Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021): Fan Service At It’s Finest

If you’ve been with me for a while you’ll know that I’m not always keen on fan service when it comes to comic book films. Mainly because the fan base, at times, can be toxic and giving them what they want to see can kind of be like rewarding bad behavior. However, in the case of Spider-Man: No Way Home, I am all for playing into what the audience wanted to see.

(The first part of this review will be as spoiler-free as I can possibly make it. The second part, not so much. Don’t worry! I’ll let you know when that happens. Just in case you don’t want the film spoiled just yet. Although, at this point, I imagine it’s hard to hide from the spoilers.)

The energy in the theater as the lights dimmed down was electric. This was a film that a lot of people had been waiting for, comic book and movie lovers alike. The air was heavy with anticipation as the opening credits rolled, with the voice of Mysterio reminding us where we left off in this Spider-Man universe. Reminding us that teenage Peter Parker’s whole life has just been upended in the worst way imaginable. And that, now, Peter, who should be focusing on getting into college, has to deal with the fact that the entire world now knows he is Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a love letter to the fans. Plain and simple. The film gives us all what we want, and even some things that we did not know that we wanted. The writing perfectly blended comedy, action, and drama. The different story lines were well blended. Which is no easy feat by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

The acting is good, as expected. As is the music and the visuals. And, I think that’s all I can say without really spoiling anything. So, if you are still reading this review and do not want the film spoiled for you, stop reading now and go watch the film. It’s such a great time and everything any fan could have wanted it to be.

Okay. Now onto the big stuff. 

There are no words to express how happy I was to see both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprising their roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home. I liked the direction they went with all the Spider-Men, including Garfield’s. It makes perfect sense that Maguire’s Spider-Man would figure out how to work things out with MJ. And, as sad as it makes me, it makes perfect sense that Garfield’s Spider-Man would have gone the more vengeful route. I mean, last we saw, he accidentally killed his girlfriend. It makes perfect sense that he would be angry, vengeful, and sad. With Maguire’s being on one end of the spectrum and Garfield’s being on the other, it shows that Holland’s is the perfect mix of the two. Honestly, I loved how cheeky all their scenes together were. This is where the fan service was crystal clear and it felt very cathartic. 

Let’s get one thing straight, all of the actors in the film were great. Jamie Foxx, Rhys Ifans, and Thomas Haden Church perfectly reprised their roles as Electro, The Lizard, and Sandman. Alfred Molina back as Doc Ock was phenomenal. But, the one that outshines them all is Willem Dafoe, reprising his role as Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin. Dafoe is one of those actors that you know is good, but you seem to forget just how good he is. His work as the Green Goblin, I think, has always been one of his best performances. Using fake teeth as Norman Osborn and then using Dafoe’s real teeth as Green Goblin, effectively allowing him to distort his face really contributes to the horrifying nature of the character. It really is a whole body performance from Dafoe. And he and Maguire haven’t lost a single ounce of chemistry. 

The cameo that had everybody talking was Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock (who they allude to already being an established hero in this universe). Like, we all had the suspicion, but no concrete evidence. Until now. So, I’m excited to see if they actually do anything with that or if it’s just a one off sort of thing. 

The biggest thing I didn’t see coming? The death of Aunt May. Although, I absolutely should have known that she was going to die the moment she said “With great power comes great responsibility.” Those filmmaking jerks. With the death of Aunt May, we see the first truly bad thing to happen to this Peter Parker while he’s been Spider-Man, that is a direct result of his own actions as said Spider-Man. And, unfortunately, we all know it’s needed for his character development. Aunt May’s death was the moment I really began crying in theaters, and I don’t think I stopped until the film was over. 

The amount of Easter Eggs referencing the previous films and the comics is insane. So, I’m just going to give a list of what was caught by myself and my significant other who I saw the film with: 

  • The half face/mask picture that the Daily Bugle uses is a direct callback to Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man in which he draws a half Peter/Spider-Man to symbolize the spider sense. 
  • There is several instances of Ditko graffiti placed throughout the movie. 
  • Roger’s the Musical connects this film to the Hawkeye series. 
  • All three Spider-Man themes are used in the score. 
  • Norman Osbourne telling Peter “I’m something of a scientist myself.”
  • Liz Toomes is featured on the cover of People on a newstand and she’s calling Peter a liar. 
  • Flash Thompson’s book “Flashpoint” could be referencing DC’s Flashpoint storyline, in which Barry messes with time and space and creates an alternate reality. 
  • Max Dillon/Electro telling one of the Spider-Men “you know, I thought you would be black”, alluding to Miles Morales and Into The Spiderverse
  • We meet Doc Ock in this film over the Hudson River, which is where he dies in Spider-Man 2.
  • The suit turned inside out is very similar to one of the armored suits Peter creates in the comics after he lost his sense (which could be because at the end of this film, he’s pretty much lost literally everything). 
  • The shot of Osborn walking away from the helmet parallels the shot of Peter walking away from his suit in the alley way. 
  • Betty Brandt signs off by saying “Go get ’em, tiger” which is MJ’s iconic line from the comics. 
  • The shapes of Kraven the Hunter, Scorpion and Rhino can be seen when the multiverse is cracking. 

The final act of the film absolutely devastated me. From Aunt May’s death onward, I was a mess. Garfield’s Spider-Man finally getting to save the girl made me openly sob like a lunatic in a theater full of people. The spell finally being cast by Dr. Strange and everybody forgetting they ever even knew somebody named Peter Parker was rough. Happy not remembering Peter hurt more than MJ and Ned, honestly. Only because Peter has also lost the only father-like figure he had with Tony Stark, so the torch kind of got passed down to Happy. The only frustration I have with the plot of the movie that the whole thing could have been avoided if Peter would have just pressed the dumb button and sent the villain’s back to their respective universe’s. But, instead, Peter (with the influence of Aunt May, may she rest in peace) decided he wanted to help all the villain’s. Because that’s what this young, still naive Spider-Man does. He helps people. And, to be fair, he did manage to help every single person. So, I don’t know how frustrated I can be, really. 

The theater experience for this film was reminiscent of the “before times”, as I like to call them. It was a nice moment of normalcy in this weird world we’re living in today. Spider-Man: No Way Home made me forget about whatever I had going on in my life for two and a half hours, just as a good film should and I cannot wait to watch this one again and again. 

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