Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Charlotte O'Sullivan

Spider-Man: No Way Home review - An unforgettable group hug of a movie

This review of the MCU threequel contains spoilers. That’s because it’s impossible to have a meaningful discussion of No Way Home without acknowledging what happens mid-way through it.

Also, I guarantee that being in the know won’t ruin your viewing experience. I was prepared for what was coming (because, um, the internet) and the finished product still swung me to the moon.

That said, if you enjoy screaming at the cinema I beg you to stop reading now, because there were shocked roars aplenty from the people around me and I wouldn’t like to deprive you of that vocal release.

Consider that your last warning. So, ready to enter the Sony/MCU multiverse?

At the end of the Far From Home, high-school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) was “outed” as superhero Spidey. Peter’s now desperate to regain some semblance of a normal life, not just for himself, but for his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya; such a real girl in her James Baldwin T-shirt), and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon, finally getting a bit of backstory; turns out Ned has the coolest mum).

Holland with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon (Handout)

Anyway, Peter begs Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch; hilarious) to erase the collective memory of his unmasking. But Peter doesn’t want to be forgotten by his love-ones and his last-minute faffing causes the spell to go awry, allowing villains from other realities, who hate Peter Parker/Spider-Man but have never actually met the Holland version of the character, to cause chaos in New York.

We know these dudes. We met them in the three Tobey Maguire Spiderman films and the two Andrew Garfield ones. There’s the terrifyingly gleeful Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe; beautiful and bashed-up-looking). Along with grouchy Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) and the sick-of-being-patronised Electro (Jamie Foxx), come two others (sorry Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church, but you know you’re not the stars of this show).

These five Spidey foes were killed off in their respective movies. Doctor Strange says they need to go back to where they came from and meet their fates. Peter’s aunt May (Marisa Tomei; devastatingly good) thinks they deserve a second chance.

As Holland’s Spider-Man tries to navigate that moral minefield, he gets help from some good guys. And, as predicted by many, those guys are played by Maguire and Garfield. Yep, all three Sony Spideys are in the house.

Zendaya and Tom Holland (AP)

Essentially, our polytheistic tendencies are being taken to the next level. As well as worshipping a pantheon of Marvel gods, we’re being encouraged to worship different versions of the same god. Which may sound exhausting, but is actually a tried and tested narrative conceit.

Doctor Who got the multi-hero ball rolling with a 1972 series called The Three Doctors. Steven Moffat pulled off the same trick in 2013. An observation he made at the time gets to the heart of why No Way Home is so successful. Moffat said he’d tried to avoid creating a reunion party (“nothing wrong with parties, but they’re not great fun to watch”).

The creative team behind this movie (director Jon Watts, plus writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers) weave the past into the present because they have something to say. Stuff about loneliness, and the need to offer sanctuary to the vulnerable. It’s no coincidence the last battle takes place on that magnet for refugees and immigrants, the Statue of Liberty.

And, luckily for all concerned, the three actors playing Spider-Man have gravitas, as well as delicious comic timing. As vessels for the script, they’re pretty damn perfect.


The action sequences will have you squirming in your seat (Peter/Spidey vs Doc Ock is a highlight but the frenetic, and at times deliberately confusing, final fight was my favourite). These sequences compare with anything in the best of the Avengers series. It’s one of the lovely quirks of Holland’s Spider-Man that he has always been at one with his surroundings, whether popping up in Sony products or Disney ones. He swings both ways, as it were, breaking down barriers as he goes.

Clever, tender, funny and rousing, No Way Home is an instant classic. My advice: grab a mask, leave your home and let Spidey and his pals give you a group hug you’ll never forget.

148mins, cert 12A

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.