UPDATE: Comscore Inc reported Spider-Man: No Way Home took in $121.5 million on Friday’s official opening day and is on track to take in $240 plus million in just the first weekend of its North American debut. That puts it on par with the top three Box Office Openings of all time.
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) meets Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in this final installment of the MCU superhero franchise, or is it? With Peter Parker’s identity revealed globally as Spider-Man (at the end of the last film, (Long Way Home) Parker is vilified in the press for the death of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who fans know may not, in fact, be dead, and enlists Dr. Strange to help him make the world forget his identity. If you’re following this logic, you’re a Spider-Man fan. If not, that’s okay. You’ll still enjoy the ride and may become a fan yourself.
This whole convoluted storyline makes me smile. Not because I think it’s dumb but because I was there in the meeting when the president of Marvel came to us at Disney Animated Features, many years ago, asking us to consider developing one or more of their comic book titles as an animated film. They were on the brink of bankruptcy then and nobody in town was interested in their weird comic book titles. I wrote a memo to my immediate supervisor, Disney Animated Features Vice President Peter Schneider (at the time), expressing my positive but largely intuitive thoughts about the pitch. I was respectfully overruled.
No way Home demonstrates not just a bravura performance on-screen but a rare long-term vision for an edgy intellectual property, dangling on the cusp of digital technological breakthroughs. These types of spectacles cost hundreds of millions to make and nearly as much to market and release. At the time of our initial meeting with Marvel, all those years ago, tales of superheroes up against characters that embody borderline personalities or psychopaths didn’t align with the corporate culture and certainly not the Disney brand. Disney is extremely savvy about its brand. Besides, CGI was still in its fledgling stages. Making stories like these into movies was technically ambitious to say the least and too risky financially.
Fast-forward to the present. Spider-Man: No way Home achieves its goal of not only becoming an expanded comic-book story of an Everyman who saves the world from the destruction of a collective moral conscience, it celebrates Peter Parker’s transition to manhood in a definitive way. Actor Tom Holland executes his role as the third incarnation of Spider-Man brilliantly. The previous actors that portrayed Spider-Man (Toby MaGuire and Andrew Garfield) also make significant appearances in the climactic third act.
I can’t speak directly to the plot and how it develops without ruining the experience for those who’ve yet to see the film. I can say that at several points during the screening, the audience erupted into laughter and applause. They collectively understood certain passages and that made us a tribal community for a period of time. The special effects were off-the-chain and combined with the movies’ rapid fire editing and breakneck pace, the supernatural story consistently achieves rollercoaster momentum.
So was it a good movie? Um, YES! But it always depends on what you’re wanting to see. It was a spectacular piece of storytelling on a galactic scale. Exactly what the big screen is made to exhibit. Larger than life in every sense. No Way Home is As big or bigger than any movie of the genre that precedes it. The writers manage to tie in highlights from the stories leading up to this one in a satisfying but unexpected way. The character arcs are well rounded and the actors shine. You can tell they’re having the time if their lives. Plus, BONUS, there are several surprise cameo appearances. You’ll have to go see it to find out who drops in for a bow.
The phenomenal box office of this movie (and it’s still early in the release) may be remembered more than anything else. At the bottom of it all I think the audience was uniting as strangers from the same family, which is something, up until now, only myth and fairytale could do. Do I think this is the end of Spider-Man? Nope, not a chance.
Postscript: Disney acquired Marvel in 2009 sans the Dr. Strange stories. Dr. Strange happens to be one of my favorite super heroes. This picture marks the first time Columbia/Sony (who somehow acquired the rights) and Marvel have collaborated in the telling of Dr. Stranger’s quantum powers and the infinite realm of the multi-verse.
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