WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Seriously, do not read ahead if you do not want to read spoilers about Spider-Man: No Way Home.
I am an avid movie watcher who is very aware of recency bias. So, when I say that the new Spiderman: No Way Home movie has instantly become my favorite Marvel movie and one of my best-loved films of the past many years, I do not say it lightly. Here are three things that stood out to me as I watched:
1. All the feels.
My friends know that I immensely enjoy stories that evoke intense emotions. “That one hits me in the feels,” I often say about a song, book, tv show, or movie. It’s a high compliment to recognize that authors, scriptwriters, actors, and crews can makes us feel emotions so strongly for fictional characters or people we’ve never met and the creators of Spider-Man: No Way Home have hit that mark perfectly.
I admit that it probably takes a good understanding and connection to about six to eight previous Spider-Man movies for the emotions to run free, but the nostalgia only heightens the feelings. I, along with the audiences I enjoyed the movie amongst, clapped, cheered, laughed, and cried. Well done. It hit me in all the feels.
2. Redemption is the key plot mechanism.
Many of the characters have redemption arcs in this movie, some with stories that began in films from nearly 20 years prior. Five villains return from previous Spider-Man movies: the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Lizard (Rhys Ifans), and Electro (Jamie Foxx). While Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) argues to return these menaces back to their own universes, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), at the urging of his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), decides it would be better to try to help them.
The decision to help the villains results in the death of Aunt May and Peter is devasted, ready to abandon the idea of helping anyone until he is re-convinced by the (very exciting) appearances of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield and their respectful Spider-Man portrayals. In the end the trio is successful in curing all the villains and each of them earn a sort of redemption before returning to their worlds. The most meaningful redemption stories, however, are saved for our three friendly neighborhood Spider-Men.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is able to make the choice to ask Dr. Strange to cast the spell that will make the world forget him, righting a previous mistake. In the process, he loses his best friend and girlfriend. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man makes an antiserum for the Green Goblin, finally saving him as he tried so desperately to do when this movie saga began. But the most touching moment of redemption is saved for Andrew Garfield’s version of Spidey. When MJ (Zendaya) is falling to a certain death in the same way that Garfield’s character lost his lover Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Holland’s Spidey is unable to save her. In a move that mirrors his failed attempt to save Gwen, “Peter 3” heroically saves this MJ. The ensuing expression of both heartbreak and redemption on Garfield’s face could draw a tear from the eye of even the biggest curmudgeon.
3. “It’s what we do.”
Toward the end of the film, there is a moment when Holland’s character tries to thank his two counterparts. He is at a loss for words and Maguire’s Spidey stops him by ensuring him, “It’s what we do.” We, meaning the Spider-Men. The idea of what “it” stands for in this sentence is left to the viewer. I’d like to think that “it” stands for helping whomever they can, looking for the good in everyone, and being willing to sacrifice for the well-being of others. It’s what they do. And it’s something for us all to aspire to.