'Spider-Man: No Way Home' - Movie Review

"No Way Home" picks up seconds after the end of "Far From Home." The world knowing that "Peter Parker is Spiderman" ruins not only Peter's (Tom Holland) life, but those of his friends as well. Which fuels a sketchy decision by Peter to ask Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to manipulate time to prevent the reveal from happening. But Dr. Strange can't manipulate time anymore ... and here comes the first in a long series of very, very stupid decisions by both Dr. Strange and Peter/Spiderman, many of which are spectacularly hard to believe from two people who Marvel has always pushed to tell us are extremely intelligent. But these absurd decisions are our plot drivers. Strange offers to use magic to wipe the memory of Peter Parker from everyone in existence. Neither of them thinks this through and Strange just starts the spell - at which point Peter says "but wait! MJ has to remember me!" He keeps adding people until the spell gets out of control.

The consequences are bizarre, with Spiderman ending up fighting a rogue's gallery of bad guys from across the multiverse (this means "previous Spiderman movies"). Hauling in Alfred Molina as Doc Ock from a Tobey McGuire Spiderman movie was kind of brilliant ... although their logic for getting him there was utter shit.

The end result has a spectacularly silly plot, well written characters (except for the many poor decisions), too many characters, no time for introductions if you don't already know the entire Marvel mythology, and still too long a running time at two and a half hours. It's also fed my growing annoyance with Marvel about what do I know about these people when you can rewrite it with a spell, or time travel, or an Infinity Stone any damn time you want? And of course they kind of ripped off "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (which was better). Extremely frustrating.

SPOILERS AHEAD: STOP reading now if you haven't seen the movie and want to be surprised by the plot.

In the middle of the movie, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) dies. We were in the middle of a Dr. Strange spell: after "Infinity War" and "Endgame" I know dead people don't stay dead. I assumed that things would be reset and she would be alive again. The end result was there was no pathos, no drama in May's death for me because I have exactly zero trust in Marvel's writers. And of course their opening "the multiverse" like this means that even if a character dies in one universe, they can always be brought in from another (although they may not look exactly the same). Or we can have a different version of the same person appear from another timeline (witness Gamora). So ... how much pathos is there in a death when death has been proven to be transitory?

Remember I mentioned "very, very stupid decisions?" Peter has his entire rogue's gallery incarcerated in Strange's magical jail. But he decides he has to "save" them - very laudable. How about this: save them ONE AT A TIME. Let one out, fix the problem. But no: he lets out five of his most lethal enemies all at once on trust, what could possibly go wrong? Oh wait - yeah, Aunt May died.

Setting aside the incredibly poor decision-making that's the primary plot driver, the character writing is good. The villains all have at least some depth (ie. not just one-note evil), and the interactions between the three Peter Parkers (Andrew Garfield and Tobey McGuire both return) were both funny and surprisingly emotional.

One final complaint: the post-credits scene isn't so much a "scene" as simply a full-blown trailer for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." It's just more disjointed than most of the trailers, having most of the pieces but with less semblance of order. Marvel's post-credit teasers were more fun when they were just that: teasers.