spider-man

Spider-Man: No Way Home

First—and there are no spoilers in this review until I tell you there are going to be—it is just plain fun to watch a Marvel movie that doesn’t feel like a Disney/Marvel movie. The Disney/Marvel movies and TV shows are terrific. They’ve found their groove, and it’s a good one. It’s just also nice to experience something a little different when you go see a superhero movie. The Sony/Marvel movie feels like its own thing, thank goodness.

And now there will be the lightest of SPOILERS. Read on at your own risk.

And by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, you get the feeling Sony is eager to take the Tom Holland Spider-Man franchise in its own direction, to maintain and foster that different feeling, and not have to constantly jack into the Disney MCU anymore. Since Spider-Man returned to theaters in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the super popular superhero has been attached to the MCU Avengers’ narrative, even donning a nanobot suit built by Tony Stark/Iron Man instead of his more humble, homemade spandex. I won’t say how – thought I could! because I warned you there would be spoilers – but Peter Parker gets back to his origins in this movie. I, for one, am glad.

All during Spider-Man: No Way Home’s complicated, meta-aware, here’s-one-for-the-fans plot I kept thinking about Christopher Reeve. Reeve, iconically, played Superman in the landmark Superman films in the 1970s and 1980s. He’s so aw-shucks good natured, so genuine. His greatest power is his goodness. Tom Holland brings that same earnestness to this portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It is tested in this movie. That’s really the point of the movie. His trials here lead him to the same place Clark Kent/Superman ends up in the first two Superman movies as they were intended to be shown, now viewable in the ”Richard Donner Cut” of the films. (Seek out those edits of Superman and Superman II if you haven’t seen them.)

Spider-Man: No Way Home returns Peter to a state of innocence. He maintains the wisdom he has earned, but he is given the chance to start fresh. There is some sadness in this, because to gain that guilelessness, he loses what his life was before. But the possibility of a clean slate is uniquely invigorating.

This narrative arc through trial and back to a place of innocence with the wisdom of experience in tow is a saturated mythological idea. It shows up in lots of stories, not just superhero movies. Tom Hanks’ career is full of these kinds of stories, the return home through trial to the possibility of something new. Think of Chuck Noland at the crossroads at the end of Cast Away. He has lost all that his life was before, but now he is a better man, and he stands on the threshold of limitless possibility.

This is the grand narrative arc of scripture too. God and humanity go from Eden through ages of trial and then back to a New Eden, a new creation where the old is wiped away, but the memory of it remains, and we enter into the making of all things new. In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Peter Parker is given the gift of layered experience due to a rift in the space-time continuum. It’s fun for fans who have watched all the Spider-Man movies made since 2002. It is enlightening for Peter. It’s inundated with redemption and healing. It’s at its greatest especially in the moments when characters get to forgive one another and reconcile. Spider-Man: No Way Home is a superhero movie that gives us a glimpse of the life to come in a way that is particular to superhero movies. Watch closely and imagine what could be, what I believe will be, in our world.

First—and there are no spoilers in this review until I tell you there are going to be—it is just plain fun to watch a Marvel movie that doesn’t feel like a Disney/Marvel movie. The Disney/Marvel movies and TV shows are terrific. They’ve found their groove, and it’s a good one. It’s just also nice to experience something a little different when you go see a superhero movie. The Sony/Marvel movie feels like its own thing, thank goodness.

And now there will be the lightest of SPOILERS. Read on at your own risk.

And by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, you get the feeling Sony is eager to take the Tom Holland Spider-Man franchise in its own direction, to maintain and foster that different feeling, and not have to constantly jack into the Disney MCU anymore. Since Spider-Man returned to theaters in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the super popular superhero has been attached to the MCU Avengers’ narrative, even donning a nanobot suit built by Tony Stark/Iron Man instead of his more humble, homemade spandex. I won’t say how – thought I could! because I warned you there would be spoilers – but Peter Parker gets back to his origins in this movie. I, for one, am glad.

All during Spider-Man: No Way Home’s complicated, meta-aware, here’s-one-for-the-fans plot I kept thinking about Christopher Reeve. Reeve, iconically, played Superman in the landmark Superman films in the 1970s and 1980s. He’s so aw-shucks good natured, so genuine. His greatest power is his goodness. Tom Holland brings that same earnestness to this portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It is tested in this movie. That’s really the point of the movie. His trials here lead him to the same place Clark Kent/Superman ends up in the first two Superman movies as they were intended to be shown, now viewable in the ”Richard Donner Cut” of the films. (Seek out those edits of Superman and Superman II if you haven’t seen them.)

Spider-Man: No Way Home returns Peter to a state of innocence. He maintains the wisdom he has earned, but he is given the chance to start fresh. There is some sadness in this, because to gain that guilelessness, he loses what his life was before. But the possibility of a clean slate is uniquely invigorating.

This narrative arc through trial and back to a place of innocence with the wisdom of experience in tow is a saturated mythological idea. It shows up in lots of stories, not just superhero movies. Tom Hanks’ career is full of these kinds of stories, the return home through trial to the possibility of something new. Think of Chuck Noland at the crossroads at the end of Cast Away. He has lost all that his life was before, but now he is a better man, and he stands on the threshold of limitless possibility.

This is the grand narrative arc of scripture too. God and humanity go from Eden through ages of trial and then back to a New Eden, a new creation where the old is wiped away, but the memory of it remains, and we enter into the making of all things new. In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Peter Parker is given the gift of layered experience due to a rift in the space-time continuum. It’s fun for fans who have watched all the Spider-Man movies made since 2002. It is enlightening for Peter. It’s inundated with redemption and healing. It’s at its greatest especially in the moments when characters get to forgive one another and reconcile. Spider-Man: No Way Home is a superhero movie that gives us a glimpse of the life to come in a way that is particular to superhero movies. Watch closely and imagine what could be, what I believe will be, in our world.

Portrait of Fuller Seminary alum Elijah Davidson

Elijah Davidson is Co-Director of Brehm Film and Senior Film Critic. Find more of his work at elijahdavidson.com.

Nightmare Alley is merciless. It’s a lot like the “geek show” we see near the beginning of the film in which a man bites the head off a live chicken.