Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home ★★

Disney took all of the “market signals” it’s read over the years and does what it does best: puréed it into this mashed potato pile of a movie, like a slurry of creative derivatives.

Despite being the only other Spider-Man movie not to figure directly into the narrative of “No Way Home” at all, the most important creative antecedent here is the vastly superior “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Disney borrows very, very heavily from that earlier film, to the point where this is essentially a very poor live action remake of a genuinely artful animated original. Not coincidentally, that also happens to be what Disney has been doing shamelessly for years now with cinematic criminal-at-large John Favreau. The results are almost predictably unimpressive, especially once you set aside the contractual gymnastics that were required to get all of the actors from previous “Spider-Man” flicks to make their appearances here. If we are reduced to marveling at the legal complexity of star contracts, we are not watching a movie anymore, but rather a marketing presentation.

The shame of it all is that the stunt casting, and the narrative hoops that are necessary to justify it, are so distracting that the reasonably electric charm that Tom Holland and Zendaya, as the ostensible leads, possess is negated almost entirely. The “story” here is so crowded that their relationship is starved of oxygen.

The fact that it’s all so profitable just adds insult to injury. This is what you get when you buy junk as a matter of course: even more junk that only makes sense in the context of that other junk you bought already.

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