Spider-Man No Way Home
23rd December 2021
Shane Ramdhany is the lead writer for Revamp: The Inner Screen
John Watts’s third film in what is considered to be a trilogy chronicling our web slinger’s latest exploits, bows with a crescendo that is the culmination of generations of our relationship with the friendly neighborhood superhero. It is a love letter to spider-fans that yields great reward to those that have embraced the franchise for the last two decades.
As the trilogy’s third film, many elements of its storytelling resonate with a tone of finality. There are many revelations in this film so any discourse in a spoiler-free context remains a challenge, so I will do my best. Picking up where the second film left off with regard to Parker’s reveal to the entire world, we observe him contending with the consequences of fame that may very well serve as meta-commentary on the reality of stardom. He is inevitably polarized by his actions, forcing him to consider the most unorthodox of solutions. He eventually seeks out Dr. Strange, who quickly acquiesces to Parker’s request that he no longer remain a household name. This decision of course leads to unintended outcomes that begin to conceptualize the film’s theme of challenging fate as well as explore the role of determinism.
It is at this point, that this theme cements itself as the focus of our protagonist’s plight. Watts’s direction and storytelling is enacted with precision as it never derails from this concept. The film’s characters are all embedded within the film’s exploration of these themes. This is evidenced as each of them constructs their own perspective on the existential and ethical dilemma that embodies the manipulation of destiny. This notion also serves as a creative platform for introducing characters such as Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, among others, into the foray.
The film’s characters are all imbued with performances that elevate the film above its bombastic exterior. This results in emotionally intimate moments that consistently enhance, rather than jar, the film’s storytelling. Holland’s performance is at its most dynamic. One can’t help but feel that he has harnessed the entire spectrum of emotion, depicted from his first drop in Captain America: Civil War to his most recent excursion in Far From Home, to great effect. Zendaya and Batalon (who play MJ and Ned, respectively) both infuse the role of friendship with earnest performances that further layer, rather than mystify, the film’s themes. Finally, Cumberbatch’s return as Dr. Strange is a welcome treat as he serves as the hardened voice of reason and drives home the importance of deterministic preservation.
As the film reaches its climax, Peter is inevitably faced with a choice that concludes the film with a poignant response that never fully answers the complex inquires posed by its themes of fate and determinism. This is not due to an unsuccessful script, but rather a message to the viewer with the notion that the answer to this dilemma is subjective and will ultimately be driven by individual perspective. While No Way Home meets the usual Marvel criteria for visual flair and endearing characters, it still manages to elevate itself through the lens of concepts that strengthen its creative vision. This is a feat that is becoming increasingly challenging as Marvel’s cinematic library grows. It has demonstrated that our hero can do so much more than simply whatever a spider can.