Spider-Man: No Way Home Review

Spider-Man: No Way Home movie posterSynopsis
With his identity as Spider-Man revealed to the public, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) asks Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help to make the world forget his secret identity. But when the spell goes wrong, villains from other universes arrive, causing problems for Peter and his friends.

Review
Before I get into my review, I just want to say how great it felt to be back in a packed theater! The energy and excitement is unlike anything I have felt since Avengers: Endgame. With things slowly opening up again, I’m glad that I was able to experience Spider-Man: No Way Home with a full, eager crowd. I truly missed this.

The Spider-Man films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are some of my favorites in the entire franchise. Part of this is because Tom Holland is my favorite actor who as played Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield both portray parts of Peter and Spider-Man to various success but to me, Holland is the actor who out of the three captures the character of both Peter and Spider-Man. And of course, Holland does not fail to deliver in his third outing as the titular character. On top of his performance as Peter / Spider-Man, his chemistry with the cast around him is top notch. Not only with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon, but with the villains opposite him. I can honestly say that this is my favorite performance from Holland in the MCU so far. I know that the relationship between Marvel Studios and Sony around the character is a bit rocky at the moment but I hope they are able to work through those and deliver more Holland-led Spider-Man films. Because to take that away would be nothing short of theft.

And speaking of the villains, the returning villains practically steal the show, despite the high praise I just gave the heroes. Alfred Molina, Willem Defoe, and Jamie Foxx were all superb. Molina and Defoe gave fantastic performances in their respective films and only do better here, which I didn’t think was possible! While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had several problems, Foxx’s performance was not one of them (although it didn’t help either). Here, Foxx gives his character of Electro the performance that such an iconic member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery deserves.

Being the third Spider-Man film of the MCU, Spider-Man: No Way Home properly raises the stakes and excitement levels than what came before. I constantly found myself tensing up or holding my breath throughout the movie. It balances these high-intensity scenes with the character-building and slower scenes well. Unlike Eternals, despite being one of the longest films in the franchise, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

After Spider-Man: Far From Home, one of my biggest wants from the MCU Spider-Man franchise was a proper New York City Spider-Man film. Spidey swinging through the skyscrapers of NYC is so iconic and is not something we have truly yet to experience in the MCU. While No Way Home took place in NYC, not much is seen of the city itself. Another gripe I had previously, probably since Spider-Man: Homecoming, is that Peter’s gadgets mostly came from Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). Peter Parker is a genius inventor himself, so to see him have much of his equipment handed to him felt like it took away a lot of those skills from his character. However, where the story leaves Peter at the end appears to open the door to address both of those should another MCU Spider-Man film happen. I’m not going to say any more on the matter but if another film happens, it looks like I will finally get the NYC-set Spider-Man film I would love to see again with Peter’s engineering skills on full display.

I thought Spider-Man: No Way Home was GREAT πŸ˜€ Simply put, it is a love letter to Spider-Man’s cinematic history. It pays homage to those characters and actors that came before, fulfilling arcs from both the MCU Spider-Man films, as well as characters from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider-Man films. And all the while giving us something unique and a story unlike anything before. I will admit that some of the most memorable and cheer-worthy moments of this movie come from a viewer’s history with, and understanding of, past Spider-Man movies. I’d be interested to hear someone’s opinion who isn’t as familiar with the pre-MCU Spider-Man films. Nonetheless, there is a lot here to enjoy, even if you haven’t seen the pre-MCU Spider-Man films and serves as a great end to the β€œHome” trilogy. Holland has really come into the role of Peter Parker and Spider-Man and I hope that we will get to see him put on the web shooters again.

Trivia
Tom Holland helped to save this movie from cancellation by forcing renegotiations between Sony and Disney. Under the terms of the new deal, not only does Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) still take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but Spider-Man can also appear in future MCU movies, as well as Sony’s own Spider-Man franchise. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jon Watts – Director
Chris McKenna – Writer
Erik Sommer – Writer

Tom Holland – Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Zendaya – MJ
Jacob Batalon – Ned Leeds
Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Marisa Tomei – May Parker
Alfred Milina – Dr. Otto Octavius / Doc Ock
Willem Dafoe – Norman Osborn / Green Goblin
Jamie Foxx – Max Dillon / Electro
Rhys Ifan – Dr. Curt Connors / The Lizard
Thomas Haden Church – Flint Marko / Sandman
Benedict Wong – Wong
Tony Revolori – Flash Thompson
Angourie Rice – Betty Brant
JK Simmons – J. Jonah Jameson

Doctor Strange Review

Doctor Strange movie posterSynopsis
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a highly skilled, but arrogant, neurosurgeon. After a car crash leaves him unable to perform surgeries again, he heads to Nepal seeking the Ancient One (Tilda Swinto) to help heal his hands. Strange gets drawn into a world of sorcery and mystic arts while under the Ancient One’s tutelage and must protect the world from being destroyed by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).

