“We’re gonna cure some ass.”

There has been a realisation slowly festering in my mind for a good few years now. A realisation whose inexorable truth forces me to re-evaluate core, deeply held beliefs and even my own sense of identity.

And it is this.

One More Day needed to happen.

That’s not to forgive how it happened. Or the rationale given for why it had to happen. Or the long series of mistakes that led to it. But I’ve gone from thinking that it was one of the worst stories in comics history, to a necessary piece of narrative table clearing (that was also just a fucking trainwreck as a comic).

Back when I was doing publicity for Sparrow I was asked who my One True Pairing was and I gave possibly the most vanilla, basic and boring answer possible.

But it’s true! This just works. And there’s so many reasons why. Firstly, you have the obvious chemistry of two very different characters clashing against each other. The quiet, soft-spoken farm boy and the brassy big-city journalist. But most importantly, I think, is the fact that Lois Lane is an integral part of Superman’s story engine rather than simply being vestigial to it. Lois, at least in most incarnations, is a whip-smart investigative reporter and former army brat. What this means in practical story terms is that she has a nose for trouble and the combat training to do something about it when she finds it. This was how the old Fleischer cartoons utilised her; having Lois uncover some nefarious threat which would then allow Superman to arrive and beat the snot out of it. These two aren’t just a great partnership textually, they are metatextually working together to create the story. Superman marrying Lois Lane in the comics was a perfectly logical step because, honestly, what can possibly be gained by having Superman playing the field? There’s only one gal for him. I know it, you know it. Now, let’s take a look at the antithesis of that.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, let me say this upfront. I LOVE Mary Jane Watson. I think she’s a fantastic character, especially considering she was initially created as a gag.

Mary Jane first “appeared” all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #15 when Aunt May mentions “that Watson girl” next door. This starts a running gag of Aunt May trying to fix Peter up with this girl and Peter weaselling out of it because he assumes that any girl his Aunt likes must be strictly squaresville, daddio.

Oh Peter. Dear naive Peter.

This running gag lasted a full two years until issue 42 where Peter is finally strong-armed into going on a date with Mary-Jane and finally meets her face to face.

Iconic moment. Perfect. 10/10. No notes.

Famously, Mary Jane was such a force of personality that she took on a life of her own. She was initially just supposed to be a secondary love interest for Peter, a distraction from his One True Love, the sainted Gwen Stacy. But fans loved Mary Jane. Of course they did. How could you not? And so it was Gwen who went sightseeing with the Green Goblin, and Mary Jane became Peter’s girlfriend and finally, his wife.

And, on paper, Mary Jane is a lot like Lois Lane. Beautiful, tough, smart, sassy and doesn’t take any shit. But, y’see, Peter Parker has one thing in common with alt-rock singer Lazlo Bane: he’s no Superman. And, like in real life, some characters just aren’t cut out for marriage. And whereas the marriage of Superman and Lois has been one of the most enduring and stable elements of their status quo, the 1987 marriage of Peter and Mary Jane quickly came to be seen as a problem that needed to be worked around.

Peter Parker has always been a younger character than Clark Kent. Clark has a steady job in journalism (stop snickering in the back), Peter lives pay-check to pay-check doing freelance work. Clark is practically invulnerable, Peter is one bullet away from an early grave. Clark Kent is mature, stable, happy and living his best life. Peter is young, insecure and perpetually on the verge of psychological, emotional or financial collapse. Clark Kent is Superman because he’s a good man who wants to help people. Peter Parker is Spider-Man because he is a child broken by guilt. One of these guys is marriage material. One isn’t.

And so the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson became a joyless death march where we got to watch a once vivacious and fun loving woman ground down by the debts of being the wife of Peter Parker. Again and again, she’d try to convince him to give up being Spider-Man and he would, only for the narrative gods to call him back to the webbing because, well, he can’t stop being Spider-Man. By contrast, I can’t remember any time in any media where Lois Lane asked Clark when he’s going to pack this Superman nonsense in. Because why would she? She loves Superman.

