A Spider-Man Story on Steroids | Movies

Spider-Man: No Path Home, for fanatic webslinger enthusiasts, is a chunky, chunky Christmas present, covered in shiny blue and red wrapping paper and tied with a cute canvas bow. For more casual consumers of the feats of the costumed comic book superhero, mileage may vary. But there is a lot to like here.

There is just a lot, period.

No spoilers, but the trailers for the new film make it clear that Spider-Man’s efforts to use the magic of his fellow crime-fighter Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to reverse the aftermath of the last film’s climax – in which Spidey’s secret identity as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was revealed – to have, to put it mildly, made matters worse. Not only did the Doctor’s fate fail to catch on, and not only was Peter publicly accused of murder by JK Simmons’ tabloid reporter Alex Jones, but a tear in the fabric of space-time resulting from the witchcraft of Strange accidentally invited unwanted visitors from other dimensions into this one.

Spider-Man junk, I guess, but not from you. No way home is a story of Spider-Man on steroids; a Spider-Man sundae with extra cherries.

The concept of a multiverse – infinite parallel universes introduced in its most glorious form and centered on Spidey in the 2018 Oscar-winning animation. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse – is the engine that drives the new movie’s narrative, but the premium, high-quality rocket fuel that powers it is its performance.

These include Holland, primarily, in his third title in the role, following the previous multi-film stints by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as web-head, from 2002. As a high school student Peter, now in his last year, and hoping to enter MIT with his best friend (Jacob Batalon) and girlfriend (Zendaya), Holland has reinvigorated the franchise with a likable, relatable, and witty take on the superhero. As rendered by the childish-looking British actor, Peter’s approach to Spider-Man’s abilities and gadgets is that of a kid in a candy store.

Guided by returning director Jon Watts, whose credits include Holland’s two previous headlining performances as a wall-crawler, the supporting cast are having so much fun here it’s infectious. This cast includes, in addition to those already mentioned, Marisa Tomei as the beloved aunt of orphaned Peter, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan (familiar to Iron Man fans as aide-de-camp to Tony Stark, Peter’s mentor), and Benedict Wong as Strange’s right-hand man.

But there’s also a whole host of special guests, about whom the less said the better. Of course, you can already see several of them in the trailers. And photos of other people on the set have been leaked online. But why tear the wrapping from such a good gift so soon? Wait and enjoy the surprise.

No way home is clearly not designed for beginners, and some knowledge base is expected. If the line, “I ‘beeped’ for five years” – uttered at the start of the film by Strange, as a reminder of past events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – puzzles you, you may be overwhelmed.

As fun as this movie is, it’s, at its core, about losing and letting go. For a movie so packed – some would say too packed – with action, effects, and fun dialogue (from Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, both of whom worked with Watts on his previous Spider-Man films), one of the most beautiful moments of the film is without words and very calm. It’s the expression of anguish on the face of a character who realizes that, with or without the magic of Strange – not to mention Marvel’s awesome power to press the reset button over and over again – some things can never be undone.

This surprisingly touching moment underscores exactly what is so wonderful about this movie. It’s not the possibility that multiple universes exist side by side, but the recognition, unexpectedly mature for a comic book movie, that great joy and sadness often does too.

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