Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

A blockbuster cinematic event of a generation and the zenith MCU film experience, NWH balances epic comic book viz, history, tone, cameos, & action with a trilogy-fixing narrative of humanity, depth, grief exposition, heart, & sacrifice de/reconstructing heroicism. 9.2/10.

Plot Synopsis: With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, our friendly neighborhood web-slinger is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life as Peter Parker from being a superhero. When Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange, the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead; Impossible To Review NWH Without Them*

Official CLC Review

A New Age Of CBM’s

The Greatest Marvel Film Of All-Time, ITSV Brought World’s Eyes Back To Animation & Re-Energized/Bloom-Evolved CBM’s With Chef D’Oeuvre Viz Aestheticization Of City-Graffiti’d Comic Book In-Motion, Swanky Jazz-Fueled Beats, & New Afrolatino Culture

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

The Worlds Of Animation and CBM’s [Comic Book Movies] tilted off their axes on December 15th, 2018. Into The Spider-Verse re-energized and brought the world’s eyes back to an entire medium of cinema and bloom-evolved a progressively-exhausted, corporatized subgenre of formulatized, hulk-overgrown blockbusters with a new project like nothing the world had ever seen before. From a chef d’oeuvre visual aestheticization of city-graffiti’d pages of a comic book in-motion to swanky, chart-topping soundtrack mixing jazz, R&B, and hip-hop to afrolatino protagonist/hero, ITSV was a groundbreaking masterpiece – a new experience still authentic to the underdog, NYC, human, and coming-of-age themes of Spider-Man, but given avant-garde fuel. Even in the presence of god-tier animation we’d since crowned CLC’s Greatest Marvel Film Of All-Time, though, there’s just something missing without that third dimension of realisme: why live-action blockbusters always have (and always will) reign supreme in the box-office, studio plans, and court of public opinion [deservedly so, being 10x harder and more expensive to physicalize in a real world tyrannically-governed by laws of physics the animation teams can transcend by the motion of a pencil/stylus]. In a 21st century landscape of comic book movies wherein epic Justice League & Avengers Film/TV crossovers once the pipe dreams of geekdoms now release on schedules every few months, studios were desperately in pursuit of the next big innovation – and the buzz of ITSV signaled an unmistakable paradigm-shift: multiverses, batsh*t crazy concept-pitches, and looking beyond the present and future to a chronology ~overlooked by the genre: the past.

The Multiversal Evolution

In A Global Blockbuster Landscape Of Now MCU Avengers & DCEU Justice League,Next: Beyond Present And Future To Past – A Live-Action Multiverse Bridging Gaps Of History & Generations; Max, Infinite Potential/Scale

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

That’s the propulsive raison d’être of Spider-Man: No Way Home – one that’s bewitched and tantalized world audiences ever since the preliminary rumors, buzz, and 4Chan/Reddit-bro leaks first reported the possibility of having every actor to have ever played our friendly neighborhood web-slinger featured in the same film.. at the same time. By the grace of the gods, CLC was able to secure an early premiere viewing by-invitation over the cacophony, fandango-crashes, brawls, and $10,000+ eBay marketers peddling opening night tickets to what’s being marketed as Endgame 2.0 – and we’re here to say: believe the hype. In fact, elevate levels; No Way Home [hereby abbreviated: NWH] might just be the Greatest MCU Film Ever Made – one final excelsior thwip rained down upon us from the heavens by the angelic Stan Lee (R.I.P.) via his life’s greatest joy and creation. A blockbuster cinematic event of a generation and the zenith MCU film experience of all-time, NWH is a comic book fan’s dream – balancing legendary history/lore with a hyperimaginative multiverse introduction, impossible cameos, epic-scale action, beautiful cinematography, acoustic poignance, and physics-defying tonal mixes juxtaposing three-dimensionalized pure sugary-cereal cartoon fun with a trilogy-fixing, dark, heartbreaking, character-synergized narrative of depth, humanity, grief exposition, coming-of-age, underdog spirit, personal growth, isolation, redemption, & sacrifice de/re-constructing Spider-Man and the very theme of heroicism to its crux.

The Mysterio Cliffhanger

Though Basic & ~Exploitative Summer Blockbuster Euradventure, FFH Gave Us An Epic Cliffhanger Into Trilogy Finale Breaking A Cardinal CBM Rule & Pushing Spider-Man To New Limits By Doing The Unconscionable: World Identity-Revelation