Multiple attempts were made to dig Spider-Man and MJ out of this narrative hole. Hell, the entire reason for the two-year long travesty that was the Clone Saga was to get Peter and MJ to a happy ending so that Ben Reilly could take over as a new, single Spider-Man. But nothing worked. The obvious solution, for them simply to divorce, was dismissed as Joe Quesada didn’t want Peter to do something so immoral as getting a divorce (remember that). While I don’t agree with that rationale, I do think having them divorce would have created problems. Spider-Man works best as a young character, that’s the whole reason teens flocked to him in the sixties, and having him divorced permanently ages him and makes him less relatable to your target audience. Not many guys in their early twenties worrying about alimony payments, y’know? So the situation festered until 2007 when Marvel finally decided to cut this Gordian knot with One More Day. If, when cutting the Gordian Knot, Alexander the Great had accidentally killed several bystanders and then stabbed himself in the dick.

I’ll try to keep this brief. During the Civil War storyline Peter Parker made the world class blunder of trusting Tony Stark and unmasked himself to the world as a way of showing his support for the Superhuman Registration Act. But when Peter realises that Tony’s perfectly reasonable agenda of government oversight and accountability for superheroes had started taking its cues from Stalinist Russia he switches sides and becomes an illegal hero. So now Peter, Mary Jane and Aunt May are on the run and every supervillain in the world knows he’s Spider-Man. Aunt May gets shot and is dying and Peter, despite knowing genius scientists, world-class doctors and ACTUAL GODDAMN WIZARDS is unable to find anyone who can treat a perfectly normal gunshot wound. At which point Mephisto, THE LITERAL GOD OF EVIL, approaches Peter and makes him an offer; he’ll save Aunt May in exchange for erasing Peter and MJ’s marriage out of existence.

People were PAID to write this. Actual professional writers.

What makes it worse is that even IF you were dead-set on such a contrived, obvious writer-fiat way of resolving the problem, there were ways to make it better. Linkara had a great suggestion; have Mary-Jane be the one who gets shot and then have Peter have to sacrifice their marriage to save her. Then, at least, it becomes something epic and tragic and genuinely noble, rather than Peter sacrificing his vows to his wife to save Aunt May, a woman who explicitly told him that he should let her go so she could be with her beloved husband in heaven just because he can’t let go.

So other than the terrible contrived writing, the massive character derailment and the huge implied insult to the audience’s intelligence, how was the comic, Mrs Lincoln?

Well…like I said, ghastly business though it was, One More Day was ultimately a success in that it did what it was designed to do. Peter Parker went back to being a young single superhero and the Spider books underwent something of a renaissance during the Brand New Day era. But, my God, it came at a price. And ultimately, I think that’s why we hate One More Day so much. It was the hero we needed, not the one we deserved. Also, really weird pick to base a movie on.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was kind of a miracle. How do you gross $1 billion dollars and become the sixth highest grossing film of all time during a pandemic? Well, we could argue about whether that success was despite the pandemic or because Covid was starting to recede and people were just desperate for some fun, communal activity but regardless, NWM was one of those big, unifying cultural moments that seem increasingly rare in this day and age. People were clamouring for this to win Best Picture for chrissakes, despite it being quite clearly a peasant movie for peasants. Everyone loves No Way Home.

“Like you, Mouse? Right? Right? Like you? You love No Way Home? You must do. You’re my friend. You’re my friend Mouse.”
“Tell me you love No Way Home. Now.”
“Okay, here is what watching this movie for the first time was like for me.”
“Hello, Memer.”
“Meme know, Meme somememe of a meme memeself.”

Alright, that’s not entirely fair. The movie isn’t just an endless procession of empty sugary meme calories. But I find it not a little suspicious that I enjoyed this movie (where I was spoiled for many of the big reveals) a lot less than Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (where I scrupulously avoided ads and went in completely cold). And that’s kind of damning. Because I don’t think the two movies were all that far apart in quality, which means that Doctor Strange won me over more or less purely on those fan-servicey, meme-tastic moments. And it’s at that point that I start feeling less like a viewer of a piece of art and more like a lab rat who’s had electrodes jammed into the pleasure centres of its brain that can be triggered on command. And I’m not a rat. I’m a mouse. Sometimes. Depending on how committed I am to the bit.

