I have always like Tom Holland's Spider-Man.
The jokey Marvel tone works quite well when Spider-Man is a kid and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: No Way Home) has always played it quite well.
The MCU's Spider-Man movies are also where they get the most creative with their action scenes, which is probably related with these films being technically a Sony movies, rather than Disney ones. In my opinion, the best action scene in any MCU movie is Spider-Man's first fight with Mysterio in this scene from Spider-Man Far From Home:
No Way Home isn't different in terms of creativity either. Mixing Spider-Man action with Dr. Strange magic hits in a way that's been absent from the MCU for a long time.
If I was going to boil this review down to a single sentence it would be "Spider-Man: No Way Home is the perfect gift for anyone who thinks superhero movies can't have too many villains or cameos or too much fan service".
The movie starts with everyone finding out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man after he's framed by Mysterio for Mysterio's death at the end of Far From Home.
I don't know who the Department of Damage Control is, but this government agency of unelected bureaucrats appear to have been given domestic surveillance and police authority and they wield it mercilessly to arrest Peter, MJ, Ned, Aunt May, and Happy Hogan ... for some reason. This feels particularly strange considering Peter literally just helped prevent the destruction of the universe in the most recent battle with Thanos, but . . . ok, whatever.
If the Department of Damage Control was introduced in previous movies I forgot about it, and if it was introduced in the Disney+ shows I didn't watch them. So I have no fucking idea why they're suddenly arresting Superheroes and having anti-masked vigilante departments in the federal government. But fine, I'll accept it.
Netflix's Daredevil, played admirably by Charlie Cox, is his lawyer and helps Peter get out of the charges (honestly it feels like Peter gets arrested solely to provide a reason for Cox to make his brief cameo). Peter is not thrown in a Kenosha prison cell, but the corporate media smears him as a vigilante and this leads to Peter, MJ, and Ned all getting rejected from MIT.
The problem I have here is that I do not care that Peter, MJ and Ned don't get into college.
No really, who cares?
Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Half the people on the planet vanished for five years and were brought back by the Avengers. Why does anyone trust Mysterio over Spider-Man? Why does this matter? How do you face a universal extinction crisis and still care about getting into MIT?
It's tonally incoherent and this is a MAJOR problem with Marvel movies right now. Where do we go from Thanos, the snap, and from HALF OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE ceasing to exist for five years?! Nobody really talks about the fact that half of earth disappeared for five years. There is a cognitive dissonance there with the audience.
For Marvel, they decided the next evolution of the MCU is the Multiverse. It's a logical choice and the movie handles it well enough.
Peter feels bad for ruining everyone's life and gets Dr Strange's help to cast a spell to make everyone forget he's Spider-Man. He interferes trying to keep MJ and Ned and Aunt May from forgetting and handwave handwave handwave the spell collapses and UH-OH villains from other Spider-Man movies end up in the MCU.
It's fun to see Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborne and Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius again. The rest I could take or leave. Does anyone really care about Electro? Probably not, I mean look how ridiculous they made him in The Amazing Spider-Man 2:
Anyway, hijinx ensue, Spider-Man decides to try and save the villains otherwise they'll die when they get sent back to their worlds. I'm not going to describe the entire plot here because the Multiverse gets really convoluted but it comes to a head when Green Goblin doesn't want to be cured and kills Aunt May.
And Aunt May says the line. You know the one.
This sequence is easily the best part of the movie and it's buried two hours into the film. Tobey Maguire is still the Peter he was in the Raimi films, but he's older, calmer, wiser. He brings some real dad guidance to Tom Holland.
Andrew Garfield is still weird, stunted and gloomy because of Gwen Stacey's death.
Tom Holland is allowed to see a crossroads through them.
They work together to finish the cures for the supervillains and they're able to finish them so quickly, it makes you wonder why they didn't cure them originally, before choosing to kill them in the other movies.
Still there's really good chemistry between all the Peters and it's kind of sad this is the only movie we'll see them all in together. The problem is in the climatic fight, because it's dark and they're all Spider-Men, I can't tell who is doing what and when. This fight is what the movie was building up to! Three Spider-Mans! Fighting side by side! Against all their villains!
And it happens in the dark, squandering two hours of build up they didn't have enough lights on set.
So anyway, they cure everyone and Dr. Strange has to fix the spell so that everyone forgets not just that Peter is Spider-Man but who Peter Parker is at all, sending all the, now-cured, villains and the other Peters back to their dimensions - BUT MJ and everyone Peter cares about forget that Peter exists.
The movie ends with Peter alone, in a shitty apartment, deciding to continue to fight crime. His best friend and girlfriend don't even know he exists. It's like the last three movies never happened.
As with everything in Marvel, nothing ever changes. Not really.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking to yourself "This review is all over the place. I get the points he's making but it's almost incoherent." Well, if you haven't seen the movie yet, you're now well prepared for your viewing experience.
Cinematography: It's Marvel
Score: It's Marvel
Performances: Tobey Maguire is incredible
Length: its 45 minutes too long. This could've been at most two hours.
Final Rating: 6/10