WarningMight contain spoilers.

Quite a spectacular (pardon the pun) film. The first half is where the real magic is. Peter’s fight with Doctor Strange is a highlight: the borrowed Doctor Strange theme music creates the right atmosphere, the fight itself is the last act of what is a small three-act story of its own with believable escalation, and Peter triumphing with math is delicious. Another unforgettable sequence is Peter realizing the Green Goblin is in control of Norman, which is marvelously (again, pardon the pun) executed.

I don’t like any of the non-MCU Spider-Man movies, but I enjoyed seeing the other Spider-Mans Spider-Men Spiders-Man being brought into the fold like this, though I’ve always thought Tobey Maguire is rubbish and he’s even worse here. The history of the franchise does all the work. I fail to comprehend how any old fans of his could be happy with his performance. In contrast, Andrew Garfield is adequate, and I like that the movie adamantly rejects the idea that his Spider-Man was personally bad.

Naturally, I really enjoyed the humour mined from the three together: the conversation about web fluids, Ned’s dismayed reaction to hearing about the Tobey Maguire version’s best friend, the conversation about the Avengers that had me guffawing. At the same time, there’s genuine pathos in their union. While I have no interest in watching the Andrew Garfield films, I’m familiar with their events. The look of relief on that Spider-Man’s face when he saves this M.J. brought tears to my eyes. Their conversation about the people they’ve lost, too, is a deeply sad one. In the end, of course, the trio working in unison is a marvelous spectacle[1] to behold.

The Sandman’s return was unexpected. It didn’t feel like he contributed anything other than being another body to throw against the Spiders-Man, whose side he abruptly leaves after his first appearance. Dr. Connors seems like he’ll be important, but he’s wasted: just another body too. I found Willem Dafoe as the ‘real’ Norman a bit silly. Jamie Foxx’s Electro makes for reliably amusing comic relief (witness his disappointment over Spider-Man not being Black in his universe, him commiserating with The Sandman over falling into things). Alfred Molina shines as Otto Octavius, both before and after his transformation.

It’s unclear how Peter, M.J., and Ned are out of police custody after the beginning, considering that Ned confesses everything. At any rate, I like that he’s learning to be a sorcerer (I love Wong being the Sorcerer Supreme due to a technicality) and it was fun to see him successfully create portals, though it would have been nice for the other Spiders-Man to find Peter at his lowest point on their own.

I have to say, I don’t mean to disparage Tom Holland’s performance—he is Spider-Man—but he sure spends a lot of his time here staring sadly. In fairness, Aunt May’s death alone is gutwrenching, false hope and all. Peter breaking down, Happy’s expression fading as he realizes the truth, him yelling for Peter to run… the tears flowed easily. The ending is heartbreaking, too, enough for even Doctor Strange to forget to be detached. No Way Home wholeheartedly embraces tragedy with Peter not telling Ned and M.J. who he is (although I imagine that will change quickly in the next one).

Stephen Strange’s behaviour in this film is quite strange, which is strangely unlike him. I wondered whether this was related to his upcoming solo film, but there’s no such explanation, at least not here. I’m looking forward to that film[2] and Wanda’s appearance made me happy, but the trailer itself is in an awkward spot. Incidentally, I believe the only other time an MCU film has had a trailer in its credits is Captain America: The First Avenger teasing The Avengers , which was much more effective.

The first post-credits scene had me worried Venom might end up in the MCU for good. Yanking him away with the others was both smart and a relief. It retroactively turned the scene into a hilarious vignette, while also leaving the door open for a Venom to appear in this universe with the aid of the little patch inexplicably left behind.

I’m severely disappointed that the clearly superior Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse wasn’t part of this story in any way. I know there was no real reason to expect it to be, but how could they simply ignore an entire existing Spider-Man film about the multiverse, and an indisputable masterpiece at that?

Finally, I could have used much more than one brief scene with Charlie Cox back as Daredevil. For some context, this is my history with the previous era of MCU shows:

What’s more, the Netflix shows were always kept downstream of the ‘real’ MCU: only appendices to the films, not part of the story.

In any case, of all the Netflix content, I would have liked the most for Jessica Jones to be continued, but given the awful second season, I concede that Daredevil is the best fit for the MCU. As long as they smooth the edges of the Kingpin, that is; perhaps by refraining from showing him repeatedly slamming a car door into a man’s skull. That’s more the province of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

  1. I refuse to apologise for that one.
  2. Was that really the evil Sorcerer Supreme from Marvel’s What If…??