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

Locationally-diverse with a more accurate (independent) Spidey, A+ VFX, better-written/characterized cast, clever faux Gyllenhaal Mysterio, & pure summer blockbuster travel adventure, Far From Home was a progression from the ignominious comics-contemptuous depths of 2017’s [pretentiously double-entendre’d] Homecoming. Sure, it was more corporatized and ~exploitative/incomplex while failing to correct every flaw of the original’s Iron-Man Jr. subjugation, but it felt far more like a Spider-Man film – even while treading new ground for the character film-wise, freeing him of the NYC background that was beginning to feel like a cage after ~60 years and letting him bask in the glory of being a kid on vacation in the breathtaking countries of Europe. Regardless of the debate surrounding the verité and obeisance of the MCU Spider-Man [& larger franchise] to the comics, stories, and characters they were profiting billions from, FFH’s cliffhanger scene alone cemented it as a must-see reinvigorating hype for the trilogy finale: Mysterio getting the last laugh on Peter by doing the unconscionable – revealing his secret identity to the world. This violation of the cardinal rule of comic books was a bold, striking narrative choice – one back-dating to the Silver-Age and some of Marvel’s best & most cherished comics of all-time like the mid-1960’s Amazing Spider-Man #12 and 13 for example, yet spinnable in a smorgasbord of ways No Way Home takes full advantage of. We absolutely love the decision to pick up with a direct live-continuation right where FFH left off – and the film pumps adrenaline and edge-of-your-seat entertainment value from the opening seconds: the moment Peter’s life changed forever.

An NYC Atmosphere Of Palpable Danger

The Film Invokes One Of The Best Comic Book Arcs Of Marvel History: The Amazing Spider-Man #12 By Mid-1960’s Ditko/Lee; Guerrilla Street Energy, Hunter-Hunted, Social Media Zoo, & A Parker On The Run

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

A hunter-now-hunted by the world around him, the film’s themes of social isolation and heroic deconstruction are begun to be woven into motion alongside the comics mythology – a narrative of distinctly new/edgy-feeling guerrilla anarchical chaos. The film realistically paints the catastrophe, while celebrationally letting it breathe and slow-burn to explore the psychological effects the barrages of smartphone camera-flashes and social media posts have on a Peter being made to feel like he’s an exhibit at the zoo [playing nicely off Spider-Man’s bug/animal kingdom iconography]. The palpable danger of looters, rioters, villains, and government agents around every corner hunting him down and throwing bricks through his window keep us and him on our toes – and there’s a layer of tragedy by the fact those around him are not just perpetually-unsafe in the crosshairs, but punished by association with his name like Ned & MJ. The alternative casualties of lives and futures ~ruined by their relationship with him preventing acceptance to college brilliantly flips/reverses the dynamic of the MCU trilogy: a reality wherein technology, Iron Man, & The Avengers he’d previously relied on to fix his problems or shield him won’t help or fix this for him. Peter is also deconstructed by his inability to now dichotomize regular life from being a superhero, and learns hard coming-of-age lessons in this existential crisis: the consequences of one’s actions, politics and connections often overpower ability and meritocracy in capitalistic and social/institutional contexts, and that life is often Far From [Fair]. The months-later remembrance of one practitioner of the dark arts he’d since fought alongside in Infinity War prompts him to take a trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum for a check-up, diagnosis, and possible cure by the doctor/sorceror-supreme: Dr. Strange. We can never get enough Benedict Cumberbatch [especially after his Oscar-worthy performance in The Power Of The Dog], and his invocation further-subversively flips the trilogy’s definitive theme of technology to the diametric opposition: magic as his only hope of regaining any semblance of his past life and freedom.

A Deconstruction Of Spider-Man

NWH Begins Its Narrative Of Social Isolation From The Opening Scene – Fixing MCU Trilogy Problems & Canon Cages By Going 180; Peter Is Now Alone In A Reality Technology, Iron Man, & The Avengers Can’t Fix..Except One By Constrastive Black Magic

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

The spell – predictively – goes awry, and is the perfect way to open the multiverse [also used as a further lens of coming-of-age lessons by Peter’s jejune naïvety to think he can wish, cherrypick, and have it all in life when fate and the cruelty of the world rarely obliges]. Before we go on to what the multiverse opens, to truly appreciate the experience of No Way Home, we must go back and quickly recap & analyze the positives, negatives, mixed qualities, backgrounds, and legacy of every major Spider-Man film of the past [just like with 007 movies in fellow-2021 masterpiece finale experience: No Time To Die]. First, the OG. The first comic book movies we ever saw and the start of a new generation of Marvel movies, Sam Raimi’s Original Trilogy in the 2000’s remains one of the major crux archetypes of CBM’s; Donner’s 1978 Superman created the film genre (just like its kryptonian created comic book superheroes) and The Dark Knight later re-engineered & evolved it into a viable Academy Award-winning artform able to compete with the highest levels of film beyond pulp blockbuster kitsch by its Godfather-esque noir crime drama, but Raimi’s films belong in the conversation of Legacy/Influence. The ~perfect cocktail of heart, camp, romance, comedy, action, tragedy, characterization, etc., Raimi & co. revolutionized the industry and changed the trajectory of pop-culture moviemaking – thanks, predominantly, to its secret sauce that’s allowed it to stand the test of time and be everpresently celebrated: its cast. Tobey Maguire, though he always looked a bit old to properly fool us into believing he was a high-schooler, packed every ounce of geeky charm, purity of soul, loser-underdog rootability, and everyman energy the character made his claim to fame on: a cinematic puppy-dog it’s damn near impossible to not fall in love with by his presence on-screen.

