Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, it shouldn’t be news that Spider-Man: No Way Home debuted, challenged box office records and overall, wowed fans. Since this site has a long-standing history of Marvel-related content, it also shouldn’t surprise you that we’d want to talk about the movie... especially without any Syracuse Orange men’s basketball games for a little longer.
So the following is our staff discussion about the movie, the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe and the history of the Spider-Man character. It’s VERY spoiler-heavy, so just be forewarned that if you still want to see it spoiler-free in theaters, this is your last chance to COMPLETELY AVOID THIS ARTICLE.
*** LAST. WARNING. ***
John: So first and foremost: They stuck the landing despite the amount of balls in the air here, right? How likely did you think that was before the movie? How about the halfway point of watching it in the theater?
Andy: I’m on record with you, John, saying I didn’t think this movie would do it. But it somehow managed to be Avengers: Endgame-level continuity managing for Spider-Man AND be Holland’s first true Spider-Man movie in plot and tone. Genuinely surprised.
John: Yeah I mean I think most expected to see them all, but three Spider-Men (Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire) were executed very well, the movie gave them all specific things to do, showcased what a great actor Garfield is despite his Spidey movies giving him little to work with, and then let Holland rise to the occasion to become THE Spider-Man (in my opinion). It also managed to put a bow on three different Spider-Man franchises at once, which is incredible.
And yes, as you mentioned Andy, this was an actual Spider-Man movie in the MCU, which is a first. And a welcome character reboot that comic fans will particularly love.
Andy: I still think Tobey is THE Spider-Man with the way his arc played out, to be honest. But I always liked older Spider-Man more than younger Spider-Man stories.
Christian: I feel every set expectations so sky-high that there was only room for disappointment. But they nailed the story telling and made every character feel important. I think that’s why I still had high hopes for this halfway through as the character development from every single major character was so good that I was engaged on how the story will conclude and excited for that
John: The character stuff (especially for the Spiders, MJ, Ned and some villains) is what floored me. Marvel does a great job meeting expectations for event movies. But character stuff usually gets lost in there, aside from Captain America: Civil War.
This managed to hit the event beats despite insane expectations and did a ton of character work to boot.
Christian: Yeah, Marvel is usually focused on the moments, but the way the characters were built up made the moments hit even harder, which is why I think this movie exceeded the already high expectations that were put on it
John: My question, though, is does this movie only work because it’s Spider-Man and there’s a history (on-screen and comic) and emotional attachment there that no other Marvel character has?
Like not to knock the movie at all. But I wonder how much that factors. Related: does that matter?
Andy: Well, they could’ve done this with the X-Men too, but it’s really because Spider-Man is the only character who’s been shoved into the public sphere for the entire lives (or majority) of the target demo.
Christian: Oh completely, yeah. I think it hits especially hard for the “young guys” (i.e. me and Andy) because the first real superhero movie that most of us remember from our childhoods was the Tobey’s Spider-Man movies. Our generation is at the perfect age where nostalgia sells hard.
Come back to this when they inevitably bring back Chris Evans/Robert Downey Jr. for an Act III showdown against Kang the Conqueror in 10-15 years
John: I don’t think there’s any amount of money you could throw at RDJ to come back as Iron Man. And don’t blame him for a second there
Andy: I said this to friends, but in my opinion —
- Single best Spider-Man movie of all-time: Into the Spiderverse
- Single best live-action Spider-Man movie: Spider-Man 2
- Best Spider-Man movie if you’ve seen them all: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Christian: Yeah, that’s correct
John: I buy that.
Is there anything you feel this movie could’ve done better, acknowledging we all loved it?
Christian: It’s the reason Endgame worked so well. No Way Home acts as the graduation present/award for all of us that watched all the prior movies
Andy: My wife (who has gone to every Spider-Man MCU movie and Civil War) came out of it saying that she wanted to re-watch the Tobey movies because she still thought he was the best version of the character, which I doubled down on after this movie. And I think that stinks for Holland, who had this movie to really be more than Tony Stark Jr. and half the of time he was sharing it with two other Spider-Men.
John: He still hasn’t had a solo film which is wild. That’s the most damning thing here along with killing May (even if completely reasonable in-universe) when she’s one of two female characters.
Christian: I know the contract stuff with Sony probably didn’t make this possible, but I would’ve love more setup to what could potentially be done with Holland’s Spidey.
Andy: But it also tracks on what Disney and Sony wanted out of this: Sony wanted Spider-Man as part of something bigger so it would sell, and Marvel wanted their biggest IP revitalized. The crazy part to me is that this movie really did wipe the slate clean for Spider-Man to get a new trilogy of some kind with or without Holland and nothing else that happened before mattered.
That kind of sucks if you’re a big fan of the MCU’s continued storytelling, as this was the “get out of jail free” reset card we’ve been worrying about since Secret Wars got leaked as the future of the MCU.
John: You could argue this erases the previous movies buuuuut, because they did the work to get there I don’t hate it. The fact that they made “One More Day” work is a huge flex from Marvel and Sony
Christian: Although this is probably the best time for a reset because you probably can’t do that once you introduce Kang to the movie screen.
