Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home ★★½


The first thirty minutes or so of No Way Home really had me fearing for the worst. So sick and tired of their droning exposition and catch-up first act methods. You'd think after being the dominant visual cultural property in the world, the MCU would figure out how to start a movie like this, but gosh, this 2nd '3rd' Spider-Man movie wants to throw us right into the mix while still spending plenty of time running in place, and it takes a good chunk of No Way Home before the movie starts to have a sense of rhythm. Coincidentally, this is when the villains show up, and it's pretty fun from that point on. Expected superstar entrances and fan service, with emphasis for audience reactions and witty banter (even for characters that shouldn't be saying that type of dialogue - some of it feels unnatural), it's all here. So are the murky MCU images, with the third act battle being especially egregious in this one. So lacking in texture and presence, all mush. None of what I'm describing is new for Marvel, which is why the 'NO SPOILERS' campaign for this movie is so weird to me. My audience seemed to know all of the major beats and surprises ahead of time, but can you blame them? Marvel cultivates an aura of limitless possibilities within their universe and yet they thrive on that reliable formula, with viewers chasing that same high, over and over. As a result, these movies are never able to kick off with genuine spark and artistry, always undercutting their ambition for emotional complexity with sly wit and multiverse nonsense. Always pulling away too quickly from a memorable shot or cutting right to a joke that deflates the mood.

Still, it's nice to see an MCU Spidey movie that actually has the audacity to *be* a Spider-Man movie. And the back half of this film, as shameless as it is, is confident in its predictable beats. Because they're well-worn and they've been proven to work. The actors who are clearly in this but I'm not supposed to talk about are *really* good, and in its best moments, No Way Home explores the repetition of Peter Parker's history, his cluster of failures, and the endearing selflessness that we love so much about him as a character.

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