If you don’t think Spider-Man: No Way Home was the most anticipated release of 2021, maybe its opening weekend box office total of $260 million will change your mind? Such is the power of Spider-Man, Tom Holland, and a multiversal story that had Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire lying about their involvement left and right. Now that the dust has settled on the new Statue of Liberty and seemingly everyone in the world has seen the movie, it’s time to discuss it.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Spider-Man: No Way Home?
Aric Jenkins: The 11-year-old in me who first questioned how Tobey Maguire was slinging web from his veins is grinning ear to ear.
Neil Francisco: No Way Home is the perfect end to Tom Holland’s Homecoming trilogy and an incredible way to combine decades of Spider-Man fandom.
Arjuna Ramgopal: One of the most emotional superhero movies ever made, incorporating 20-plus years of history and fan service into one hell of a fun time.
Andrew Gruttadaro: Maybe this sounds obvious, but there’s a direct correlation between your enjoyment of No Way Home and your obsession with the Spider-Man franchise in general.
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Adeniran: I’m not one to clap in movie theaters, but when the three Spider-Men landed on top of the Statue of Liberty, I wanted to give a standing ovation. It was that cool.
Gruttadaro: The movie takes a massive leap once Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire show up; you can almost feel the movie exhaling and saying, “OK, now we can have some fun.”
Jenkins: LMAO, when Jamie Foxx’s Electro questioned why a Spider-Man from Queens who helps poor people isn’t Black. I can’t wait to see Miles Morales in the MCU.
Francisco: Ned’s Lola asking Andrew’s Spider-Man to clean up the cobwebs. Not only was hearing Tagalog in an American film of this magnitude a one-of-a-kind moment for me, but they also hit the essence of a Filipina Lola with the accuracy of a Hawkeye arrow. (Also, Willem Dafoe steals every single scene he’s in.)
Ramgopal: “All of our Spidey team-up moments” is a good answer, but to me, Peter’s conversation with MJ at the coffee shop, where he decides to not reveal everything, is so perfectly played. A heartbreakingly emotional, quiet end to a cinematic spectacle was the perfect way to wrap up this movie and trilogy.
Herman: Andrew Garfield rescuing MJ retroactively turned a botched franchise into a complete, satisfying character arc. It also kind of felt like Marvel dunking on Sony even as its characters made a rival studio boatloads of cash?
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Ramgopal: Probably the inclusion of the Lizard. I honestly would have preferred Paul Giamatti’s Rhino.
Francisco: The dialogue (minus Willem Dafoe’s lines) leaves much to be desired and often feels a bit cliché. And as far as story lines go, it seemed a bit predictable. So many of the film’s shortfalls are hidden behind the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reunion.
Jenkins: Are we just gonna ignore that Doctor Strange’s spell left MJ bleeding in the middle of Liberty Island, covered in debris, with no recollection of what happened? How did they get home, and how did she mentally recover so soon afterward? If that was me, I might just have to commit myself for a few weeks of tests and observation.
Adeniran: Why did Aunt May have to bite the big one? It sucks, too, because the ending negates the weight of her death; she would have forgotten him anyway! #ItShouldHaveBeenHappy
Herman: I get why it was a satisfying thematic end to Peter’s quixotic insistence on having his double life both ways, but I don’t understand the actual plot reasons Doctor Strange had to re-cast that forgetting spell instead of just using the box to undo the botched one like he spent two hours trying to do. What was the point of that magical MacGuffin if it didn’t really matter to the endgame (pun only semi-intended)?
Gruttadaro: The level of stupid Peter Parker has to be to set No Way Home’s plot into motion is just ridiculous. He’s a superhero who just lived through a truly devastating, world-altering supernatural event and yet he thinks it’s a good idea to conjure a spell simply because he can’t handle the fallout of having his identity revealed? And then when a bunch of bad guys FROM DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS show up and there’s a quick and easy fix to send them back, he decides it’d be better TO TRY TO “HEAL THEM”? This kid thinks he can get into MIT?!
4. Who was the best Spider-Man?
Gruttadaro: Garfield, the Spider-Man from the lamest series of the three, ate everybody’s lunch.
Jenkins: Everyone knows Holland is the truest fit to the actual comics character, but Spider-Man 2 is still the best Spider-Man movie. It’s Tobey for me.
