Spiderman – No Way Home, Review: Spidermen


Spiderman – No Way Home, Review: Spidermen

Indian release today, American release tomorrow. How exciting! Shot during the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic. How daring! Third part of a Trilogy – Homecoming (2017) and Far from Home (2019). How challenging, if you are not a die-hard fan and do not remember the previous homings well-enough! A cast that consists of Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, J.K. Simmons, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire. How impressive! Three Spidermen, five arch villains, a magician, his Chinese mentor, a girl friend, an aunt, a pal, a hostile TV reporter, a universe, a multiverse, 148 minutes. Too much to digest! Spiderman-No Way Home loses track in some of the earlier scenes, but comes back with a bang!

Former special effects artist and a super-hero enemy, Mysterio, real-name Quentin Beck, is attacked by drones of Stark Industries, on London Bridge, but, before dying, he exposes the identity of Peter Parker. This leads to a massive outcry as opinions are divided on his vigilante activities as Peter Parker, even as a TV reporter paints him as a public enemy. His friend Ned and girl-friend MJ’s applications for admission to MIT are rejected on account of their ‘complicity’ in his misdeeds. Moreover, Peter is hounded by the public and media alike. Desperate, he meets in Dr. Stephen Strange in the Sanctum Sanctorum, asking him to wipe out all knowledge of his identity from the minds of the masses. Strange warns him that this will also wipe out his identity from his Aunt May, his girl-friend MJ and pal Ned. Strange’s mentor, Wong, cautions that such a move might open the multiverse, and wreak havoc. Peter decides to bid last good-byes, while Strange begins the spell. The spell goes wrong.

From the open multiverse, five arch-villains land on earth and target Spiderman: Electro (Max Dillon), Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), Dr. Octopus (Otto Octavius), Sandman (Flint Marko) and Lizard (Curt Connors). A battle royale begins to capture the super-villains. When they are just about captured, Spiderman prefers to ‘cure’ them, rather than kill them, and then send them back to their respective universes. Even as he is debating this issue, some of them cut loose and kill Aunt May. Strange and Spiderman find it difficult to battle so many powerful evildoers. Just then, Ned accidentally performs a spell that is part of Strange’s oeuvre and summons two most unexpected warriors from alternate realities to join forces with Spiderman. Now, the battle looks more equally balanced – Spiderman, his two allies and Dr. Strange v/s a handful of dark forces.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s legacy lives on, adapted for the screen once more by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. McKenna co-wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Far from Home and Spider-Man: No Way Home, with Erik Sommers. So, it is a tried and trusted duo that Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) has retained for its 27th movie. Having worked together a lot, the duo best enjoys doing comedy, but finds the multi-genre format of Spiderman equally exciting. Sadly, there is not enough humour in this outing.

There is, palpably, a sense of overkill, with four protagonists and five villains, so much so that one could have expected someone from the Avengers to land-up as well, to balance it at 5:5! Perhaps the writers believe that you cannot have too much of Peter Parker and Dr. Stephen Strange, so their names are mouthed endlessly, repeated every few minutes, sometimes every few seconds. Judging by the whistles at the preview, you, know, they might be right! And then, somebody had to die, so they zeroed in on Aunt May. She was the oldest of the quartet of Peter, MJ, Ned and her. Her death scene brought tears to the viewers and MJ’s recue from a fall, though not spectacular by any yard-stick, struck the right chord among the select audience.

Spiderman – No Way Home Directed by Jon Watts his name? who helmed Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far from Home and Spider-Man: No Way Home, and will direct the upcoming Fantastic Four. He co-wrote a script for Spider-Man: Homecoming with Christopher Ford. Watts takes his time to narrate the earthly, American story of Spiderman, and the consequences of the great Revelation. Then, he changes gears, and lets the villains loose. There is too much similarity in the magic, villainy and fight scenes, but the ace, where Spiderman becomes Spidermen, dealt in the second half, swings the game in favour of the webmaster. The writers and the director seem to know their fandom well, and cater to their taste time and again, between bouts of humongous special effects. Fan service is never found lacking. As endearing and loving as Peter Parker, MJ, Ned and Aunt May are, the scum of the multiverse are their hateful, hideous, opposite counterparts, making it a battle between white and black, with one shade of grey, when Parker wants to cure the sick ogres and send them back, rather than kill them.

