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Two worlds diverged in a multiverse,
And neither could know a single choice
Had split their fates to so disperse,
One to grieve, the other rejoice,
But which was better, which was worse?

The first was practical and straight,
Made sense for me and claimed its spoils.
My life it did not complicate
But ruined others’ mortal coils,
Which one could easily blame on fate.

The second took a rougher course,
With heartache sighing “them’s the breaks.”
Others prospered, while remorse
Reminded me of those mistakes
That all accept but none endorse.

If I could see the consequence
From some perspective few attain,
The world that thrived at my expense
Is the only choice I’d entertain,
If I could make all the difference.
_________________________________

MPA rating: PG-13

I think it’s safe to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home is the biggest movie since Avengers: Endgame, in both box office totals and audience enthusiasm. After months of speculation and leaks (which I did my best to avoid), the third entry in Tom Holland’s MCU trilogy promised the franchise’s first real exploration of the multiverse and its infinite possibilities, and it thankfully delivered on the Christmas hopes and dreams of countless fans, me included.

Picking up right where Far from Home left off, with Mysterio posthumously revealing Spider-Man’s true identity, Peter Parker’s life is turned upside down with haters, fans, and consequences ruining his and his friends’ chances at a normal future. When he seeks the help of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), their attempt to overwrite the collective memory of Spider-Man’s identity instead tears a hole in the multiverse, allowing in familiar characters from past Spider-Man films. It becomes apparent to Peter that the interloping baddies, including Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), and Electro (Jamie Foxx) among others, are equally in need of saving as the people they threaten, and he must make some hard decisions to help everyone he can.

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With the walls of the multiverse being punched through, Spider-Man: No Way Home is also the biggest all-out geek-fest since Endgame while also being similarly engrossing but easier to absorb than the multiversal mashup of Into the Spider-Verse. I’ve read critical complaints over the rowdiness of audience members, but I thoroughly enjoyed my theater experience, with fanboys periodically whooping or cheering when awaited characters appeared or knowing references were dropped. Huge credit is due to the cast members returning from past movies, particularly Molina and Dafoe, who effortlessly channel their villainous personas as if it hasn’t been over fifteen years. And while I won’t outright spoil what is perhaps Hollywood’s best-kept open secret, I’ll just say that the film manages to grant closure to the two prior Spider-Man series in a satisfying way that only made me want even more.

One thing that No Way Home has in common with its Spider-predecessors is how its superhero must grapple with the weight of his own mistakes, and this film easily has the biggest stakes of Holland’s solo tenure in the MCU. Over the years, Spider-Man has had his fair share of tragedy, and I feel like the way he responds to it is a key part of what makes him such a universally appealing character. Here, Holland proves his selflessness in trying to assist villains who seemed beyond help in their prior appearances, his belief in second chances being tested to its limit. And through it all, Holland continues to be a wholly endearing Peter Parker with Zendaya’s MJ and Jacob Batalon’s Ned forming a tight group that I hope to see again in future movies. And anyone who wanted to see a Spider-Man/Dr. Strange fight will undoubtedly be satisfied.

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If I had to come up with a negative or two, I suppose my expectations were so high that I perhaps wish there had been even more multiverse-enabled cameos, like a glimpse into the aftermath of the other universes. Plus, as much as the film is concerned with handing out happy endings, it was a shame that one character ended up with the short end of the stick, for now at least. Even so, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a comic book movie nerd’s fantasy-come-true. It clearly depends on knowledge of the previous five Spider-Man films for full appreciation (and the mid-credits scene feels a bit shoehorned in), but No Way Home ranks among the best installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an enjoyable ride twenty years in the making.

Best line: (classic in every way) “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”

Rank:  List-Worthy (joining the previous Holland Spidey films)

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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