Review
I’ve heard people say that Doctor Strange is Marvel’s next big risk, introducing magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as well as a relatively lesser known property. But really, from a film studio that has a talking raccoon, a hero who can communicate with ants, and Asgard, is magic really that big of a step? Is a film centered around a lesser known character really going to stop the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios?

I’ll be honest, when I heard Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as Stephen Strange, I wasn’t one hundred percent behind the choice. I knew that he is a great and versatile actor but I had a hard time picturing him as Strange. However, knowing Marvel’s past casting history, and my usual willingness to give every casting choice the benefit of the doubt, I trusted Marvel to find the best Strange they could. Now, I’m not going to say that Cumberbatch fits Strange like a glove the same way Robert Downey, Jr. fits Tony Stark, but I am having trouble remembering why I was having doubts in the first place. He was absolutely fantastic.

Besides Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange contains some very good talent. Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One was surrounded by controversy but I think her casting worked really well. Swinton has this soft but authoritative aura about her that fits perfectly in the mentor role of the Ancient One. Rachel McAdams is sweet and funny as always but she doesn’t have much screen time. I’m interested to see more of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Strange’s fellow student under the Ancient One and ally against the film’s villain. The best surprise as was Benedict Wong as… Wong, the librarian of Kamar-Taj (the temple in Nepal where Strange learns about being a sorcerer). I was expecting the film to be humorous but several of his lines made me laugh the hardest.

Now fourteen movies in, Marvel Studios has established a formula for their films, whether you love it or hate it. One reason why they keep reusing a similar structure is because it works. We begin with our hero, they come by some tragedy and go in search of a way to heal themselves. They get gain powers and begin to use them for good, with the film ending in an outrageous fight scene between our hero and the villain. This structure can be seen from Iron Man to Thor to Ant-Man to Doctor Strange. How well this works for you depends on if you are tired of seeing this formula done or not. For me, it has worked so far and I still enjoy seeing the hero’s journey from human to superhuman so I like it. Especially since Marvel injects so much humor into it.

Like many of the previous MCU films, the laughs come naturally and organically. Never did I think β€œOh, I was supposed to laugh there.” Wong (the character) was the surprise comedic relief of the film. Every scene of his contained at least one moment that generated a laugh. McAdams even had a moment or two. It still remains refreshing how light Marvel Studios makes their movies, without compromising the maturity of the film, despite all of the destruction happening in them.

The easiest why to describe Strange’s magic appearance in the comics is β€œpsychedelic.” Many wondered if Marvel Studios would be able to bring that brand of oddness to the screen without feeling too odd. The effects in Doctor Strange feel they were brought straight off the page and onto the screen. Everything is gorgeous and stunning. The scenes when the sorcerers were fighting in the city and manipulating the architecture around them looked like they were straight out of Inception. The Dark Dimension puts some of the more β€œout there” visuals from the Thor films to shame. This is one of the few films that I would really recommend you see in 3D if possible.

Like many of the prior MCU films, this movie’s villain, Kaecilius, is not developed very deeply. Yes, he has his motivations, but they are as basic as many of the other villains that have been seen so far. He is not the worst but he is far from the best.

I thought Doctor Strange was GREAT :-D. I was first wary about Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange but in normal Marvel Studio’s fashion, they proved they know what they are doing when it comes to casting. Although the film doesn’t shake up the superhero movie formula they have created too much, Doctor Strange is very entertaining, finding itself as one of the better films of the MCU.

Trivia
In the comics, the Ancient One is an old man; in this film, the Ancient One is played by a woman. This was a deliberate decision as Scott Derrickson felt the Ancient One was a title rather than a person. -Via IMDB

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Scott Derrickson – Director / Writer
Jon Spaihts – Writer
C. Robert Cargill – Writer
Michael Giacchino – Composer

Benedict Cumberbatch – Dr. Stephen Strange
Tilda Swinton – The Ancient One
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Mordo
Benedict Wong – Wong
Mads Mikkelsen – Kaecilius
Rachel McAdams – Christine Palmer
Michael Stuhlbarg – Dr. Nicodemus West
Benjamin Bratt – Jonahtan Pangborn
Topo Wresniwiro – Hamir
Linda Louise Duan – Tina Minoru
Mark Anthony Brighton – Daniel Drumm

If you would like to join in on the group post I am putting together at the end of the month, you can find all the information here.