Ramgopal: Holland puts this movie on his back and delivers a performance for the ages. While I’m not a fan of every story decision the MCU has made in this Spider-Man trilogy, Holland has made up for it. He really is the face of the MCU now.
Herman: Building on Jake Johnson’s turn in Into the Spider-Verse, Tobey Maguire continues to prove that “burned-out dad-bod Spidey with back problems” is a surprisingly compelling take on a character who’s historically always been in high school. We’ve seen the fateful arachnid bite a zillion times by now; there’s some mystery to a Peter who’s lived a life, most of which we haven’t seen, while still retaining his boyish charm.
Adeniran: The Spider-Men are like the 2016 Game 7 Cavs. Tobey is Kevin Love, playing defense and getting boards in the background. Andrew is Kyrie, whose 3 over Steph proved to be the NBA-championship-winning shot. But that’s not the play you remember from that game, is it? It’s The Block, and Tom Holland is LeBron. He was the best Spider-Man.
Francisco: I always thought that each Spider-Man had unique qualities to bring to the Peter Parker/Spider-Man role. Tom Holland provided an amazing depiction of an immature teenager trying to do his best to balance high school with his newfound powers. Andrew Garfield provided a unique look into the genius of Peter as Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire gave the world the first, and most singular, Spider-Man and truly captured the best of the other two.
5. Is Doctor Strange … good at his job?
Jenkins: Not really, no! This entire movie is set in motion because he gets flustered by Peter talking a little too loudly?
Francisco: We all have growing pains, right? The Ancient One said that Stephen Strange was supposed to be “the best of us,” but right now he’s looking more like Jordan Love than Aaron Rodgers.
Adeniran: Yes and no. He is probably the most technically proficient sorcerer to ever live, but his ego gets in the way. Maybe ask Peter whether he’s called admissions before trying a spell that could break the multiverse?
Gruttadaro: In No Way Home he is so bad at it that I’m starting to wonder if I was ever supposed to think he was good at it. I desperately wanted him to throw a hearty, Logan Roy–style “fuck off” at Peter, but alas, one never came.
Ramgopal: Everyone has a few bad spells, right? Honestly, I blame Pete for changing it six times, though maybe Stephen could have asked for more specifics before casting it.
Herman: To be fair, I don’t think babysitting a teenager is technically his “job,” but my guy Stephen is terrible at childcare. It shouldn’t be that hard to just tell a 17-year-old no! You can’t blame kids for having skewed priorities and a terrible sense of scale; it’s supposed to be on the adults to set limits and teach lessons, not enable their charges’ mistakes. If I’d had access to an interdimensional sorcerer when I was in high school, I’d probably unleash Pandora’s box trying to cure my acne.
6. Tag yourself as one of the movie’s many villains.
Ramgopal: I’m Lizard because I’m the least important, badly CGI’d, and not even worthy of an intro scene.
Francisco: Dr. Otto Octavius: intelligent, caring, and compassionate, but too often I let the voices in my head get in the way of true genius.
Jenkins: I’m the Green Goblin, constantly striving to be the best version of myself but ultimately unable to resist my darkest urges (going to Popeyes at 1 a.m.).
Adeniran: I’m Sandman because I’m just tryna get home by any means necessary.
Gruttadaro: Definitely Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman, who reacts to being transported to a different universe with a hilarious level of apathy.
Herman: Not a villain—instead I’m the teenager risking the existential integrity of reality as I know it over an MIT admissions letter.
7. In this space, pen a short eulogy for Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May.
Francisco: Spider-Man always has been defined by the ones closest to him: the ones who taught him, the ones who loved him, and the ones who cared for him. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May was all that and more. She was Peter’s moral compass, and will more than likely continue to be that as he follows his path to becoming a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Herman: In a cast of characters shrink-wrapped in Spandex, she had impeccable taste in loose-fit pants. Us adult women salute May, our accessible entry point into a franchise we’d all be better off admitting is first and foremost for kids.
Jenkins: Tomei’s May was a rider. She could’ve rejected Peter’s transformation out of fear, but instead embraced his powers as a gift. She was also a master cleaner of deeply-embedded stains. I’ll always appreciate that. And I have no qualms about her saying the “great responsibility” line; it was a nice change of pace. RIP.
