This is less of a review and more of my spoiler-filled thoughts and raw emotions. So, if you have not seen Spider-Man: No Way Home, please bookmark this tab and return after watching the movie.
I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.May Parker – Spider-Man 2
I love Spider-Man. That’s not a surprising statement, especially for a guy who grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s. My first memories are of my parents taking me to Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. I grew up playing Spider-Man 2 (the video game) on my Playstation 2, watching the 90s Spider-Man cartoon, reading Stan Lee‘s and Steve Ditko‘s original comic books (they were hidden inside of the Sunday paper), and moving on to shows like The Spectacular Spider-Man, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Spidey is in my DNA, but it’s never something I honestly thought about. I was always a fan, but my favorites were Superman, Batman, The Ninja Turtles, the Teen Titans, and even characters like The Flash and Aquaman. Still, I always had a love for the web-slinger deep down. Tobey Maguire‘s Spider-Man films are one of the reasons I love movies, and the grounded but lighthearted tone is why I tend to value these types of stories. Peter Parker is a character designed for children, and his stories, teach kids the basic but poignant lesson; with great power, there must also come great responsibility.
It’s a tired lesson at this point, but Stan and Steve wanted kids to develop a moral compass. If you can help others, you have to do so. In the comics, these words are a narration by Stan. The films and shows took creative liberty by having Uncle Ben, a casualty of Peter’s selfishness, utter these words before his death. A change that pushes the idea even further. Ben teaches Peter this lesson because he wants Peter to think of others, not just as Spider-Man (Ben doesn’t even know about that), but rather to grow into a caring and compassionate human being.
Steve Rogers, Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Barry Allen are all cut from the same cloth. They are all good guys at their core. The twist for Spider-Man is that Peter can never win. He struggles, falls, and loses everything, but he never lets that stop him. Peter might even break, but he’ll always build himself back up. It’s what makes this character timeless. He’s someone every single person can see themselves in. That’s why he wears a full-faced mask. Anyone can be Spider-Man, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. You, too, can be Spider-Man, and fight for what you believe in. It’s a story about loss and how we bounce back from it.
Every day I wake up knowing that no matter how many lives I protect, no matter how many people call me a hero, someone even more powerful could change everything.Peter Parker – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
So, growing up, I loved the character, and the Raimi trilogy was coming to an end. The next big thing was coming, and we all felt it as soon as Iron Man hit theaters the following year. The MCU was another monumental moment in my life as I was barely a teenager when The Avengers hit theaters. Again, my parents took my sister and me to yet another comic book movie that blew my mind. The idea that these characters I loved got a chance to team up was unreal, and I haven’t felt a moment like that sense. The pure joy and excitement that this movie gave me are why I think stories are powerful. The Avengers is not a perfect movie. It might be the worst of the four, but like Superman: The Movie made the world believe a man could fly, The Avengers made me think that anything is possible.
What does any of this have to do with Spider-Man: No Way Home? Well, Spider-Man: No Way Home made me feel the way I did watching The Avengers, seeing Spider-Man all the back in 2002, and experiencing Avengers: Endgame, which felt like a chapter of my life coming to an end. On the surface, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a cash grab. It’s nostalgia and fan service just for ticket sales. They didn’t have to create new villains with new actors because Sam Raimi (The Spider-Man trilogy) and Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man films) did the heavy lifting. However, this movie is so much more.
No Way Home is the final chapter of a Peter Parker origin story. The MCU’s Spider-Man is vastly different from the ones that came before. He’s discovered by Tony Stark, taken in as an Avenger, groomed to become the next Iron Man, and given the keys to the kingdom. That’s not the relatable everyman Stan envisioned, but yet he still had every struggle and learned the lessons all others learn. Homecoming was Peter learning that being a hero is complex and he needs to take this life seriously. Far From Home was Peter getting betrayed. He’s too loose with his identity, he trusts Mysterio when he just met him, and Nick Fury wasn’t even who he claimed to be. Finally, No Way Home is about Peter suffering the consequences of his actions. A lesson that Stark had to learn as well.
In this film, Peter’s luck runs out, and he falls to the lowest point any Spider-Man has ever fallen, and we use everything we’ve learned from the Raimi, Webb, and MCU movies to reinforce this idea. The charm of the Raimi films, the grit of the first Webb film, the event style of storytelling in the MCU crafted one of the best Spider-Man stories of all time. See, like in Spider-Man’s comic origins, Peter’s selfishness leads to the events of this film, and he loses everything he’s ever cared about. His wanting to “be normal” leads to him giving into Mysterio, which creates this entire issue in the first place, but he didn’t learn from there. His wanting to fix his previous mistake leads to him breaking the multiverse. This Spider-Man is a child who has to burn himself before realizing the stove is dangerous.
Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is my gift, my curse…Peter Parker – Spider-Man (2002)
So by having Aunt May give him the speech and having the other Spider-Men reinforcing her teachings, Peter finally realizes that this job comes with a price, and you have to be prepared to suffer the consequences. The very thesis of Spider-Man’s entire character is laid out in front of us in this movie. All three films told one complete arc, and I didn’t even realize it. It’s the culmination of every single Spider-Man story before it.
So, back to 24-year old me. I’m in the theater, with my parents and sister, watching Spider-Man once again, and the emotions hit me like a truck. I didn’t realize how much this character, how much these moments, meant to me. Seeing Tobey face off against Goblin when I was five, being devastated watching Gwen’s death at 13, and Peter losing May at 24; this character has been in every phase of my life thus far. Sharing this film, the pinnacle of Spider-Man, with the people who shared these moments with me was unbelievable. Having the three Spider-Men represent every facet of the character (Tobey is the everyman, Andrew is the genius, Tom is the childlike whimsy) was everything I wanted and gave me chills, much like seeing Thor, Cap, and Iron Man for the first time.
Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t a perfect film, nor is it the overall best Spider-Man film, but it’s everything Stan and Steve envisioned. A hero who kids can look to when things feel rough, someone to inspire you to push on, and teaching the lifelong lesson that with great powers comes great responsibility. This is why the ending is one of the best in the entire franchise. The Home trilogy took Peter and broke him down to his lowest low, but now we need to see him pick himself up. He chooses to leave Ned and MJ behind, but he’s happy knowing that they’re safe, and now he has to build a new life for himself. He has to go and become his Spider-Man. Not the next Iron Man, or a clone of Andrew and Tobey, but a brand new friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.