“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.”
– Peter Parker, Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Since 2016, actor Tom Holland as had the unenviable task of embodying Marvel Comics’s webhead Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s the third cinematic iteration of Spider-Man in recent times, but this round included being part of a larger Marvel cinematic design. Unlike prior cinematic Spider-Mans Tobey Maguire (Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy) and Andrew Garfield (Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man dyad), Holland’s performed the role in six films: Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers films Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019), and the Jon Watts-directed Homecoming trilogy. With the end of the latest adventure, No Way Home, Holland’s time as Spider-Man may be at its end, but it’s one which is deeply satisfying, a conclusion marking the end of the beginning and this Spider-Man’s first steps into proper herodom. Now available on home video, the explosive conclusion to Watts’s Homecoming series includes over 80 minutes of featurettes that pay tribute to the current cast and crew, as well as the legacy stories that came before in the now-discovered multiverse.
By the end of Peter Parker’s school trip adventure in Europe, a few things had occurred: he took several big steps out of the shadow of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), he stopped the calamitous technological takeover of Quentin Beck’s Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and MJ (Zendaya) not only knew the truth about him but became his girlfriend. Everything seemed to be coming up Parker until a broadcast from self-described journalist J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) not only suggested that Spider-Man had killed Beck via a remixed death-bed confession video, but unmasked the friendly neighborhood hero in the process. Threatened with his friends and family facing legal action at worse and a round of rejections from colleges at best, Peter goes to his sorcerer friend Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) asking for a mystical solution. Problem is, the duo didn’t work out the details before starting the spell and each correction Peter asks for makes the spell more and more unstable to the point that the walls between the multiverse start to crack and threats from other universes are pulled through, each with their own vendetta against Spider-Man.
While this is an initial review of the film for EoM, in order to discuss the bonus features properly, there will be details of the film discussed. Don’t read any further if you want to keep any of the secrets of the film until after you’ve watched the movie.
To properly articulate a reaction to No Way Home, the thoughts need to be separated into two distinct sections: No Way Home as a singular film and No Way Home as a capper to all the Spider-Man films before it.
As a singular film, No Way Home is inarguably thrilling. It starts on one hell of a cliffhanger (the unmasking of Spider-Man) and ends with a level of poignancy that the Watts films really hadn’t hit yet. One of the larger complaints about the MCU Spider-Man is how this version, while still young, goes on several Avengers-level missions with the support of strong Stark technology. Comic fans are used to the more underdog-style storytelling, the always just-behind hero who can’t seem to catch a break. What we don’t realize through the trilogy, which becomes apparent in No Way Home, is how much Peter has grown into his own over the course of his journey. Given how often the situations in the prior Homecoming films were often of Peter’s own making, No Way Home continues this by it being Peter’s own meddling, except this time he has far fewer resources to fall back on. Even more so, by its end, Peter is literally on his own. It’s bittersweet in that he’s mentally and emotionally ready to be the hero he thought he was in Homecoming (2017) and lacked the confidence to be in Far From Home (2019), except he’s lost his entire support system in the process. Yet, the final shot of the film is of Spider-Man swinging through New York during the holiday season, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree alight underneath him. He has entered a literal season which is both the darkest period of the year and viewed as the beginning of a rebirth. Peter is not down for good, despite having lost his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), his girlfriend, his aunt, May (Marisa Tomei), and his handler, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Everything in between the first and final moments serves this arc, offering this Peter the hardest challenge in his short-lived career, not just because he makes a reality-shattering mistake, but because of the choices he must make to make amends. When we first meet Peter, he’s a vigilante with zero training or oversight, swinging through the streets in a make-shift costume with only one idea to guide him: if he has abilities and chooses not to use them, it’s his fault that the bad things happen. This is a lot of pressure to put on someone, yet it’s the defining characteristic of Peter Parker to be selfless to the point of personal dissolution, to give up all things to prevent an ounce of pain on his friends, loved ones, and any other citizen of New York. No Way Home as a title illustrates that this final tale is a point of no return for Peter and the script by returning MCU Spider-Man Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers pushes this notion entirely to Peter’s breaking point.
