing him appear for the first time. Spider-Man 2 has always been the high water mark for these films.
I got less of a thrill seeing Andrew Garfield here, because, honestly, fuck those movies he was in, but I’m still glad he’s here, because I’m sure he’s got mouths to feed and such. I think he has kids. Kids need all sorts of stuff. Shoes, Invisalign, it never ends
All the other ones, well, Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe aren’t hurting for work, so it’s not like it’s been ages for them, but I’ve always not really liked Dafoe’s Goblin. I like Dafoe in other stuff, but his acting is always so labored. Here he lacks even the minimal restraint he has access to. I thought he was playing Nicolas Cage, not Norman Osborne.
Molina’s Doc Ock though is great. I love hearing that voice, that curled lip, that voice booming with its haughty, patrician disdain for the less intellectually gifted. He should have been the main character and everything he ever does or says should be printed on stickers or on notes inserted into fortune cookies or written on birthday cards.
Despite the point of all this being wedging as much of this crossover crap into the blender, letting it spin, and hoping to achieve the heights of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the flick mostly looks and sounds like a nostalgia fest, aimed at, I’m guessing, mostly guys my age (and probably weight). If the flick works at all it’s because we care not about the multitude of characters from other flicks, but about this Peter Parker, his MJ (Zendaya), and his best mate Ned (Jacob Batalon). Sure, they’re there mostly just to be in danger, but they’re charming as “normal” people caught up in super heroic shenanigans.
When the fate of universes rests on the shoulders of superheroes and wizards, we have no reason to think it won’t all work out, but the impact it has on “the little people” is the part we’re meant to find meaningful (I guess, I have no idea, I just mean we’re regular people, none of us are superheroes except for YOU, maybe). Peter and his friends are just out of high school, have no money and no prospects (now). Relating to the struggles of working class people is far more relatable than worrying about whether a finger snap is going to delete everyone again or whether lizard aliens using space lasers are controlling the royal family or the rest of us now through the vaccines.
MJ and Ned are a much needed antidote to keep stuff grounded. Unfortunately, they’re also the excuse given for Peter’s terrible life choices.
It’s…fine? I guess? As a superhero movie it chugs along at a rollicking pace. Yes, there’s a lot of fan service and pointless overloading, but there are times where deep in my nerdy heart of hearts I relish it. Seeing Charlie Cox turn up as Matt Murdock / Daredevil was an immense treat, but it has no bearing on the rest of the flick. But why didn’t Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Hanson get cameos too, huh, huh? And does that mean Jessica Jones is just off screen somewhere?
And then of course it reminds me that Jon Favreau played Foggy Nelson in the mediocre Daredevil flick with Ben Affleck back in the day, but here is playing Happy Hogan and is always still hanging around. Each time he reappears he looks more beaten up by life, which is appropriate, I guess, considering what life is doing to the rest of us.
Happy apparently had some kind of relationship with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) which is just so cringe, but thankfully she’s dumped his arse, even though he keeps mooning around like a neglected puppy. He helps in some ways, but he’s still annoying.
Well, as for Aunt May, rest in peace, sweet legal guardian. She gets to say the amazing line about great responsibility coming with great power, but, honestly, it’s such a fucking cliché at this point I groaned when she said it. And that’s just minutes before…
It’s “fun” seeing the other chaps, both heroic and villainous, and it’s fun seeing Peter and Dr Phil fighting it out, but it never really felt like the fates of universes rested upon their slender shoulders. Still, it’s fun enough, and means everyone will eventually appear in one of these Marvel flicks or series, because they are absorbing anything and everything in the world, until one day everything will be Marvel. I’m pretty sure I could already be a character in the Marvel universe, though I’m certainly on the D-List. My movie should be coming out some time in 2026. Everyone should demand their own spin-off Marvel movie, why not.
Speaking of losers there’s even a Venom cameo at the end, where the actor who plays the delightful Danny Rojas on Ted Lasso “Football is Life!” keeps trying to explain the reality of this universe to a disbelieving Eddie (Tom Hardy), just moments before Eddie and Venom are whisked away again. How delightfully pointless.
The Dr Strange stuff in the credits, though, looks like his next film is going to be him paying the price for his blithe stupidity here. If anything comes out of this that matters, and it really doesn’t, it’s that Peter pays a great price for getting his anonymity back – he loses his aunt, and his friends, and I’m not saying that’s how it should be, but there is something at least that he sacrifices, which means something, maybe.
We probably don’t need more of these, but we’re definitely still going to keep getting them.
7 times Marvel Marvel Marvel Marvel Marvel Marvel all of the time out of 10
“ You have a gift. You have power. And with great power, there must also come great responsibility.” – yeah, and with absolutely no power at all still come a massive heap of responsibilities, Aunt May - Spider-Man: No Way Home