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Spider-Man: No Way Home ★★★★

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Director: Jon Watts

Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe

Released: 15th December 2021 (UK)

In the latest instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tom Holland dons the mask once again as Spider-Man. Following on from the life-changing events of Spider-Man: Far from Home, Peter Parker (Holland) asks Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to restore his secret identity. However, doing so inadvertently breaks open the multiverse and chaos is unleashed.

Leading up to its release, there have been many rumours about what will be in Far From Home but with good reason. Since 2002, Spider-Man has appeared in eight films, all of them with various villains and supporting characters. Given the copyright issues of the Spider-Man character, the idea that any of these characters could appear in other films didn’t seem feasible. However, the acclaimed and Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduced what had been a staple of comics for decades – different realities, each with their own versions of the same character. Marvel TV shows such as Loki and What If…? have already introduced the concept of the multiverse, teasing the endless possibilities available to the MCU, but No Way Home is the first live-action film to do so.

No Way Home opens with Peter in a pickle. Despite finally getting together with MJ (Zendaya), his identity as Spider-Man is now public knowledge, and his future is in jeopardy. Eager to regain his anonymity, he asks Doctor Strange –  (former) guardian of the Time Stone and a man who can alter reality – for help. Peter’s well-intended request teaches him that you matter what, you don’t mess with reality.

Holland’s tenure as Spider-Man has brought an innocent demeanour and youth, which is perfect for the role of Peter Parker: an eternal optimist and, ultimately, a high-school senior. However, he’s much younger than the other Avengers, still has homework to do, and he’s constantly on the lookout for guidance – in other words, he is still a ‘kid’. This fact is compounded by Doctor Strange, who, in his new role as Peter’s somewhat reluctant mentor, has the teenager cowering like a pupil summoned to the headmaster’s office.

Yet despite all of the life-altering events he’s experienced in previous MCU appearances, Peter has yet to realise the depths of his abilities and strength. No Way Home finally allows Peter to grow up, and screenwriters Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna deploy a range of supporting characters and villains as the crucible that turns Peter Parker into a hero. As a result, the skilful writing guiding No Way Home hits the right emotional notes the elevate the film.

Needless to say, there was a danger that the sheer number of moving parts would crush the film under its own hubris, but a wave of Easter Eggs, surprises and in-jokes will resonate with Marvel fans and anyone who’s seen any of the Spider-Man films. Meanwhile, Jon Watts’ fast-paced storytelling and direction have Holland, Zendaya and Cumberbatch delivering wit and heart in each scene while the supporting cast steals the show with their nostalgic touches.

When it comes to cinematic threequels, No Way Home stands proudly as one of the best. Ambitious in concept, it is executed flawlessly to become the ultimate crowd-pleaser while celebrating the beauty of the Marvel Cinematic Universe….sorry, Multiverse.

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