By Sam Bennett
As everyone knows, the third installment in the MCU’s Spider-Man trilogy came out recently to rave reviews and over a billion at the box office. Though late, I wanted to take a look back on this movie, as well as the rest in this trilogy of films.
Tom Holland’s rendition of Spider-Man enters with a movie gushing with fun and heart. After the pre-title screen setting up our villain, Vulture, the movie begins with a little recap, home-movie style, narrated by Peter Parker. This inclusion, besides reminding the audience of how Peter entered the MCU in Civil War and his relationship with Iron Man and Happy Hogan, serves as an entrance into the pit of charisma that this character oozes. From his faux hard New Yorker accent to his excited, giddy narration of the fighting, to his little misunderstanding and hug of Tony Stark as he is about to leave the car, Tom Holland immediately gives an insane likeability and charm to Peter that is necessary to this character. After all, he is the friendly-neighborhood Spider-Man, so he has to be, well, friendly and likeable. Our next introduction is into Peter’s life as a high school student. And we see that he is a bit of a nerd, even in a high school full of nerds. He builds Legos with his best friend, is part of the Academic Decathlon, and is called names and made fun of by a school bully. All of these serve to further develop Peter into the underdog, and perfectly set him up as the Spider-Man fans are familiar with.
As the movie continues, we see him do more Spider-Man antics, helping out people, messing up a little bit, showing that he really doesn’t have everything figured out, and is still learning. He overextends himself at times, tries to deal with situations on his own that could be handled easier by others, all in an effort to kind of show himself worthy of Tony Stark. After all, this is a coming-of-age story, a high school comedy that happens to have Spider-Man and superheroes in it. He tries to stop the Vulture on his own and tries to investigate things that he should probably be leaving to other people. He makes mistakes that are just enhanced because he’s a superhero.
We also see that his Spider-Man business is getting in the way of his life. As it’s a high school story centered around Homecoming, Peter Parker has a crush on this senior girl, Liz, but it seems like every time he could spend time with her and the rest of his classmates, duty calls, and he has to go after the villain. This is another classic trait of Spider-Man. He has to give up what he wants to do for the greater good. It’s his responsibility to do so, and that is what makes him great. A hero that the audience will always root for.
The conclusion of the movie is with Peter finding out that Liz’s father is the Vulture, and though he really wants to stay at the dance with Liz, he has to rush off to stop her father from stealing from a plane containing a bunch of dangerous Avengers-related items. He eventually succeeds with the help of Ned, and without the help of Happy or Tony Stark. And in the end, instead of letting the Vulture die after his suit explodes, he saves him. Risks his life to go into the fire and pull him out. Because that is the mark of Spider-Man. No matter what, he is going to do everything he can to save lives, even if those lives were of those who tried to kill him.
Besides the plot, there are so many great elements in this movie. First and foremost, as I mentioned before, Tom Holland really is the quintessential Peter Parker. Every mannerism, his awkwardness, his quipping is phenomenal. I also thought it was a great choice to have Tony Stark be a father figure to Peter, though used sparingly. Spider-Man is constantly messing up in his attempts to prove himself, not wanting to seek help, and Tony serves as the disapproving dad that wants to teach Peter a lesson and tells him that if he’s nothing without his Spider-Man suit, he shouldn’t have it. And through this lesson, Peter is able to realize that he isn’t just the technology, the powers that being Iron Man’s sidekick brings him, he is the heart, the soul, the strength inside himself.
Other characters that stick out as being favorites and great additions to the movie are Ned, Peter’s best friend, and comic relief, who is great every time he’s on-screen, and the Vulture, played by the great Michael Keaton. And let me say, Keaton perfectly portrays this flawed character, one who has been wronged by the system and is kind of just a simple man trying to make his way in the world, though in a way that is wrong. He doesn’t want to harm Peter, but will if he gets in his way in order to protect his business. He feels like a real, believable person, a villain that we can empathize with and understand his point of view.
Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a near-perfect beginning to this Spider-Man trilogy. It’s a great, fun Spider-Man story and a fantastic teen high school comedy.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Now this Spider-Man installment is one that I remember not really having the fondest view on when I first saw it. I must have been going insane because this movie is really freaking good.
The beginning of this movie deals with the events of Avengers Endgame, and the five-year time jump that the characters go through. And it does so brilliantly, not with the somberness of Endgame but with the comedy and levity that would be expected after the previous Spider-Man movie. However, one thing that is not really treated with comedy is Peter Parker’s feeling of aloneness now that Tony Stark is gone. And this is a theme that we see throughout the rest of the movie.
