The trailers told us, ahead of its release, that Spider-Man: No Way Home was going to be our first real contact with the Multiverse in the MCU. The concept was introduced to us in the Disney+ exclusive animated series What If…? within its own self-contained arc. Now, the Metaverse officially enters the franchise upon the head of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
The trailers for No Way Home showed us as much with the likes of Doc Ock turning up after a botched spell Stephen Strange executes for a beleaguered Peter Parker.
What it didn’t tell us, and what the real surprise will be for those going to see the movie, was that the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a story that’s been nearly twenty years in the making, and precedes the entire franchise in its conception.
It’s going to be a struggle, explaining how No Way Home just might be the greatest film in the entirety of the MCU. To give you a full explanation of its incredible formation and execution requires spoilers, and I cannot – I will not – ruin this movie for anyone.
Quite literally, within the movie and without, on screen and in the audience, No Way Home is a movie that has to be lived through in order to be understood.
In Far From Home, we saw Quentin Beck reveal Spider-Man’s secret identity to the world. We’ve seen it before in 2002’s Spider-Man trilogy and in the 2012 The Amazing Spider-Man films, that unwilling reveal of the truth. In each story, it affects Parker differently. No Way Home is the fallout, and all it brings into Parker’s life. Tom Holland proves, once again, to be a worthy representation of the character with his earnest youth and down to earth mindset. While he beautifully falters in handling the otherworldly aspects of his double life, he tackles the challenge regardless – and at the end of the day remains a home grown hero who needs little more than a gentle nudge to stay the moral course.
This is, at the end of the day, the core story of Spider-Man as a character: while you have mortal heroes with skills, like Hawkeye, great men with great minds like Tony Stark, and heroes with a destiny, much like Thor, Peter Parker always has been and always will be the Everyman. Made into something superhuman by a twist of fate, he does what he can for his community. The burden of his power, though, is not his quest not to be a hero or save the world, but to have a life of his own and take care of those he loves.
It is the core of the Spider-Man myth, and it is the core of No Way Home. It is the coming of age story for a hero of Peter Parker’s ilk. Whatever villains come from whatever realities are out there, Parker comes to understand that with great power comes great responsibility. Not to save the world, not to save the innocent, but to make the effort. The responsibility power brings is to act, no matter the outcome, in the interests of saving who you can – even one person can make the difference in the end.
Above all, however, by the end of the film, we get to witness Peter understand that lesson on a whole new level during the movie’s climax: that sometimes, in the end, you have the greatest responsibility to try and save yourself.
This is the beauty of Spider-Man: No Way Home: the above statement perfectly embodies the heart of this film. Once you actually get to see it, it takes on a brand new nuance and emotional impact you never would have expected going in.
I hope you get to experience that dazzling new understanding – and I hope against hope, after a singular movie like this one, that we get to see a thousand new Spider-Man stories told in the years to come.
Spiderman: No Way Home stars Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire and Benedict Cumberbatch, and is in theaters now.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.