Not new to the body-hugging suit, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man retains his 17 year-old innocent charm, which includes a hint of a lisp. Your heart goes out to him he goes through the tribulations of dealing with the unmasking of his identity, letting the whole world – including MJ, Ned and Aunt May –  forget who he is, the death of Aunt May, the near death of MJ, and the dilemma of choosing between killing the villains and curing them. With so much going for him, he can’t go wrong, though the role is in sharp contrast to the one he essayed in Cherry.

Michelle Jones Watson (MJ) is Maree Stoermer Coleman, known professionally as Zendaya. You might have seen her in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far from Home too. All of 25 years, she carries her age lightly. Not projected as a stunner, her relationship with Peter appears more of a real love rather than an attraction. And just for the record, for those who had their hearts in their mouths when she was hurtling downwards from the Statue of Liberty, she has no fear of heights.

As both a singer and an actress, Zendaya earned stardom at a very young age, thanks to her leading role on the children’s sitcom Shake It Up! The talented young actress modelled for Macy’s, Old Navy, and Sears, before appearing in the music video of Kidz Bop cover of Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold (2009). She launched her music career with the singles Swag it Out (2011) and Watch Me (2011). In 2014, Coleman was chosen to play the late singer and actress Aaliyah in a biopic, but following a social media outcry over the light-skinned Coleman portraying the darker-complexioned Aaliyah, the actress bowed out of the production, claiming creative differences and worries over the film’s music rights. After starring in the TV film Zapped (2014), she made her big-screen debut in the superhero blockbuster, Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), followed by a supporting role in P.T. Barnum, biopic The Greatest Showman (2017).

One cannot but help observing that Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who became a Master of the Mystic Arts) was cut out to do better stuff. This is cake-walk for him, almost like Marlon Brando playing Superman’s father. Jacob Batalon, as Ned, lost 102 pounds (46 kg) for his role in this film, which gets due weightage to compensate for his loss.

Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan, The Head of Security for Stark Industries and former driver and bodyguard of Tony Stark, who looks after Parker, has little looking after to do here. Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro reprises his role from Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Willem Dafoe plays Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, the stubbornest of the dirty five.Dafoe reprises his role from Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus is recalled from Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Benedict Wong as Wong (originality of nomenclature apart), A Master of the Mystic Arts and Strange’s mentor. Mother-figure Aunt May Parker is performed by Marisa Tomei. J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, the host of TheDailyBugle.net is just right for the role, avoiding the temptation to go overboard, but unrelenting in his thrust. Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire are the two spoilers, which are, by now, common knowledge, yet this writer prefers not to dwell upon their roles.

Cinematography is as smooth as it comes, courtesy Mauro Fiore. Various top angles are well executed. The film is edited by Jeffrey Ford and Leigh Folsom Boyd, who impart to the film a breakneck pace for the major part, and yet land up with 148 minutes. A lot of material must have been left on the floor, and some more needed to be dropped there, especially from the first half. Music by Michael Giacchino is partly lost in the loud battle sounds, but creeps in quietly when it gets a chance.

A sure-shot for the fans of MCU and Peter Parker, Spiderman – No Way Home just misses the mark when analysed as a whole. There are too many clichés, convenient options and stock situations. There isn’t enough humour, something that is sorely missed. Moreover, the battles with the villains are largely repetitive and too-fast-paced for one to grasp and applaud the moves and counter-moves. And these form the long-drawn climax. At the end, however, the writers and the director have left their options open, as evidenced in their two post credit scenes. With a multiverse, the sky is not the limit. Nor is, obviously, the universe. So heroes and anti-heroes can be called and recalled from the entire Marvel Comics Universe, for as many subsequent films as they like. Isn’t it time the company re-christened itself Marvel Comics Multiverse?

Rating: ***

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt-2cxAiPJk

(With Inputs from moviesfoundonline and filmfestivals)

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