Review | ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is nostalgia at its best

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Sony Pictures website screenshot

Zendaya, left, playing Michelle “MJ” Jones, jumps with Tom Holland, right, playing Spider-Man in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

By Diana Velasquez, Culture Editor

Andrew Garfield had been lying to us.

Every time the actor was asked if he would appear in the new Spider-Man film, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” returning as his own version of Peter Parker from the “Amazing Spider-Man” movies opposite Tom Holland’s, he vehemently denied it.

The internet wasn’t very convinced by his protests. But that didn’t make his appearance in the movie, along with one by Tobey Maguire, any less satisfying.

For the first time ever in a live-action movie, we got to see a multiverse of Spider-Men in one place. All of them from a series of films we know and love.

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There is a part of me that wishes “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had come out in an age before the internet, without an incessant buzz egging on its release. I wonder how we all would have reacted to the movie, with little to no knowledge of its contents prior to its release.

That goes to say that “No Way Home” brought a lot to the table, and what a feast it was.

The film picks up right after the previous Spider-Man film, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” where Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) had revealed Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) identity to the world — and not in a positive light. Parker is interrogated along with his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya), and they find themselves under the scrutiny of the public sphere.

Because of their association with Parker, Ned and MJ are rejected from all the colleges they applied to. Determined to fix it, Peter goes to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to make the world forget that he’s Spider-Man. But the spell goes awry, and instead opens up the multiverse.

It’s bad news for Parker, but great news for us. Now that the multiverse is open, and some real-world acting contracts have no doubt been renewed, Holland’s Parker is set to fight Spider-Man villains from previous movies outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) come from Maguire’s films, and Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans) come from Garfield’s films.

But Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios spared no expense, and of course, brought back each film series’ respective Spider-Man as well.

“No Way Home” throws comic and film nostalgia at you about every three seconds, but it’s not overwhelming — they haven’t brought back these characters just for the sake of doing it. They’ve brought them back in a way that builds on their characters and even offers some long-deserved redemption.

It’s worth noting that out of all the actors to play Spider-Man, it’s Garfield who didn’t receive a conclusion to his trilogy. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was his last film, which received mixed reviews from critics and is the lowest-grossing Spider-Man movie to date.

Sony Pictures, who owns the rights to Spider-Man, originally planned to spin off Garfield’s series into more movies with the actor, featuring Venom and other iconic Spider-Man villains like the Sinister Six.

Sony and Garfield butted heads over a few things, souring the relationship. He reportedly refused to attend certain press junkets during the promotion tour for the films and disagreed with Sony and the film writers about Parker’s character direction.

In a 2013 interview, Garfield spoke candidly about how he wished that Parker could explore his sexuality — particularly that Spider-Man could be bisexual. According to Garfield, Sony put him under intense pressure to retract those comments, adding to their already strained relationship.

So when Feige offered to take Spider-Man into the MCU, whose wealth and notoriety seemed only to increase by the year, Sony jumped at the chance to share profit on Spider-Man. Thus, Garfield was booted out and Holland was brought in.

After such a bitter ending for Garfield, who really seems to love the character, seeing him again on the big screen in his suit was one of the best parts of the new film.

Garfield mentioned in an interview with Variety that he even ad-libbed one of the sweetest scenes in the movie. Before going off to fight their respective baddies, Garfield’s Spider-Man, referred to as Peter No. 3, stops the other two Peters to tell them that he loves them, and despite being thrown together by the unstable multiverse has been an experience he wouldn’t forget.

I imagine that’s how Garfield felt returning to the role.

As for Holland’s Spider-Man, his journey has come to a tentative end. The MCU has plans to include Holland in future Spider-Man films, but the actor has made it clear that he’s happy to take a step back now that his trilogy is complete, and allow other actors to take on the role.

This film may very well be his last Spider-Man film, and should that be true, I’d say it’s wrapped up his character arc very well.

It’s as if Holland’s trilogy was his origin story, rather than the one shoo-in film we usually get for each superhero. We’re so used to that typical formula — a superhero gets their supernatural power, figures out how to live with it and adjusts their relationships accordingly, defeats some villain and lives happily ever after.

Holland’s Spider-Man has had quite a different journey. He was introduced to us not in a solo film of his own, but as a cameo character in “Captain America: Civil War,” where he was recruited for team Iron Man at the last minute by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

“No Way Home” perfectly reflects where Parker rests now — a superhero who can go hand to hand with the bigger universal threats, but will also have New York City in his heart.

Only now, he has to go at it alone. After sending the villains and the Peters back to their own universes with the completion of Doctor Strange’s spell, Peter’s initial wish has come true. 

No one in the world knows who Spider-Man is. Not Ned or MJ and, with Aunt May dead, there’s no one in the world he can turn to.

Peter had gained brothers and lost friends, and now might be the loneliest person in the MCU. But sad as it may be, never let it be said that Parker is one to give up easily. 

He still has his suit, his powers and the dogged determination that earned him a spot shoulder to shoulder with Earth’s mightiest heroes. No matter where he goes — back to fight big purple aliens or take a crack at college — he’ll always be our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.