A Trip To The Dr.’s & Excelsior! Multiverse

More Of Benedict Cumberbatch’s ~Perfect Dr. Strange & An Epic Way To Open The Multiverse By A Spell [Predictively] Going Awry & Laying Foundations For A Hero’s Parable By A Peter Foolishly And Naïvely Believing Can Wish, Cherrypick, Have It All

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

Kirsten Dunst was a strong and independent female lead with her own arc in blockbusters before it became popularized: a girl-next-door M.J. trapezing the perilous and empathy-evocative tightwire of being the proverbial struggling actress/waitress in NYC. James Franco became one of the world’s preeminent movie-stars by his rich kid Harry psychosocially torn between family and friends, turned to the dark side by the demons of his father. Rosemary Harris was the very beacon of purity and innocence as sweet old grandmaish Aunt May & J.K. Simmons caught lightning-in-a-bottle with his impossible lift of the loud-and-booming newspaper patriarch with an inferiority-complex and illogical Spider-Man hatred J. Jonah Jameson right off the pages of the comic books. Heck, even the side characters and mere cameos of Raimi’s films were fantastic and distinctly-memorable to prove its god-tier characterization/acting prowess: Mangianello’s emasculated dumb jock archetypal ‘I wouldn’t want to fight me neither’ Flash Thompson, Emily Deschanel’s cheeky nihilistic pizza-denying receptionist, Bruce Campbell’s legendary cameos as the effortlessly-hatable snooty douchebag play-usher x franćais waiter in 3, & Elya Baskin’s epic, glorious bad-English landlord of pure avariciousness and relatability Mr. Ditkovich – making us laugh with a single word: ‘Rent?’. Though NWH and ITSV duke it out in battle royale for the crown of CLC’s Best Marvel & Spider-Man Movie Of All-Time, Spider-Man 2 remains deeply-entrenched in the conversation.. even ~two decades later, aging like fine wine with the entire trilogy [even the wildly-underrated 3 punished by its proximity to a 2 that’s ~never been topped; a surprisingly-dark and very good film outside of its underpowered Venom, fractured narrative by too many villains, and overmaligned ’70’s dance] being must-haves in the top-tier.

The Best Movies: Raimi

The First Comic Book Movies We Ever Saw As 2000’s Kids, Raimi’s Original Trilogy Remains The Modern Archetype For CBM’s Revolutionizing The Subgenre: A Genius Balance Of Heart, Camp, Romance, Comedy, Drama, Action,.. W. God-Tier Performances

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

That’s not even including the villains – every bit as perfect and layered as its hero performances/characterization, as NWH proves 10x all over again. Dafoe’s inexorably foul, wicked, diabolical, slythering Green Goblin still haunts our nightmares with that ear-to-ear grin of pure malevolence, devil iconography, and psychological split-personality duality exposition out of Carl Jung 1930’s case files showcasing his ridiculous future-Oscar talents/range by the subtlest of nuances in how his performance and physicality shifts from the frail, trembling, harmless Dr. Osborn who just wanted to save his company from losing military research grants to satanic, power-hungry/mad, ruthless Goblin. Not only aesthetically-genius, his Osborn was bolstered by his ~familial connections to Peter laying the dynamic with fatherly apprehension and mad-science angle injecting realism better-cinematizing the goofy comics goblin to the 21st Century. He’s probably still the Best Marvel Movie Villain Of All-Time 50+ films later, a fact NWH proves by having him ascend to the crown of leader and orchestrator of The Sinister Six puppeteering the good guys and playing them like a violin – only to break the MCU Peter’s heart all over again by killing that which he loved most.. as recompense for him trying to help them in an elaborate plot-mechanism to turn him over to the dark-side. Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is the second-best villain of the trilogy and, again, one of the all-time greats: equal mad science with perfectly-realized biomechanical arms [that surgery scene remains one of the craziest and scariest scenes in CBM’s to-date, period], but adding megalomaniacism to ‘hold the power of the sun in the palm of his hand’ and tragedy losing his wife in the pursuit of scientific greatness he’s left with nothing else but to achieve for her. The fact he was never outright cold-hearted or bloodthirsty beyond those getting in the way of his research, and even then, only being so due to psychological manipulation by the tentacles to his brain made him perfectly-suitable to antihero status NWH brilliantly takes advantage of.