Ramgopal: Marisa Tomei was mostly wasted in this trilogy overall, but she was given the “great power, great responsibility” line. While I’m not a fan of when a female character’s death is used to motivate male characters, the moment was heartbreaking particularly because of Tomei’s strong acting chops. It makes me wish they had given her more to do.
Adeniran: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” That was Marisa Tomei, our Aunt May, sacrificing herself so she wouldn’t have to be in any more of these movies. Aunt May went out like most Spider-Man characters do—bleeding to death in Spider-Man’s arms. We will miss you. Not more than Happy will, but, ya know.
Gruttadaro: No 21st century woman pulled off dressing like Gloria Steinem quite like her. Making Aunt May young and attractive is one of this trilogy’s many strokes of genius; making her date Jon Favreau is one of its few acts of cruelty.
8. What is the future for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man?
Adeniran: He’s headed for a break, probably. Holland has stated that he wants to take a step back and I don’t blame him. And the ending of the film leaves it open so that we could pick up literally anywhere. Whenever Tom is ready to return to the role, whether it be in two years or five years, it will be waiting for him.
Gruttadaro: Despite Holland sounding like he’d rather become a monk than make more Spider-Man movies, there will be more Spider-Man movies. So: I really like the idea of him going local and trying to figure out how to truly exist as Spider-Man (but nothing gritty, Kevin Feige, I’m begging you). “Local” isn’t really what the MCU does, though.
Francisco: Holland’s growth over six MCU films has led to a new world with infinite possibilities, from collaborating with Matt Murdock and Kate Bishop to taking down Kingpin, to coming across Michael Morbius and alien symbiotes in more cosmic-level battles. My biggest hope is that we get to see Miles Morales in the MCU in the future. Peter Parker had the Hyper Crimson Jordan 1s in this film, but I know Miles’s sneaker game is better than that.
Ramgopal: I know Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal are saying there’s more coming, but the way the movie ended, I feel like there isn’t much more for him to do. If anything, I think we get Holland for one more movie, with him handing off the Spidey baton to Miles Morales. Holland’s Peter becoming known again to all these characters just doesn’t seem likely with the way those goodbyes went.
Herman: If that Venom tease doesn’t lead to a redux of Tobey’s Satanic dance from Spider-Man 3, what’s the point of having a multiverse?
9. Minus one more episode of Hawkeye, Marvel’s busy 2021 is over. How has it gone?
Francisco: I was skeptical at first about where Marvel would go after Endgame. How do you compete with the emotional investment from the first three phases of the MCU? But with help from Disney+, this year has proved that there are still more stories to tell in Marvel’s larger-than-life universe.
Jenkins: There were a few stumbles, but on the whole it was a pretty good year. No Way Home and Shang-Chi were really fun. WandaVision and Loki made a strong case for Marvel’s television future. Let’s just forget Eternals happened and move forward.
Adeniran: I’d give them a solid B in 2021. The year had its ups (WandaVision, Loki, Spider-Man) and downs (Black Widow, What If …?, Eternals), but ultimately leaves us excited for the next movies and TV shows. I can’t wait for what Marvel has in store for us in 2022.
Herman: I was fully prepared to concern-troll about the franchise fatigue and public pay disputes that come with splitting nonstop releases between streaming and the multiplex, all while trying to navigate a pandemic. Then No Way Home made over $250 million in its opening weekend. So I’d say the year went just fine!
Ramgopal: It was a success. 2020 sucked for a lot of reasons, but a year-plus away from Marvel made 2021 a fun time, from the Disney+ shows to the big screen. Heading into 2022, there’s a lot of ways the MCU as a whole can go, with old and new faces making a good argument for more screen time and investment in additional storytelling.
Gruttadaro: Creatively it’s been as mixed as possible: WandaVision and Loki were major triumphs; Shang-Chi was solid; Black Widow was astonishingly mediocre; The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was embarrassing; Eternals was just bizarre; Hawkeye and No Way Home are mostly good but not great. But “creatively” is the key word there; Disney and Marvel aren’t judging their performance on the strength of their stories. Numbers are all that matter, and No Way Home bringing in $253 million this weekend—in the middle of an Omicron surge—likely validates the studio’s entire year.