To discuss that in more detail, we need to explore what No Way Home means to the larger story of cinematic Spider-Man lore.
No Way Home offers many equally joyous and painful moments, which audiences will understand completely as long as they have seen the prior two Homecoming films. It’s easy to understand the stakes for Peter quickly, to understand his longing to reduce the pain of his loved-ones, and to understand that it’s Peter’s immaturity that constantly causes the issues he faces. But to truly get the impact of the ending, to truly understand why what occurs in the film matters, one needs to have seen the Rami and Webb films. The script does a solid job of peppering in enough dialogue — expository and natural — for MCU audiences to follow the individual arcs and stakes for the various villains brought from their respective universes, not to mention the return of both Maguire and Garfield, so that their inclusion isn’t just for call-backs sake. Rather, the inclusion of these alt-film characters enables No Way Home to take advantage of the loose threads from those films and use them as narrative fodder for Holland’s Peter. These villains — Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), Dr. Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), Flint Marko (Thomas Church), Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) — represent various failures on the parts of Maguire’s and Garfield’s Peters. Failures to give them help, failures to prevent them from hurting others, failures to offer them the kind of restoration they all deserve as victims of either accidents or hubris. They are like Holland’s Peter, too proud to admit they made mistakes, too unwilling to make a different choice. Bringing in these characters and their respective Spider-Mans doesn’t just provide a chance for audiences to see Maguire and Garfield don the unitard once more (which it does and damn if Garfield isn’t just a charming scene-stealer), but it provides Holland’s Peter with the only guiding voice he has left: himself. Like specters of possible futures, these “brothers” are the only ones who can truly understand what it means to be the webhead. Only they can understand his pain, his loneliness, and his rage. That the final confrontation ends with saving each of the villains, curing them of what made them corrupted, is not remarkable (it is an MCU film after all), but that it comes moments after Holland’s Peter clutched Osborn’s glider and swung it to impale its rider, the man who killed Aunt May, an act stopped by Maguire’s Peter, wordlessly staring at Holland’s Peter as the two control opposite sides of the glider. Fans of the Rami films can see the irony in Osborn getting killed by his glider in an act of vengeance from Holland’s Peter, which makes it all the more important that it’s Maguire’s Peter who stops him. We, as an audience, can imagine the many times Maguire’s Peter replayed the moment in his mind, trying to figure out what he could have done differently than just flipping out of the way. This is that moment. The script offers Garfield’s Peter his own moment of healing, a moment that feels like an undoing of losing his girlfriend, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). These moments are rich and emotional, their weight felt through the execution of both script and performance. But there’s no denying that all of these wonderful things, no matter how well they suit the exploration of theme in the film, are enhanced by already possessing a relationship with the prior films.
In my case, watching No Way Home at-home is the first time I was able to see the total film, start to finish. Despite the Internet posting photos confirming speculated theories on various social media channels, YouTubers using spoiler-filled images as thumbnails, and even enthusiastic fans posting videos of whole scenes just about everywhere, No Way Home remains a deeply satisfying conclusion to the Homecoming trilogy, as well as to all the cinematic Spider-Man films. I don’t know if knowing the details of the film means that there’s no shock to experience at the various twists and turns the narrative takes, enabling me to just watch the film for evaluation purposes or if all the surprises being knocked means I lost some of what Watts and the screenwriters intended, but I found myself in tears at multiple points, so I don’t think it was totally ruined. Just mostly.
