After a long buildup, a slew of teases, and rumoured leaks, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” plays up to the expectation, offering the kind of unapologetic big-screen joy that audiences have been clamouring for. Marvel’s latest (through Sony) appears to be on track to do what only a spider can: entice a large number of fans into its web.
Perhaps most importantly, this third instalment in the series (directed once again by Jon Watts) is highly humorous, with enough references to the character’s previous appearances on screen to qualify as a graduate-level course on the subject. The amount to which audiences come equipped with that knowledge will undoubtedly increase their experience, but the film is constructed in such a way that two decades of Spider-Man viewing isn’t required.
Following up on the events of the previous “Far From Home,” poor Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has had his identity revealed, throwing his life into disarray. That includes being pursued by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), the Daily Bugle’s crusading reporter, whose act has been updated for the digital age.
Marvel is understandably wary of revealing storey details, but enough has been revealed that it’s safe to assume the plot revolves around multiverse issues and an incorrect spell cast by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to whom a desperate Peter has turned for assistance.
Strange can’t hide his annoyance, but as he points out, “You’re just a kid,” despite everything Peter has been through.
This film is the epitome of the proverb “Be careful what you wish for,” since Strange’s purported remedy has disastrous ramifications and threats.
When it comes to time travel or parallel universes, there’s always a degree of disorder, but “No Way Home” generally powers through it, sprinkling enough humour and tenderness to gloss over the contradictions.
The film also deftly builds on its predecessors, with more mature relationships between Peter, MJ (Zendaya), and his pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) as their concerns progress from high school to college applications, a stressful time made all the more so by Peter’s elevation to a level of scrutiny normally reserved for British royalty.