Spider-Man: No Way Home (CREDIT: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures)

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, J.K. Simmons, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, Tony Revolori, J.B. Smoove, Hannibal Burress, Martin Starr, Angourie Rice

Director: Jon Watts

Running Time: 148 Minutes

Rating: R for The Usual Punching and Stabbing, Perhaps a Little Darker Than Usual

Release Date: December 17, 2021 (Theaters)

Hey, it’s our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man back on the big screen! Or maybe, that should be our friendly neighborhood Spider … Men? (Hey, wasn’t there another recent movie that asked that same question? With so many years of comic book history to draw upon, you can be multi-universal in multiple ways.)

Anyway, this time around things are getting a little squirrely for ol’ webhead Peter Parker (Tom Holland), as his secret identity has been revealed to the world a little sooner than he wanted it to be. Plus, there’s the whole headache caused by the villain from the last MCU go-round declaring him a murderer, a hot take very much abetted by one J. Jonah Jameson. That classic antagonistic newsman is once again played by Spider-Man veteran J.K. Simmons, but this time he’s an independent journalist/conspiracy theorist in the vein of Alex Jones. So, you know, just as influential (if not more so) and even more willing to bend and break the truth. This whole situation is giving Pete the blues, especially because it means that Aunt May’s (Marisa Tomei) life is now constantly in danger, and his friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) can’t get into MIT because of their association with a vigilante. So Peter turns to his Avenger friend Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to summon some pre-secret-identity reality-reversing magic. What could possibly go wrong?!

Spider-Man: No Way Home (CREDIT: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures)

As it turns out, quite a bit! (If you’re surprised by that, please let me know, because I’d like to know how your mind works.) The multiverse is opening up, and characters who knew other versions of Peter Parker now find themselves unexpectedly face-to-face with Tom Holland’s mug, and it’s up to him to send them back from whence they came. This is one of those reviewing situations where the studio has requested that we not spoil anything, so I won’t list every single former cinematic Spider-Man actor who stops by. (Although some of them, like Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, have very much already been fully revealed in the trailer.) Suffice it to say, everyone from the entirety of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s web-slinging tenures are fair game. If you have a sneaking suspicion that a certain someone is going to show up, I can understand why you would feel that way.

I’m a huge fan of the Sam Raimi-directed Spidey flicks – they’re transcendent in a way that pretty much no other superhero movie has been before or since. No Way Home can’t recreate that (nor is it really trying to), but it’s always nice to be reminded of that era. The Garfield period was definitely a downturn for a lot of fans, myself included. But I also really like it when long-running franchises attempt to reclaim their lesser entries. And there are a few moments here that act as specific opportunities to amend past mistakes, and they’re actually rather emotionally fulfilling if you can open yourself up to all the possible ramifications of the multiverse. No Way Home hardly breaks any new ground; in fact, its entire purpose is retreading old ground. But it does a good enough job at that to convince me that this could be a reliable go-to strategy going forward for tangled cinematic continuity.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is Recommended If You Like: Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Multiverses