The Best Spider-Man: Garfield

Reinvigorating & Fresh, TASM Boasted The Best Action, Cinematography, Web-Slinging, & Spider-Man – A Refreshingly-Darker, Grounded, Cool, Street-Energized Teenage Punk Indie/Arthouse Idiosyncrasy Rebuking Boxes, Despite Grayscale, Villains, Bad TSM2

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

Franco’s Hobgoblin – despite not being comic-accurate enough in costume with disappointingly not even a hint of the orange classic villain – was a worthy successor of The Goblin lusciously-evil down to even that smile in the diner, and Topher Grace’s Venom [despite being the only ~bad villain of the trilogy when-costumed by how PG-13/watered-down he was by comics-comparison] was good on acting-levels by the near-suicidal darkness of asking God to kill the man who humiliated and ruined his career/life. Thomas Haden Church is one of the best villains of CBM’s and the trilogy, who could’ve even been the best if given proper screentime: a CGI-advanced Sandman bringing into play ethical paradoxes and the backwardness of a society wherein average joes are turned to lives of crime just in pursuit of trying to pay their child’s hospital bills. Tragic. The return of Sandman with 2020’s VFX makes it all the more epic and realistic, especially in conjunction with TASM villains he became positive inspirations for. Next, The Garfield & The Amazing Spider-Man: a mixed conundrum of a duology. Reinvigorating and fresh, the first TASM wowed with pulse-rattling and beautifully VFX’d action, dazzlingly and innovatively-cinematographed visuals [despite vexing grayscale filters], the best web-slinging of any spidey movie to-date, and a distinctly-new feel/ambition by a dual-edged sword: tone. The darker edge of TASM was a bizarre, perplexing choice for a hero making his name of fame on quips and being the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man – but also imbued a maturity and indie arthouse edge synergistically fitting an older HS/college Parker and evolving the possibilities canonically, while nicely enough counter-balanced by the best actor to ever don the red-and-blue: Andrew Garfield.

The Best Iron Man Jr./Lackey: Tom

Though We Fell In Love With TH’s Spider-Man Back In 2016’s Civil War, ~Fool’s Gold – Subjugating A Top 5 All-Time & Marvel’s Greatest Superhero To RDJ, MCU, Avengers, & Technology Against Foundations Of The Character; Fixed By NWH’s Reversal Of Dynamic: Forcibly Now-Independent/Alone

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

Garfield brought the cinematic equivalent of an wintergreen mint bubblegum or Arctic-chilled Northern California wave crashing over you on a hot summer day to the role: a refreshingly-grounded and calmative presence, eclectic idiosyncrasy, teenage punk-rebelliousness, babyface charm, new-school-meets-old-school soul, and NYC street-energy that went starkly against type and everything the comics and MCU had conditioned us to believe was Marvel, and we love [& highly-respect] that. If there’s even a remote doubt of Garfield’s acting prowess, watch 2021’s Tick, Tick,.. Boom and read our review on why [even in a ridiculously-stacked year amongst the most competition-heavy of this millennium] he might just win the Oscar for Best Actor this year. Garfield’s Spider-Man also perfected the art of the quip: injecting effortless comedy without being juvenile (ahem, MCU) or condescnsively dumbing it down for the audience’s IQ. Whenever in-costume, Garfield was easily the most comic-accurate spidey to ever grace the screen and pure manna from heaven – able to cheekily exhume every ounce of the fun and positive tone enough to counterbalance any flaws and never let the first movie get crushed by the weight of the gloom. Oh, and the suit was absolutely gorgeous: probably our favorite live-action costume of the hero. Emma Stone was equally as mesmerizing and pedigreed an [Academy Award-winning] actress as Gwen Stacy – furthering the buck-you subversion of tradition by going against MJ back to comics, and her chemistry with Garfield was alone enough to outweigh any flaws. One of those was the villain: a mixed Lizard [whom was never cool, even in the comics: one of our peremptory gripes with the film for picking him and wasting an otherwise-spectacular and grounded canvas repeating past now-clichéd mad-science themes clashingly-juxtaposed with its toinal realism and brought to life by ~lackluster (human-toothed) CGI] despite Rhys Ifans’ decent performance and scientifically-advanced limb-regenerative/evolution themes.

A Live-Action Spiderverse

A Comic Book Fan’s Dream, The Very Experience Of Seeing The Trinity Of Spider-Men On-Screen Brought Together Across Eras & Generations To Battle As Team Is One Of The Greatest & Most Revolutionary, Groundbreaking In History Of Blockbusters

