Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Super holiday entertainment loaded with visual and spiritual meaning.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch): [to Peter (Tom Holland)] “The problem is you trying to live two different lives. The longer you do it, the more dangerous it becomes!”

Notwithstanding the “home” in the title, the exciting new Spider-Man: No Way Home is more about the existential need to create one’s own identity, the Christian need to give up a life in order to gain it, and the human need for a second chance. Many super-hero movies continue to emphasize the hero’s need to recover a parent or child even more than the need to sacrifice for the good of humankind.

As Peter Parker (Tom Holland) struggles with the attention he gets because Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) revealed his identity, he gets involved with Dr. Strange to erase his super-hero identity from everyone’s memory. Fooling with Mother Nature never is good in these hyper-active fantasies, and it’s true as Peter tries to get Dr. Strange to reverse his initial memory-erasing spell in order to remain in the minds of those he loves.

Besides, what director Jon Watts and his writers are really interested in is pulling the three Spidies together (Holland, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire) to remediate former bad boys like The Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), and Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). Dr. Strange clears the way between parallel dimensions to let each Spidey’s version of villains to come together for their cleansing.

The imaginative and entertaining conceit of getting these characters together proves not to be confusing but revealing of their generous natures and the benign fraternity of Spider-Men, adding the collaboration motif into their otherwise solitary lives.

Although the digital gymnastics are impressive, beyond those is an attempt to flesh out character for both good and bad boys. Discoveries abound without super sentimentality or long exposition. Because the filmmakers have taken care to load meaning into most dialogue, the revealing third act takes the plot to dizzying heights while character spills out along the way.

As more is found out about the heroes and the villains, the long road back to normalcy for Peter seems just about right, filled as it is with triumphs that come from working as a team (not a normal Spidey thing to do) to suffering the loss of dear ones to a better cause. It’s a coming of age at any age and a satisfying display of character development that might be envied by indie films everywhere whose bread and butter is a similar attempt to show humans at their worst and best.

Super holiday fare, yes; challenging, yes; amazed I am that comic-book stuff holds meaning amidst its visual splendor, yes.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Director: John Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming)

Screenplay: Chris McKenna (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Erik Sommers (Ant-Man and the Wasp)

Cast: Tom Holland (Chaos Walking), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)

Run Time: 2h 28m

Rating: PG-13

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.