This article contains spoilers
Spider-Man: No Way Home is an entertaining web-slinging adventure that ties up loose ends, say critics.
The franchise’s ninth solo film since 2002 sees Tom Holland return as the third iteration of Peter Parker.
Set in the Marvel Universe, it attempts to unite the Holland era with the previous Spidey-worlds of predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
Variety said director Jon Watts “wrangles the unwieldy premise into a consistently entertaining” blockbuster.
Its writer Peter Debruge praised how the multiverse plot is used to “more fully explore what Peter Parker stands for”.
The film follows on from 2019’s Far From Home, in which the villainous Mysterio unmasked Parker before dying.
Now fearing for his family and friends with his identity revealed, Parker calls on Marvel’s Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, to cast a spell that will reapply his anonymity.
But the plan goes wrong, instead opening a portal to parallel worlds, forcing Holland’s Parker to not only face old enemies but also meet his alternative selves.
The return of Garfield and Maguire has been the subject of fevered speculation and anticipation – and repeated denials from those involved. But few people believed them.
Debruge said the former Spider-Men do return with aplomb. The storyline also sees Holland deliver his best performance to date – with his character afforded more depth by being shown struggling to deal with his part in Mysterio’s death, he said.
The focus on consequence “seems perfectly fitting for a movie that targets a fresh wave of idealistic teens very much engaged with questioning everything Western civilisation thought it knew about crime and punishment, power and privilege”, he wrote.
“It’s fascinating to encounter an escapist Hollywood offering that seeks to understand the root of these characters’ megalomaniacal behaviour.”
‘Greatest hits box set’
IGN’s reviewer Amelia Emberwing similarly said the “emotional impact” gave the movie “a new depth that was never explored in previous Spider-Man films”.
Its success, she said, is not only down to Holland’s turn, but is also built around the performances of returning foes, from Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin to Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock and Jamie Foxx’s Electro.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home hits all the right notes as the MCU’s latest entry. Its impact on the universe as a whole, as well as the overall emotional beats, all feel earned,” she concluded.
But the Culture Mix suggested the film would be best enjoyed by die-hard Spidey fans.
“Just like an artist’s greatest-hits box set for fans who already own every album by the artist, Spider-Man: No Way Home is best appreciated by people who’ve already seen all the previous Spider-Man movies,” wrote Carla Hay.
“It’s filled with [nostalgia and] insider jokes”.
The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee appreciated the ambition of the film in his three-star review, calling it “a propulsive, slickly choreographed adventure”, but said it only offered “scattered fun”.
He said that while Watts had done a “pretty good job” of bringing worlds together, there was a loss “of the breezy teen movie vibe of the first two offerings”, a “sacrifice that comes with a grander stage”.
The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski said the film finishes on a positive note, describing the ending as “bold”.
“You’ll have never left a Marvel film with so much uncertainty as to what comes next,” he said. “In the best possible way, it feels like the director is saying, ‘Try getting rid of me now, suckers!’
“It’s true that some of the reunion banter between the baddies is forced, and Peter’s choices in the lead-up can be quizzical.
“But if, like me, you were 12 when you saw 2002’s Spider-Man… you’ll be thankful you have a dumb mask to conceal your ugly emotional face when the credits roll.”