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

No Way Home fixes Lizard and makes him a new-classic rogue by highlighting the iconographical badassery of Marvel’s Killer Croc – revisualizing with a decades’ worth of CGI/VFX advancements and injection of aesthetic malevolence highlighting the eyes and giving crocodilian jaws to make him 10x more intimidating and making us appreciate what once we maligned. The TASM franchise fell apart, however, in the second film: a godawful underperformance making absolutely no improvements whatsoever and, worse, failing to take any constructive criticism in what undoubtedly killed the trilogy finale from ever seeing the light of day. The script sucked and any palate hints of arthouse were reverted back to soulless corporatized blockbuster sludge with the consistency and freshness of day-old oatmeal (even Garfield lamented this referentially by interviews detailing how studio-execs at Sony took over the project; unwelcome chefs in the kitchen). The film repeated every sin of SM3 by overstuffing the villains and narrative with a pointless and inexorable hobgoblin, any semblance of comic book accuracy was gone down, the new suit was awful, and the lingering hope got drowned in woe. The project also [impossibly] wasted perhaps the most stacked, Oscar/Emmy-awarded cast in the history of comic book solo movies: beyond Stone and Garfield, a forced-edgebro Russian Rhino by an Emmy-winning Paul Giamatti (who atoned with one of the best TV shows of all-time enough to make us forgive him afterwards and remind the world of his acting prowess: Billions), and Oscar’d Jamie Foxx being turned into a weird, cringeworthy geek-turned-villain cliché Electro aestheticized more for the Blue Man Group and K-Mart clearance rack hoodie/tracksuit sales than a Spider-Man film. No Way Home, again, fixes a TASM villain with Electro: beefing him up in the gym and making the once-loser scientist cool by capitalizing on the black suave energy the actor naturally exhumes to turn him into the diametric opposition of everything we hated in 2014’s film, even down to the yellow lightning and [now, finally] comic-accurate suit with a fuel-injection of power/wattage.

The Kryptonite To COVID-19

A Pure Blockbuster Ecstasy/Glory Reminding Us Of The Power Of Movies As A Shared Crowd Experience, NWH Evoked Cheers & Smiles ~Forgotten In The Pandemic Landscape Of COVID-19 Quarantine, Death, & Isolation; The Best Theatrical Experience Since Av: Endgame & One Of The Best.. Ever

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

Finally, The MCU Spider-Man: a roller-coaster of an experience whose entirety cruxed around a word it pretentiously trumpeted its arrival on, but felt very far from: home. We absolutely loved Tom Holland’s surprise cameo in Civil War. In fact, we were standing by to crown him The Best Spider-Man Of All-Time if that level of comically-awkward, bumbling geeky charm and wide-eyed innocence translated over to his movies beyond the Avenger cameo. Sadly, that did not happen. The double-entendre of 2017’s Homecoming [being both the name of the infamous high-school dance and cockily signaling the return of the Spider-Man IP to Marvel Studios] was fool’s gold; the subjugation of the red-and-blue icon amongst the Top 5 Comic Book Heroes Of All-time and easily Marvel’s Greatest Creation to a bonafide tech-copped Iron Man Jr./lackey whose entire existence was to build up RDJ and work inside pre-existing canon was a betrayal of the highest magnitude, corely-against the entire foundation of the character being the average everyday relatable joe and little guy, not billioniare-tech kid. Besides what the vast majority of lowbrow modern critics [who have never touched a comic book before and have now dumbed-down film criticism/journalism to two questions as sole indicators for Citizen Kane-level masterpieces: ‘was it fun?’ and ‘was it made for people with the psychological development/maturity/IQ of a 5 year-old who would giggle at juvenile gags like ‘Penis Parker’? (bcuz weinerz r funnnny!!!)] said, real Spider-Man fans wept at how Disney massacred the paragon of Marvel alongside Star Wars mere months after to establish a serial killer’s trend of the most beloved franchises and richest legacies of pop-culture moviemaking. ~Every casting besides Tom [who also inexplicably less likeable and bouncy, perhaps a victim to a pernicious early set-on of movie star syndrome with a multi-film MCU contract in hand] was awful: a pointlessly-nihilistic and dour killjoy MJ spewing misandry and wasting Zendaya’s otherwise proficient chameleon acting capabilites & Ned lacking any semblance of the complexity or depth of Maguire’s (& even Garfield’s) Harry Osborn beyond set up by the film as a comic relief punching bag just because he’s *checks notes* a bit pudgy.

Chemistry, Interplay, Tone, & Battle Scenes

Near-Impossible Synergy, Teamwork, & Authenticity Of Chemistry By The Peters We’re Convinced Must Be Real Best Friends By Effortless Harmonization – Given A+ Screenwriting Analyzing ~Every Difference & Similarity Theme For Max Entertainment

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

Then, there was Keaton. We are diehard OG-Batman fans in this household, even being before our times; we can only imagine what it would’ve been like to walk out of that theatrical experience in ’89, and he was an actor who truly loved his character – even walking around set on days off telling people ‘I’m Batman’ just because he f*cking could! In Homecoming, though, he felt blasé, apathetic, and bored: like he was just there to collect the easy box-office paycheck and couldn’t care less about the character (not that it was easy: Vulture never being one a cool solo-worthy villain of spidey’s rogues gallery). Oh, and don’t even get us started on how much RDJ dominated the narrative and condescended with laughable scripting like him hypocritically saying you need to be more than just the suit when 95% of his schtick revolved around gadgets/tech. The only redeemable cast=members were Marissa Tomei’s hot de-aged Aunt May and Favreau’s Happy. As previously mentioned, the sequel made major improvements to its characters like softening MJ, fleshing out Ned more as a character with his own arc, and making Peter more independent, yet still managed to be a narrative about Iron Man that Spider-Man merely cameod in. Mysterio being a wronged-villain of RDJ’s Stark and even the iconography of a zombie Iron Man being a crux visual [metaphorizing how MCU canon and Stark were a spectral apparition haunting and preventing Spider-Man from becoming.. well, Spider-Man] exemplifies this, and to even call the MCU duology a real 2/3 trilogy is a stretch when they’re basically franchise canon fodder that, without previous knowledge having watched the Avengers films and 23+ project filmography, a newcomer wouldn’t have any idea what was going on in by stark antithesization of what trilogies are supposed to do for their protagonists by the basest laws of filmmaking it broke. Phew, now that we’ve recapped everything, we can truly delve in and appreciate the genius and savior complex of No Way Home.

