A bold celebration of everything Spiderman in cathartic fashion
Spiderman no way home is the 3rd instalment of the MCU’s iteration of the character but to make a more relevant statement, no way home is the 8th major live action outing for Spiderman on the big screen and this occasion is what no way home is about commemorating. Celebrating how far Spiderman has come in the theatrical scene, the history that precedes him, the reputation he’s garnered as the people’s superhero and the timeless stories and messages that has made him the pop culture icon he is. No way home attempts to be a monumental swan song for the characters legacy to mixed results. It incorporates the rogues gallery established in previous films and even unites all generations of spider man coming together in a climactic finale that pays off immensely on a cathartic cinematic level however fails to follow through with the core messaging synonymous with the beloved character. Although I’m someone who has grown tired of superhero films, particularly the characters, I’ve always had a soft spot for the character of spiderman. Call it nostalgia for Raimis trilogy but I’m particularly attracted to the inspiring messages that Peter’s journey ebodies. More than any other superhero I feel as though Spiderman is the people’s hero. He is portrayed as a relatable average everyday person with a string of tragedy and disappointment weighing down his efforts to embody the best of humanity against the onslaught of repeated hardships. Peter Parker’s journey was, and should be about the struggle of sacrifice in order to do the right thing and live up to the potential for good you have. The most recent trilogy has abandoned this in favour of an emotional narrative of contemporary teenage life clashing with the expectations pressed onto a Peter Parker shadowing Iron man. This is a narrative I have mixed feelings on, not only because of my animosity for Tony Stark but it pushes the relatable struggle that should connect the audience to Peter into something abstract and disconnected from our experiences. Everyone can relate to the struggle to do what is right when it seems the hardest however there is significantly less who can say they have felt the pressure to meet the expectations of an eccentric billionaire boss/father figure/ superhero role model. Despite not enjoying the preceding 2 films stories direction for Peters journey I still found them enjoyable enough as easy to watch superhero fun so went into No way excited at the prospect of an avengers endgame level spectacle for the neighbourly hero I love and although my expectations were met in that regard the often gross underutilisation of certain characters and prevailing themes led a large disconnect or even disappointment when it came to viewing this film on an emotional level as a fan of the character. After finishing this review I was shocked at how much the term cathartic came up to describe the film but that’s a pretty accurate description. The film feels grand and euphoric at delivering it’s bold climatic ensemble and the nostalgic weight it’s assortment of personalities carries. It took marvel borrowing from the past to truly get to become invested in one of their projects but I would be lying if I said I didn’t’ have huge smile on my face seeing the characters, hearing the theme songs and reconnecting to the times I spent watching these films on repeat on my old VHS/ DVD player again.
John Watts continues to add nothing stylistically to these films with no personal identity distinct from any other MCU project similarly to the cinematography which takes the expected route expected from Marvel with brown palettes, muddied digital battle scenes and uninspired compositions. Coupled with some horrendously unfocused editing and the viewing experience is as drab and unitresting as any other superhero schlock on a stylistic or technical level. Everything I hate about Marvel is present to an almost obnoxious level, humourless quips and punchlines are shoehorned in more excessively and lazily than ever and CG is used to an obnoxious degree. The jokes feel more mean spirited and cynical when poking fun at the source material as though Marvel has hit the point where it believes itself to be above the campy nicknaming of its source characters leading to an even more insulting dialogue than I’ve come to expect. Despite these many hiccups in the screenplay no way home is so dedicated to delivering on it’s premise that it somehow works, not without a fair few road bumps but it does succeed in being a cathartic marvel blockbuster and a celebration of all things spidey. Leaning so far into it’s obtuseness that it swings back round into something enjoyable. Deviating from the MCU’s traditional levels of mediocrity is the score courtesy of Michael Giacchino. An incredibly powerful score elevates the tense conflicts and emotional notes. Motifs from the previous generations continue to echo within nostalgic moments of reminiscence where old friends and enemies reconnect for a final time and the score perfectly accompanies the thematic demands of the scene. The fight choreography was fluid and fast. The acrobatic dance-like manoeuvres employed to vicariously swing, slide and jump around the assortment of battle grounds led to an exciting viewing experience. My favourite action set piece would probably be the Dr strange ‘mirror dimension’ where both of Steve Ditko and Lee’s creations are able to battle it out in a trippy altercation ramping up the computer generate images of marvel to such an extreme and psychedelic degree and employing some fun utilisation of power that it become something exciting and thrilling. Even better when considering the deaffingly powerful track that floors you with the imposing scale of the abstract landscape.
The film is pretty effective at getting the point. It’s very fast paced as you would hope and gets the ball rolling much faster than I expected. However due to this abruptness the film feels structureless and all over the place, it focuses going into the 3rd act but moving through the middle section cohesively is a messy affair.