John: To me, this gives them three movies plus the Fantastic Four movie (also directed by this Spider-Man trilogy’s Jon Watts) without feeling forced to include Peter. I think you give Holland’s Peter his plot of land and let him mentor Miles before Secret Wars-ing both away back to Sony in a decade.
And, like, maybe Holland doesn’t want or need to do it that long. But what they have now gives flexibility they didn’t before and doesn’t create constant questions around Avengers, Tony Stark’s legacy, etc. And more than any post-Endgame show or movie so far, it moves you to the next phase of story-telling.
Steve: So I’m coming in late and out of left field but I thought Garfield did things that I didn’t think he could do. He was probably one of the brightest spots of the movie to me. When he gets the redemption moment saving MJ… Damn.
Christian: I think that’s another big reason why this movie worked. Pretty much every character had a great redemption moment In a way that didn’t feel cheesy.
Andy: Garfield and Willem Dafoe were the two actors having the most fun and I love that for them.
Steve: Absolutely. I liked Jamie Foxx more than I thought. And Alfred Molina nailed a confused, conflicted Otto Octavius.
John: If Spidey was all-Marvel, we’d get Superior Spider-Man on Disney+ and it would be the most popular show of the year
Steve: Yeah, That was such a unique and good run
It was all the little things though, in this movie, that did it. J. Jonah Jameson was on some Alex Jones-type shit. The Uncle Ben/Gwen Stacy/Aunt May parallels. Even the conversations about the web shooters... They hit all the points and made it move seamlessly.
Andy: I think that’s my next Q: Do you want to see Holland continue as Spidey in this blank slate? Or would you rather see Spider-Man adjacent characters like Miles Morales/Gwen/Superior Spider-Man?
Steve: I think John hit it above, but “por que no los dos?”
John: I’d rather see more Spidey, but also in concert with Spidey adjacent world, yeah
Steve: Have Holland do his thing in an ancillary role, ultimately mentoring Miles or going “friendly neighborhood” and taking the stakes back down, while bringing forward Miles/Gwen/Silk, etc.
Christian: Agreed. I think there needs to be some sort of conclusion with Holland’s characters remembering him, but after that presents a great opportunity to move on to Miles.
Andy: I think I’m kinda done with Holland, to be honest. This felt like a nice break and I’d rather wait years and come back to him after 10 years like how the video game series did, with other characters looking up to him and existing in a world where he’s the experienced older vet. I don’t necessarily need to see Holland grow up anymore.
(Which now seeing No Way Home, makes sense why they altered the video game character model drastically)
Steve: Fair. I think you could take that and have him get most of (the rest of) Phase 4 off at this point, with a cameo return somewhere. Or just appearances here and there in the periphery, so we don’t get the Peter Parker story developing, just out there.
Unless you’re talking going full S-Day and “No more Holland” coming out of Wanda’s mouth or something.
Andy: Yeah, I think I’d rather have him come around when NYC is being threatened, but Spidey in space should be done. Would like to see if the whole Matt Murdock/Daredevil thing leads to a more grounded area of the MCU.
Steve: Shit, there was so much happening, we didn’t even touch on Charlie Cox making every Marvel fan squee over his official return.
John: I just think they should’ve done more with him after the intro. Even if just one more scene.
Also, how did we fell about Doctor Strange’s appearance in the movie? Obviously big part of the overall plot, but not in the margins. I was surprised he wasn’t Sorcerer Supreme anymore.
Steve: I like that they did that. If he disappeared and Wong took it over, not like he just magically gets it back when he shows up right?
I think it was necessary. And also loved that he told Peter he needed to “Scooby-Doo this shit.”
Christian: Yeah, I think he was also given the just right amount of time. I loved his “you didn’t call them?” line. Very good.
John: So where do we rank this movie compared to the rest of the MCU?
Andy: I’m putting it top 3, behind Endgame and Black Panther. Acknowledging it’s probably not as good as a movie as BP and had the same gimmick as Endgame
Steve: Top five here. Likely gut reaction, but Captain America: Winter Soldier was a thing there too Andy.
That’ll probably fall but that’s off a single watch on a potato looking version so that’s where I’m at.
Christian: Yeah Winter Soldier is still my favorite. I think looking back, Winter Soldier and Black Panther are maybe the only Marvel movies I’ll watch from start to finish. This may make it up there with repeat viewing, but right now it’s, like Andy said, on the same level on Endgame where I’m probably just fast-forwarding to the high moments. Those moments do make it top 5 however
John: Maybe controversial here, but I’ve got it eighth. I try where possible to separate the event from the execution of the story itself, so it winds up below the my top five (Winter Soldier, Ragnarok, Civil War, Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War), and then Black Panther and Avengers just stand on their own better. Still this is a great and fun movie, Marvel or not.
Clearly quite a bit we don’t get into at all above, so if you have thoughts on other elements of the movie — or just more on what we cover above — go ahead and weigh in below, too.