The Sinister Six

The #2 Greatest Villain Team of All-Time W. Origins Back To 1960’s Silver Age Of Comic Books, The Rogues Gallery Of Spider-Man: Doc Ock, Kraven The Hunter, Mysterio, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Venom, Lizard, Rhino, & More

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

NWH is the ultimate Spider-Man movie – a jaw-dropping cinematic event and cross-generational experience by how it brings together eons of its protagonist’s lore to eulogize and de/reconstruct the character on a cellular level. There are few moments that evoked as huge of a crowd standing-ovation [another one being the gladitorial applause of Cap wielding Mjolnir in Endgame] as when that portal opened and we saw Garfield waving in that alley, along with Maguire shortly after. No Way Home is a feat of marketing for the history books: impossibly able to keep 2/3 of the biggest cast-members a secret when the world’s eyes were prying from every angle trying to get the scoop. Heck, we met Garfield at the LA premiere of Tick, Tick,.. Boom back at AFI Festival, and couldn’t have a conversation for more than a few seconds without some crazed lunatic with a smart-phone yelling ‘Are you in No Way Home?’. The lengths they went to hide this were herculean: even editing the duo out of trailers with the perfect amount of strange occurrences like kicks out of nowhere and blurred-out single arms in the periphery of the background to entice the piranha-like fanbase, and [somehow] hiding them at the red carpet premiere so the secret becomes the ultimate surprise on-screen – even better by how late they appear 2/3 through the movie and after the heartbreaking tragedy of a lost May, numbing your senses into a somnambulence and even partial doubt/worry for maximum payoff. We can honestly say it was one of the greatest blockbuster cinematic and theatrical experiences we’ve ever had seeing them together on-screen, even more vital an experience of joy after a postapocalyptic-feeling eon of death, isolation, economic hardship, and quarantine in a COVID-19 pandemic. NWH reminded us of the power of movies as a shared experience in theatrical contexts in the most epic way possible.

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Spectacle

Playing The Greatest Hits, NWH: A Tour Back Through Classics: A Villain from Every Previous Non-MCU Spider-Man Movie: Dafoe’s Goblin, AM’s Doc Ock, THC’s Sandman, Rhys’ Lizard, Foxx’s Electro – A Nightmare Of Megalomaniacism, Existential Crisis, Subterfuge, And Pure Malevolence

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

The live-action cross-over of every comic book fan’s dream is handled near-flawlessly; it’s everything we wanted and more after a lifetime of being Spider-Man fans, and Jon Watts deserves celebration for just how he and co. were able to pull this off against Earth-shattering expectations that would’ve crushed most studios and filmmakers by the magnitude – and easily blasts any lingering Homecoming & FFH grudges into oblivion. The action scenes are some of the best of the MCU: dynamically-choreographed with epic teamwork by a trio able to synergize like second-nature. The chemistry of the trio is absolutely remarkable – a bromance so likelike, we comprehensively refuse to believe Tom, Garfield, & Maguire are not best friends in real life without the world knowing. The screenwriters manage to arm them with an A+ material maximally capitalizing on the team-up of all team-ups: analyzing both the similarities [e.g. loss, coming-of-age/identity exposition, goodness, & sacrifice] and the differences [like Tobey’s web shooting mechanism, spun for comical farce] in a perfect web conglomeration of tone. NWH is the holy grail cocktail-mix of impossible tonal balance it took the MCU ~30 films of trial-and-error to reach: a Saturday morning sugary-cereal Super Friends cartoon mired in old-school nostalgic comic book fun, but chilled for grown-ups without talking/dumbing down for them – and every bit as dark and emotional as it is funny: quite arguably both diametric extremes at the same time in a frankenstinian creation it’s damn near impossible to have brought to life.

