The films coming out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past year have been OK, but not great. The third film in the Jon Watts-directed Spider-Man trilogy remedies that situation with "Spider-Man: No Way Home."
The film picks up where 2019's "Far From Home" left off with vanquished villain Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), spilling the beans about Spider-Man's identity and accusing him of numerous crimes. Now Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) seems to be the most hated superhero, egged on by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, who was born to play the cynical character), who has morphed from the editor of the Daily Bugle of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films to the star of his own show, giving voice to everyone and everything that is opposed to Spider-Man.
More importantly, though, is how all this negative publicity effects Peter and those closest to him. The media is camped outside his Aunt May's (Marissa Tomei) apartment building. Best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), and girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), have been denied admission to MIT due to their association with the webslinger.
Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon in "Spider-Man: No Way Home." © 2021 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
With the naiveté of a teenager (after all, Peter's still a high school senior), Peter seeks to fix the problem by calling on his magical pal, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He wants people to forget he's Spider-Man but Strange's spell gets botched when Peter realizes that there should be a few exceptions to the general amnesia regarding his alter-ego.
The magic-gone-haywire sucks characters from the "multiverse" into this one and now Peter has to deal with new/old villains (well, new to anyone who hasn't seen the Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films and old if you have). The trailer shows that Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), and Electro (Jamie Foxx), at least, make an appearance.
Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, and Alfred Molina in "Spider-Man: No Way Home." © 2021 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Strange is ready to zap them all back to where they belong but what happens next is what sets this film apart from all the others that have been made over the past two decades. I don't want to give out any spoilers but just be ready to be astounded by your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He's growing up to be an amazing human being.
Tom Holland gives one of the best performances of his life as his Peter Parker learns to deal with grittier subject matter, with the consequences of his choices as well as makes decisions that call for an amount of maturity well beyond his years. Experience is showing him that life is complicated and made up of joys and sorrows.
Tom Holland and Benedict Cumberbatch in "Spider-Man: No Way Home." © 2021 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Audience members of faith will be pleased to see the treatment that the value of every human life receives, even the lives of those who have done terrible things.
Of all the things I could have thought of while watching "Spider-Man: No Way Home," the Catholic Church's teaching against capital punishment came to my mind. The Church opposes the death penalty because of the inherent dignity of every human person and the belief that everyone deserves a shot at redemption. It seems like Spider-man, as penned by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, believes that, too. No one of us is perfect and we've all done things that deserve some degree of punishment. It takes a special kind of person to see beyond another's wrongs to the dignity they have as people (and children of God) and offer them a second chance. If a Marvel movie can show us that kind of person, the kind who wields their great power responsibly, then I believe we're better off for that story.