by Darryl Goh
Perhaps not since Avengers: Endgame has there been so much hype over a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Now more than 25 movies into the MCU, Spider-Man: No Way Home still remains typical of what to expect from a Marvel flick (read: formulaic), but this may be the most endearing entry yet.
For weeks leading up to the film’s release, the Internet was lit with rumours about the previous two film Spideys (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) making appearances alongside MCU’s Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland. So widely discussed was this theory that there was a friendly plea by the cast – ironically including Holland, the leakiest Marvel star – not to spoil the film, so MCU fans will enjoy every surprise planned for them.
Let us start with what we know – the official premise tells us that Parker has his secret identity revealed and it turns his personal life upside down. With “help” from Dr Strange, the multiverse opens and supervillains who once battled other Spider-Men on the big screen enter the MCU world for a fan service extravaganza.
Among the returning baddies in this film is the Green Goblin, played by Willem Dafoe. In a standout performance, Dafoe manages to embody the maniacal scientist Norman Osborn he last played some 20 years ago to perfection. At 66, he is one of the oldest MCU actors, but does not miss a beat as he crushes Spider-Man to pulp with ferocious intensity. Before there was Thanos, it was the Green Goblin who struck fear into a generation of kids, and his return in Spider-Man: No Way Home is a great blast from the past.
Despite having a star-studded cast, the plot suffers from a few instances of illogicality, and it becomes glaring obvious that they happened to provide the most fan service. The payoff is no less amazing, as evidenced by a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score from those who caught sneak peeks. The director made the right call.
A likeable character like Spider-Man is easy to charm audiences, with witty conversations making non-action scenes intriguing to follow. These scenes do not push the envelope but are crowd pleasers nonetheless – if you were to watch this film within the first two weeks of its release, filmgoers will likely erupt in cheers and applause in what is now known as an MCU tradition.
Much like how Spider-Man (2002) was Spidey’s movie introduction to the masses, Spider-Man: No Way Home will be remembered as a reintroduction of the friendly neighbourhood superhero and a welcome look back at how the character has evolved over the years through a worthy rogue gallery. Casual film watchers may find themselves caught in Spider-Man’s web of films and watch their past iterations, featuring Green Goblin in his horrifying glory.
So never mind the wafer-thin plot – it is difficult to find fault with the ultimate MCU fan service film full of references and Easter eggs that make fans want to watch the movie multiple times. While Spider-Man lives by the principle “with great power comes great responsibility,” studio executives follow a slightly edited, billion-earning mantra: what MCU fans want, MCU fans will get.