Far From Home continues the high school comedy environment with a school trip to Europe, where Peter hopes to have some alone time with his friends and MJ, leaving his responsibilities as Spider-Man at home in Queens. But, of course, duty calls, and Nick Fury enlists Peter to help him with these elemental monsters that are attacking the world, along with the help of a new character that is believed to be a hero from another dimension, Mysterio. So, Peter is back to trying to balance the trip with Spider-Man. And we see how much this is taking a toll on him, how difficult he is finding it, leaving his friends and his hopes at a relationship with MJ to go off and help save the world. Along with this, he is experiencing doubts about his own abilities, as Tony Stark left him these glasses that allow him to control technology and make the next Iron Man. But it’s clear that this is not what Peter wants. He wants to live a normal life, but is unable to. This is where Mysterio comes in. He offers Peter an out, another person that seems more experienced, and gains his trust through talking to Peter about how he understands what it’s like to want to be normal, spend time with the people you like. So, Peter eventually gives him the Stark glasses, which turns out to be a mistake, as Peter soon learns with MJ as they find a hologram device used by Mysterio.
And this leads to the eventual final battle, in which besides having to stop Mysterio for himself, he has to stop him to save his friends, without any help. Unlike the last movie, where the main villain really didn’t want to kill anyone, including Peter, Mysterio sees Peter and his friends as obstacles in his quest, and these obstacles must be eliminated. Eventually, Peter succeeds, and Mysterio inadvertently gets himself shot by a Stark drone, and is killed.
This second installment contains all of the great comedy and writing that is present in the first movie. Ned is great, the teachers that are on the trip are as funny as ever. Tom Holland once again cements himself as the perfect Spider-Man. But there are a few additions in this movie that make it even better. First is Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio. He perfectly plays this egotistical, manipulative maniac that tricks Peter and sees no problem killing people on his path to glory. The one thing that I think could have been better is his backstory, which was simply that he got fired by Tony Stark. Though it is an interesting concept to see the people that Stark has wronged coming back to fight his successor, I thought there could have been a more interesting and overall better way to go about it. Next, the chemistry between Holland and Zendaya in this film is insanely good. They play off each other perfectly, both being the kind of socially awkward nerdy teenagers that don’t exactly know how to talk to each other.
A couple of slight issues that I had with the film were the fight scenes and scenes with the elementals, which for some reason felt a bit rushed and out of place, never feeling like a true “Avengers level threat” as the movie makes them out to be. And after these fights, Peter seems to give up the glasses a bit too quickly. Now I get that he is being impulsive and not thinking through it perfectly because he’s a kid, but I thought a little more was needed given how brilliant he is shown to be throughout the rest of the movie. Along with this, I found it a bit odd that Peter did not try a little harder to save Mysterio. I get that this was a necessary death to set up the next movie, and he did technically kill himself, but I think it would have been more appropriate and more on character for Peter to do everything he could to save him, even if he died in the end, showing that it’s not always possible to save everyone, but Spider-Man will always try his best.
Even with these slight flaws, Spider-Man: Far From Home is another great installment in Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The finale of this trilogy promised a lot, and it delivered on everything and much, much more.
No Way Home begins with the world finding out Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and follows the difficulties that come with it, as Peter has legal troubles (featuring the crowd-pleasing appearance of Daredevil), has to move to a safer living arrangement, and most importantly, gets himself, Ned, and MJ rejected from MIT because of their attachment to Spider-Man. Because of this, Peter asks Dr. Strange to make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man, but in the middle of the spell, asks that some people remember, interrupting the spell and messing it up.
After this, it is revealed that some villains have come from other dimensions in the Multiverse and Peter has to track them down and capture them. He first meets Doc Ock, beginning a mini-quest to capture all these villains before they do too much damage. All of the villains are from previous Spider-Man movies and are reprised by the same actors, even those from nearly two decades ago. Dr. Strangle means to send them all back to their universes, but Peter realizes that all the villains are going to die if they get sent back, so he decides to fight Strange and imprison him in the mirror dimension to try to heal the villains so they have a chance at surviving when they eventually do get sent back.
This marks the end of the first act, and I want to talk about the good things and issues that I have had with the movie so far. Firstly, I think that having one of the main catalysts for the story being Peter feeling bad his friends didn’t get into college is genius. As these are high school movies, tapping into one of the biggest shared fears that the audience has felt in high school was an amazing choice. What wasn’t as great was his asking of Dr. Strange, and Strange’s obligation without warning Peter of what the consequences could be if he messed with the spell. They both seem to have not completely thought things through, and while Peter’s ignorance can be glossed over a bit, this seems completely out of character for Strange, who in previous movies has made decisions only after thinking through every possible outcome and considering the greater good over one person. Another great part of the first act is Peter’s interactions with MJ and Ned. The three once again have perfect chemistry and are fun and perfectly awkward together, bringing some much-needed levity and fun into the movie. I thought the villains’ introductions were pretty much all great, especially Doc Ock’s, giving Peter both the chance to fight a villain and save civilians. But I thought possibly the best was the Green Goblin’s, as Norman Osborn is presented as a tortured, broken man whose life has been torn apart by the Goblin’s presence in his mind. But I’m going to discuss the villains in greater detail later, especially Doc Ock’s and the Green Goblin’s.