TASM Villain Redemption

Throughout The Duology, One Error Of Consistency Was How Bad Its Villains Were, From Never-Cool Lizard To Edgebro Rhino To Geek-Cliché Blue Man Electro To Salad-Teeth Hobgoblin – NWH: Fixes Liz & Electro

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

There are a few [<5] cringeworthy old-MCU quips that do survive the purge, like ‘Scooby-Doo this crap’, but they’re so few and far between, it’s difficult to even remember them in a first ~ever for the MCU (the last ones we can think of being early projects like Iron Man 1 and Winter Soldier). The film manages to be far more natural and disciplined with its humor too – basing jokes around its trinity every fan of each and/or all can enjoy, while clearly delineating boundary lines to fix the major past MCU sin of pumping jokes in every 5-10 seconds to distract and fail powerful emotion/character moments from punching as hard as they should. In NWH, those moments are plentiful enough to get lovedrunk on, by the hands of its villain teams in yet another messianic comic book experience: The Sinister Six! Dating back to The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 in May 1964, The Sinister Six have earned their prestigious status in comic book history: the second greatest villain team of all-time after The Legion Of Doom in CLC’s vote. Basically a conglomeration of Peter’s Rogues Gallery, Doc Ock, Kraven The Hunter, Mysterio, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Venom, Lizard, Rhino, & More have all comprised the roster at different points. The very idea of a Sinister Six team built from past Spider-Man movie villains across the past 20+ years is downright insane and one of the best [& most ambitious] concept-pitches ine the history of moviemaking, and the experience of seeing Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Molina’s Doc Ock, THC’s Sandman, Rhys Ifan’s Lizard, & Jamie Foxx’s Electro share the screen is equally as special as its trinity of Spider-Men. If there’s one flaw, it’s that it’s [technically] a Sinister Five; we wish there was one more villain – especially a Venom.

The Cinematography & Score

A ~Nonexistent Critical Metric In Previous LCD-Panderative Factory MCU Movies, NWH *Gasp* Wows In Ocular & Acoustic Landscape – Avant-Garde Viz Composition, Technique, Cyberpunk Rain-Soaked Frames, And Orchestration Of Poignance & Emotion

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Tom Hardy’s Venom was already there in the post-credits scene, pointlessly stumbling around drunk in Mexico. Why couldn’t he have joined the fight – especially seeing how awful the Venom films are and how we highly doubt the MCU will endorse merging him into the infinitely better and more successful major franchise? Heck, we even would’ve taken Topher Grace’s Venom – especially if he was even give a fraction of the redesign prowess able to fix TASM’s monstrosities Grace barely needed beyond just bulking up a bit. Venom defines Spider-Man like Joker does Batman, and would’ve made a legendary film perhaps the Greatest Comic Book Film Of All-Time if he’d led the pack alongside the other titans. However, while disappointed nevertheless, we realize and empathize with Marvel on why they couldn’t have and what they’re going through: The Wandavision+ Paradox. Fans have ~little-to-no idea how much it takes to make these projects a live reality – hundreds of millions of dollars, pitches, writing, cross-departmental synergy by entire sectors of workers in the thousands, rewriting, studio politics, actor schedules/egos, shoots, test-screenings, reshoots, editing, critic embargoes, etc. Even in a franchise as surgically-precise and in-tune with their customer/fan-base’s desires like The MCU by the o’ captain patriarch who built an empire in Kevin Feige, it’s downright impossible to please everyone – especially as the franchise grows and there’s more and more possibility for crossover/overlap. Of course, every project can be made more; Miles could’ve showed up alongside Kraven The Hunter, Rhino, Kingpin, Mobius, Carnage, etc., but real-life isn’t WandaVision – where anything is possible by imagination as the classic example of where the fanbase let theirs run wild with theories and subtextual analysis that prompted review-bombing when they didn’t get their way in what easily remains the Best MCU Project Of All-Time walking us back through sitcom history in a TV show like nothing the world’s ever seen.

Major Suprise Cameos

The Fandom-Service Is Off-The-Charts, From Easter Eggs & Post-Credits Scenes Teasing Multiverse Of Madness & Venom In The MCU To A Wild Surprise Cameo Sure To Break The Internet Like It Does Canonical Rulebooks: Charlie Cox’s Netflix Daredevil!

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There are limitations in reality: Maguire purportedly, for example, asking for $50M alone just to be in NWH, and it’s not entirely fair to always expect 17+ cameos in a film. Doing so would create epic fandom-servicing entertainment value, but also prevent continual franchise-growth and cloud the narrative around the core character it’s supposed to be about. A good magician never reals his cards or plays all his tricks too early; Venom will obviously be a huge part of Spider-Man’s lore and next trilogy going forward, and we can definitely understand why the first meeting of the two legends [arguably: Marvel’s greatest hero and villain] might want to be saved for a full singular movie. There’s also a symbolic sixth villain lurking in the film’s shadows throughout the narrative: Spider-Man. The Sinisters extrapolate the only possible threat to their reign is Parker – and that, if he were to join their side instead of combat against them, they would be unstoppable as a villain syndicate. Goblin takes the lead on breaking the spirit of MCU Peter just like he did in the Raimi trilogy – attacking his heart and pushing him to the very precipice of humanity, wherein he’s inches away from the revenge-kill that would’ve plunged him into the dark side [beyond redemption and into the spiral inevitably leading to crime, as was Osborne’s plan]. Doctor Strange also symbolizes a makeshift sixth villain as well: human negligence/laziness. Hypocritically betraying his hippocratic oath, The Sorceror Supreme is caught in a paradoxical catch-22: if he tampers with the delicate fabric of space-time, it could cause nexus events causing even more deaths, but it’s easy to do nothing or rationalize.. and not very heroic to not at least try every possible solution to save lives. Though these hidden symbolizations will be lost on most audiences, and isn’t as strong as having a real sixth villain (especially of a Venom quality), they’re brilliant and shockingly-advanced for an MCU movie: something we don’t (at least) believe was done by-accident in the purposeful incompletion of the team that actually serves as a psuedo-positive. We don’t often find ourselves defending and excusing an MCU majorly responsible for a dilution in cinematic standards in pop-culture/critic circles overall, but we’ll do so here: NWH trapezes the tightwire and controls the chaos breathtakingly-well overall – even down to one major epic surprise cameo we’re certain will break the internet like it does the pre-established conventions/rulebooks of canon: Charlie Cox’s Daredevil!

