Review: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’: Leans into comic book roots more than previous editions (IANS Rating: ****)

Film: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ (Showing in theatres); Duration: 148 minutes

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire

IANS Rating: ****

Director Jon Watts’ ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is the 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the sequel to the last two Spider-Man films that were released in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Despite a complex premise that incorporates two decades of its cinematic history and three Spider-Men, the film is satisfyingly entertaining.

Being a sequel, the film takes off from its last edition. Peter Parker’s life has been turned upside-down after Mysterio, the bad guy he killed in ‘Far from Home’, revealed his secret identity to the public at large.

Spider-Man is now a wanted man, and the public has made his life miserable. There is a threat to the lives of his near and dear ones including his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and his girlfriend MJ short for Miss Jones Watson (Zendaya). Desperate to protect them, Peter does the only sensible thing he can think of: he appeals to a fellow Avenger – the all-powerful wizard Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help.

He requests the doctor to cast a spell that will make everyone forget his identity. But halfway through the ritual, Peter changes his mind. He does not want everyone to forget him, especially his aunt, best friend, and girlfriend, and while stopping the process, the spell goes awry and cracks open a new dimension.

And through this multiverse dimension, we are introduced to a set of villains. They are; Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Fox), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and The Lizard-man (Rhys Ifans).

Similarly, MJ and Ned accidentally learn how to open portals using Dr Stang’s ring, and in their attempt to find Peter Parker, they summon two other Peter Parkers – Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire from another universe. How the trio of Peter Parkers battle the enemies forms a major part of the plot.

The first half of the film features awkward plot turns and it takes a while for the narrative to get to the heart of the matter. But once the account hits the crux of Spider-Man’s conflict, both the stakes and the intensity magnify ten-fold. There are funny moments that make you chuckle or smile.

At the core of it all is Holland’s stellar performances despite him coming across as a younger and less mature Spider-Man than Maguire or Garfield. It is Holland’s best work as Peter and Spidey to date. His chemistry with Zendaya and Batalon is also real and palpable, and there are moments where they provide gentle comic relief.

With its multiple villains, foraying into magic and multiverse weirdness, and earnest character motivations, the film leans into its comic book roots far more than any previous Spider-Man film.

Mauro Fiore’s cinematography is brilliant. His live-action shots seamlessly merge with the computer-generated visual effects where most of the frames during the action sequences appear like images through a Kaleidoscope.

Michael Giacchino’s score hits the right notes home, elevating the viewing experience.

20211216-171840

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