The next part of the movie is Peter and the villains, along with Aunt May, going to Happy Hogan’s apartment to try to heal the villains. After successfully healing Doc Ock, and beginning to do so with Electro, everything goes wrong as the Green Goblin overtakes Norman Osborn, tells Electro and the rest of the villains that what they have are gifts, not some sickness to be cured, and attacks Spider-Man and Aunt May. In the most heartbreaking scene in the movie, and possibly in the entire MCU, Peter is unable to save Aunt May, whose last lines are that with great power comes great responsibility. And unlike with many Marvel movies, the movie allows this to linger. We see Peter break down, shout for help, unable to save the one person that has been with him through everything. Happy sees Peter over May’s body, screams at him to run as police open fire on Peter. We see MJ and Ned watching the news, down not only because they knew May and what she stood for, but just knowing that Peter is now alone, more than he has ever been. And all these feelings, shots are allowed to stay, and expertly crafted scene that brings out the emotions of everyone in the audience.
Moving on from this tragedy, this is where Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire enter, to every fan’s great excitement, reprising their roles after years. And before moving on, I just wanted to mention how amazing this is, a great cinematic success. After all these years, these actors are able to come back to roles that either defined their careers in Maguire’s case or they were unable to complete in Garfield’s. But after entering, they along with Ned and MJ go to console Peter. After initially saying that they don’t understand, the other Spider-Men demonstrate that they do, as Garfield tells Peter about how he lost his MJ, and Maguire tells about how he lost Uncle Ben, and how they both felt responsible, unable to save the people they loved. And the emotions continue to run. Peter then goes to try to send them back to their worlds, along with the villains, saying that he is done, but MJ doesn’t allow him to. Peter is once again reminded that no matter the cost, he has a responsibility to help the villains and that revenge isn’t the answer, it’s not going to bring May back or make him feel better.
So, they go on to make antidotes for the villains, playing off each other and sharing stories and quips in one of the most enjoyable and entertaining scenes in the film. Then going into the final battle, each villain is progressively healed with the involvement of every Spider-Man, Ned, MJ, and the return of Doc Ock, this time as a hero. And during this fight, each previous Spider-Man gets their own moment, as Tobey Maguire and Doc Ock share a moment together, Doc Ock (now back to being Otto Octavius) asks Maguire how he’s been, to which he responds that he’s trying to do better, calling back to the movie made nearly two decades ago. And in another very emotional scene, Garfield saves MJ from falling and breaks down as he brings her to the ground, doing what he was unable to with Gwen Stacy.
The one person that hasn’t been healed yet is the Green Goblin, the main villain, the killer of Aunt May. And when he comes in, he destroys the box that has been keeping Dr. Strange’s spell together, and the Multiverse splits open, countless villains coming through, anyone that knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But, while this is happening, Peter still has to defeat Green Goblin, and we see as he is losing control beating the Goblin ruthlessly, vengeance and hatred in his eyes. But as he is about to kill Green Goblin, Maguire swoops in to stop him, nonverbally reminding him that while this is the monster responsible for May’s death, killing him is not the answer. After healing him, Peter returns to Dr. Strange and realizes what must be done. Everyone in the world must forget Peter Parker. He returns to the ground to say goodbye to MJ and Ned in yet another tearful scene, promising to find them later. But, in the end, he decides not to, giving up his previous life entirely to protect those he loves. And that is the mark of Spider-Man. He gives it all up, loses everything, to keep them safe. He heals every villain because with great power comes great responsibility.
Almost everything in these final two acts is perfection. Tom Holland, throughout the film, provides his best performance by a mile, and he was great in the previous two films. Zendaya feels like a true addition, flexing her acting chops in her emotional scenes with Holland. Maguire is phenomenal, and Garfield stands out as being amazing, especially compared to his time in The Amazing Spider-Man films. Alfred Molina is perfect in his reprisal of Doc Ock. But, possibly none were as great as Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin. He is so menacing, so evil, every line delivered with a punch and a style that most actors would only dream of.
This final movie in the trilogy is the best live-action Spider-Man movie ever made, and I would argue possibly the best movie in the MCU. The acting is amazing, the fights are incredible, but most importantly, the characters and emotions are greater and more impactful than they have ever been in Marvel. This is one of the only Marvel movies that stuck with me, made me think after watching it. While the movie had a few minor flaws, it easily made up for it with everything else that was complete perfection and was the best end to this Spider-Man trilogy that any fan could have wished for.