The Sinister [Five?]

A Six Physically Deficient & Disappointingly Not Using The Venom In Post-Credits, But Symbolically Complete; The Sixth Villain: Inhumanity – Dr. Strange’s Lazy, Selfish H[yp/ipp]ocritical Negligence & Finale-Peter Himself Almost Pushed To Dark Side

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

The appearance threw us for a total loop; we’d heard the announcement, but, again, it was handled geniusly by the marketers with purposeful ambiguity quoting ‘where and when he will appear remains to be seen’. This brilliant canonical decision, along with the film it pairs perfectly with multiversally, opens up The MCU to cherrypick anything it wants from any movie, show, video game, actor, setting, comic book, scene, etc. from the entire history of Marvel: all fair game for both the writers and fans in what’s got to be the best time ever to be a comic book fan [especially a Marvel one; we only wish WB was even 1/10th of a fraction as competent and fandom-tuned instead of constantly going to war with them like.. the entire 2017-2021 Justice League fiasco]. The fact Marvel was able to pack so much damn fandom-service into one film is unconscionable, proving-with-pudding exactly why the MCU is as big as it is, but the fact it’s all merged into an overarching craftsman narrative for its major hero never given a backseat to the action is a feat of pure witchcraft/black-magic: everything we wanted Avengers: IW & Endgame to be, more and 10x better. NWH perfectly metaphorizes Spider-Man as a character: perhaps the movie most true and authentic to the spirit of not only the web-slinger, but comic books in general. The paragon of NYC-synergized underdog spirit, coming-of-age, humanity, & little guy down to the bug iconography and animal-themed rogues in a concrete jungle over real one, Spider-Man is one of our favorite and easily one of the Greatest Superheroes Of All-Time. NWH perfectly understands Spider-Man as a character, eulogizing his purity of moral-compass by having him actually try to help save villains from their fates. Getting nothing out of it for villains who are trying to kill him and he owes nothing to, the difference [especially in conjunction with the fact most comic book heroes would’ve just beat them to a bloody pulp and left them for the cops] is what makes Spider-Man.. Spider-Man, just because it’s the right thing to do and he boasts a hero’s heart/soul.

The WandaVision+ Paradox

The Paradox Of A Growing Multiverse; Even In A Franchise As Disciplined & Fine-Tuned To Fandom Desires, Limitations Of Reality, Depts, Budgets, Studios We Sometimes Have To Quit Everpresently Wishing More From [Like NWH’s Plot] & Celebrate Being Given

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios x Sony Pictures

The narrative also works in-tandem with the foundations of America: the land of second-chances the film evokes through the iconography of its finale’s Statue Of Liberty background-setting. NWH is a beautiful reminder of what The United States was and can be again after a cataclysmic previous half decade’s political landscape of toxicity, xenophobia, and hatred, forgetting this nation was built by immigrants and the underdog on the core promise of freedom, hard work, and non-judgmental faith in the benevolence of mankind. This dazzling exhibition of sym/empathy by Peter makes the betrayal by The Sinister Six punch your gut 10x harder – when the villains prove that, sometimes, people don’t change: valuing false-god power and megalomaniacism over normal lives to highlight by contrastive juxtaposition the very elemental difference between their morality complexes. They go farther: punishing Peter for his light and trying to extinguish it to fill the empty roster space on The Six, pushing him to the absolute limit of humanity by taking from him what he loves most: Aunt May. The film heartbreakingly shifts gears into grief exposition – a wowing layer of emotional complexity it didn’t even need and has no business wielding in conjunction with all the blockbuster majesty. The fact Tobey and Andrew have to save Peter and Spider-Man from himself through firsthand experience of the rage, regret, and rapacious melancholy that only exacerbates if you feed into it through violence or revenge is f*cking poetic and humanity as its finest. The tragedy becomes a parabolic coming-of-age lesson on humanity by going full-circle back to the beginning of both the film and trilogy in the finale. Peter has to choose between his own happiness and the fate of the multiverse – making the difficult hero’s sacrifice and decision we’d all swear we’d make, but would never actually know if we’d be able to until we were in the situation ourselves.