Whether this is your first time seeing No Way Home or your millionth (the film has grossed over $1.8 billion worldwide), the bonus features included with the home release offer a deep dive into the creation, characters, and actors in front of and behind the screen. The good news is that none of the featurettes, each averaging around six minutes in length, skimp on the things you’ll want to know. You get information from each of the principles on aspects of the character arcs, direction, script, action design, and more. Through it all, you get the sense of pride each team member has in their work, while also learning a bit about the process of filmmaking. Because the film is quite stunt heavy, it’s fantastic that the featurettes offer opportunities for audiences to learn more about the design processing before shooting (from concept to pre-vis), as well as the on-set process of execution from the mouths of the stunt team: second unit director George Cottle (TeneT) and fight coordinator Jackson Spidell (John Wick). One thing is for certain from the included materials: there’s a great deal of admiration shared between the current and legacy casts for what No Way Home sought to accomplish. Personally, though not an avid Spider-Man fan, I think what brought the most joy was the easter egg featurette that offers a guide through some of the most prominent of little nods hidden throughout the film.
The bad news (though this is very much a matter of perspective) is you can see just how much blue screen was used to make the film. Considering how far the Spider-Man films have come, it’s a little disheartening to realize just how much of No Way Home is computer-generated. Though, between COVID-19 requiring adjustments be made and the level of protections the crew had to take to keep many of the secrets (which weren’t secrets at all) until the release of the film, this may have been a specific choice rather than a shift in filmmaking for blockbusters.
Be advised that the DVD only includes two featurettes, so if you want all the details, you have to pick up the digital, Blu-ray, or 4K UHD editions. Also worth noting, the retailer will determine your options of cover art (ex. Wal-Mart has an exclusive cover and Best Buy has the steelbook). So, if you’re not retailer-loyal, shop around a bit to make sure you get the design that’ll make you the happiest when going the physical media route.
There’s no official word as to whether No Way Home is Holland’s final outing as Peter or not. The actor has played the role six times already and deserves to move on to other things, especially as the MCU is trying to redefine itself post-Endgame. Is there room for Spider-Man in the new MCU filled with cosmic narratives like Shang-Chi (2021) and Eternals (2021)? Of course. But there’s no need to rush into it now. Let the character grow off-screen, allow Holland to mature personally and professionally, and then come back (should the story warrant it). For now, though, Watts, Holland, Zendaya, Batalon, and the rest deserve a rest. If we want to see them again, we have the Homecoming trilogy to enjoy at our fingertips.
Until next time, true believers. Excelsior!
Spider-Man: No Way Home Special Features:
4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and Digital
- Bloopers & Gag Reel (4:02)
- Alternate Reality Easter Eggs (4:42)
- Seven (7) Behind the Scenes Featurettes
- Action Choreography Across the Multiverse (6:26)
- A Multiverse of Miscreants (6:39)
- A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland (6:16)
- Enter Strange (5:05)
- Graduation Day (7:07)
- Realities Collide, Spiders Unite (8:10)
- Weaving Jon Watt’s Web (7:19)
- Two (2) Special Panels:
- The Sinister Summit – Villains Panel: Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Foxx sit down for a roundtable discussion of their sinister characters. (8:44)
- A Meeting of the Spiders – Heroes Panel: The Heroic Spider heroes sit down for a roundtable discussion on Peter, Stunts, and skintight suits. (7:24)
- Three (3) stories From The Daily Bugle (4:14)
- Spider-Menace Strikes Again (1:15)
- Spider Sycophant (1:41)
- Web of Lies (1:18)
- Two (2) Stunt Scenes Previsualization (3:31)
- Apartment Fight (1:46)
- Shield Fight (1:49)
Two (2) Behind the Scenes Featurettes
- A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland (6:16)
- Graduation Day (7:07)
Three (3) Theatrical Marketing Materials (4:18)
- Tom & Jacob Lie Detector (1:59)
- Tom’s Press Tour (1:04)
- Georgia Promo (1:15)
Available on digital March 22nd, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD April 12th, 2022.
For more information, head to Sony’s official Spider-Man: No Way Home website.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.