The forced closure of theaters two years ago changed the way we watch movies. The last film we saw on the traditional big screen was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in December 2019. The government’s decision to shutter the movie theaters led me to the conclusion that for the price of two tickets and a bucket of popcorn, we can own the Blu-Ray for infinite replays on our widescreen TV and a box of microwave popcorn.
So these days if there’s a movie I really want to see before it hits Netflix/Prime/Whatever, I buy it as soon as it’s available. It means not sharing the collective experience until three or four months later, but so be it.
And so it was that I watched “the greatest Marvel movie ever” for the first time on Wednesday morning, trying to imagine the impact in the theater when Andrew Garfield and then Tobey Maguire show up playing Peter Parker, not to mention the joy of seeing Alfred Molina reprise my favorite comic-book movie villain, Doctor Octopus, and Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin again, and all the rest of the Sinister Six Minus One.
It was almost as good as I thought it would be. I always love Tom Holland and Zendaya as Peter and MJ; I think they have the best chemistry of the various permutations of Peter Parker in love, and back in Homecoming I was rooting for him to fall for Michelle even before that magical moment when she said, “Call me MJ.” I was truly moved by the scene when Garfield-Spidey rescues MJ and gets some redemption for failing to save his Gwen.
I had managed to avoid spoilers enough to be surprised by Aunt May’s fate and impressed by the way they wove Uncle Ben’s famous words into the story: “With great power comes great responsibility.” In fact, I was impressed by the way they wove all eight Spider-Man movies into one multi-dimensional reality.
I have a bone to pick with the resolution of the movie’s central issue, Peter wanting the world to forget that he is Spider-Man. The matter is resolved by having the world forget Peter Parker altogether, which is vastly different from what he and Dr. Strange were attempting early on. That’s what keeps me from agreeing with the critic who declared Spider-Man: No Way Home the best Marvel movie ever.
It’s pretty close to the top, though. For what it’s worth, it didn’t quite knock Spider-Man 2 off my personal favorite Spidey film list, although with Molina in the cast and just as wonderful as the first time, it had a fair shot.
Spider-Man has been a part of my life for almost 60 years now (Good grief, that makes me sound old), so I care about these characters like old friends. I appreciate the way the recent films have reinvented the Spider-Man mythos while remaining true to the spirit of the original books. And this one is easily the best of the post-Endgame Marvel efforts.
(The post-credit scenes have lost their charm, though. The second one especially felt more like a trailer for next month’s Doctor Strange movie.)