The agritous mischaracterisation of certain characters for the sake of plot and even purely for jokes is another symptom of the MCU. Tobey and Andrew’s inclusion was sentimental and added to the grand orchestrated party of personalities the film accumulates. Although they seem to be reduced to MCU quip machines there’s a charming sense of comradery and nostalgic carthartisism in the union of the 3 web crawlers. As someone who feels nothing at the images marvel builds up as their climax defying moments I’m unashamed to say that seeing the 3 generations of the beloved character I’ve grown up enjoying and connecting to, swing in unison into battle with a swelling score elevating the epic scale of what was about to happen filled me with a great deal of excitement and hype. Seeing them aged and reminiscing on past mistakes, triumphs and the lessons they’ve learned along the way alluded to something I was desperate to see more of however like anything profound that could be said no way home merely suggests something meaningful rather than commit to it’s themes and messages in a direct way.
For the most part performances were good, Jamie Foxx still isn’t given enough to work with despite his best efforts to make the character of electro work similar to Rhys Ifrans. Thomas Haden Church’s Flint Marco is horribly mischaracterized as an inconsolable meathead entirely depicted in ugly CG; however the other 2 returning Raimi antagonists are where the performances really shine, feeling like seamless continuations of their respective personalities fitted with cheesy early 2000’s comic book dialect, maniacal scheming and overblown alliteration. Alfred Molina is terrific as always, taking the script with the perfect amount of playful silliness and comic book camp but Willem Defoe by far steals the show amongst the entire cast. Returning as Norman Osborne and Green goblin he completely falls into each role with an equal level of passion and expertise. The scared insecurity of Norman and the insanely heightened facial contortions and just pure villainy of his bombastic sinister alter persona. Defoe completely gives himself to the role in a more personal and dedicated fashion than his cast members, selling the despicable nature of his villain and the sympathetic tragedy lying under the mask. I found it very fitting that the central antagonist on an emotional level in this grand finale of spiderman is the same one who kicked the entire thing off. He is by far the most entertaining aspect of the film and although he isn’t in it for as long as I would have wanted when he is present it’s impossible to take your eyes off of him. At the end of the film when the 2 returning spidermen share a brief heart to heart with their old rivals I was painfully disappointed that Tobey’s Peter never picked up where he left off with Norman. The brief exchange they shared at the end of Spiderman 1 was so rich with character and tragedy that it seems like a no brainer for Norman to try reconnecting with Peter one last time. Ask him about his son and what happened to him, ask him if Peter ever told him his secret or even just apologise for stabbing him moments before.
Tom Holland gives a decent performance for once. The previous films have shown me he is a competent character actor as Spiderman and Peter Parker but when it comes to truly selling me on a scene he fails. However now that he’s given material that pushes him further he hands in a satisfying performance for what it is. Zendaya’s character continues to be intrusive, boring and over nothing narratively or emotionally similar to the character of Ned.
For as fun as the film admittedly is No way can’t’ help but feel like an opportunity squandered in some respects. Although it meets the quota for high octane cg showdowns that would meet the standard check for any other superhero release, this wasn’t any other superhero release, this is spiderman. Not just that but this was a celebration of spider man’s legacy, a character so relatable he’s coined the epitaph “Friendly Neighbour”. He’s a character whose ideals transcend the expectations of what people view as silly comic book storytelling and become a genuine moral exploration of the human condition through the lens of a superheros red and black mask. A character who isn’t a god forced to conform to human matters but rather a human with the expectations of a god thrust upon him. I promised myself not to make the Raimi comparison but the film is challenging it by directly referencing the lessons from it. Raimi understood who Peter was behind the mask because he was Peter, everyone was. What Peter’s journey has represented the MCU might not be what I have wanted and I’ve accepted that a change of perspective or character arc shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. However the emotional attachment just isn’t there. MCU Peter ending in the most promising place it has ever looked but was there really a competition? Peter is finally in a place of absolute responsibility detached from the connection to other heroes intrusively tagging along. The MCU tore our friendly superhero from his neighbourly roots and cast into space and beyond with seemingly no way home; however by returning to the past iterations and steering the character in a new direction the future is looking far brighter and hopefully a sign that he’s finally returned.
It may not have delivered the emotionally rich Peter Parker story I was hoping for but in hindsight that was never what it was never supposed to be. It doesn’t commit to a grander message and is satisfied with sidelining it’s weighty messaging to instead celebrate the action oriented side of his cinematic outings in cathartic fashion. I have a lot of problems with no way home but upon viewing the film a second time I’ve come to appreciate what this film set out to accomplish, something it achieves successfully. Something cathartic, bold, exciting and above a true celebration of everything Spiderman that feels earned.
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