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By Megan Bianco

Jon Watts’ third Spider-Man flick, No Way Home, truly proves the power of nostalgia. Movies like this should not be this good. The whole concept of bringing all sorts of characters from previous Spider-Man franchises into one feature is the exact recipe for mediocre, live-action fanfiction.

But, shockingly, everyone involved pulled it off. With Tom Holland’s Spidey up against all the superhero’s villains in one film, No Way Home takes meta to a whole new level.

After his true identity is publicly exposed by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) from Watts’ Far from Home (2019), Peter Parker/Spider-Man is now challenged with saving New York, as well as making sure his friends and family aren’t affected by their affiliation with him.

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios

Peter’s solution is to ask his superhero colleague, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to erase the public’s knowledge of him as Spider-Man from their memories.

But when he asks Strange to make exceptions for his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), the wizard’s spell becomes overwhelmed, and instead causes multiple universes to be exposed to each other.

Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock and Jamie Foxx’s Electro are some of the villains who return and make their MCU debut in No Way Home. While one would naturally assume characters from multiple series with different tones and direction might be jarring and out of place in one picture, Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers somehow make it work with movie magic.

All of the callbacks, crossovers and hypothetical fan service fit into the plot and feel natural. Holland hits all the notes emotionally for Peter in hero mode, as well as in the more dramatic/personal moments; and his chemistry with Zendaya continues to grow, most likely aided by their real-life relationship.

Molina and Dafoe appear to be having fun revisiting their famous nemesis roles. Those who enjoyed Sony’s animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) will probably appreciate No Way Home; and those who are fans of any of the Spider-Man screen efforts will get a kick out of this variation.

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