Anyway, the movie.

We pick up right where we left off with Peter’s secret identity being revealed to the whole world and Spider-Man now wanted for the murder of Quentin Beck. Peter, MJ, Aunt May and Ned are taken into custody by Damage Control, who you may remember as the government agency in charge of cleaning up alien technology in Homecoming but are apparently just doing S.H.I.E.L.D.’s job now, even though S.H.I.E.L.D. are back again, right? S.H.I.E.L.D.’s still around? Can someone check that S.H.I.E.L.D. is okay? Anyway, things are looking very hairy for Peter but fortunately Happy Horgan is able to retain the services of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox, escaped from the Netflix dimension) who gets him cleared of all charges and stops his head being split open by a brick thrown through his window.

Matt warns Peter that, even though he’s not going to jail, he’s still guilty in the eyes of the public and suggests he move to a safe location. Happy puts May and Peter up in a Stark-owned apartment which is pretty decent of him considering May just dumped his ass.

Pretty soon though, consequences start piling up, not just for Peter but for Ned and MJ too. When the time comes for them to submit their college applications, all three are rejected because of the controversy surrounding Spider-Man.

Y’know, I go back and forth on this. I mean, on the one hand, this kid played a not insubstantial role in the little matter of, what was it again? Oh yeah SAVING THE ENTIRE WORLD FROM THANOS. THE KID’S A VETERAN, YOU IVY LEAGUE ELITIST BASTARDS.

On the other hand; MIT probably know that if they give Peter a place fully HALF the science faculty will be supervillains by the end of the semester so, fine, I can sorta see their point. Peter feels incredibly guilty and, as we all know, when Peter Parker experiences guilt he does the sensible, rational thing.

“Can you please help me roofie the entire world?”

Peter goes to Doctor Strange and asks for his help and Strange agrees to erase everyone’s memory of the fact that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Won’t do jack shit about all the newspaper headlines, blog posts and news footage still lying around saying Peter Parker is Spider-Man but who trusts the media anyway, these days? Unfortunately, like a five year old at a drive through who keeps changing his order, Peter keeps altering the parameters of the spell which causes it to go out of control and nearly wreck the sanctum santorum. Strange manages to contain the spell and tells Peter that the real problem is that he’s not willing to choose between being Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He then chews Peter a new one after learning that he didn’t try to contact the MIT acceptance board and plead his case. Peter is stunned that that’s something you can do. Mouse is also stunned that that is something you can do. Is it? That can’t be how the college application system works in the States. If every person who is rejected gets an automatic right of appeal, how is that even an application process? How is that not doubling the workload of the university? And what if you succeed? Does someone who was previously granted a place get that place rescinded? Can THEY appeal then? WHEN DOES THIS MADNESS END?

So then Peter finds out that the MIT administrator is on her way to the airport so he actually accosts this poor woman on the frickin’ motorway to ask that she re-consider rejecting his college application. And keep in mind, she knows that he was recently a suspect in a murder case and he literally has the strength to snap her like a twig.

Look at the fear in that woman’s eyes.

Fortunately, because this situation could not end well in any other scenario, the bridge is attacked by none other than Doctor Otto Octavius played by Alfred Molina and I am still salty that the trailers spoiled it. Anyway, Molina is always a delight and we do get a really cool fight scene where Peter ends up saving the administrator who, entirely by coincidence, decides that Spider-Man is good actually and promises to reassess his application.

Here’s what I don’t like. Otto pierces Peter’s armour which causes Peter’s nanotech to bleed on his arms which allows Peter to remotely control the octopus limbs. And once again, this Peter Parker just swans to victory using technology that was given to him by Tony Stark. And this is such a simple fix! Just have Peter remotely infiltrate Otto’s system and hack it. At least that way, he’s actually active and demonstrating competence and ability and the victory feels in any way earned. Anyway, no sooner is Doc Ock secure than the Green Goblin shows up and starts bombing everything only for Peter and Otto to be spirited away by Doctor Strange to the Sanctum Sanctorum. Strange explains that the spell has started to pull people in from all across the multiverse who know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Strange has already captured the Lizard from the deeply dishonestly named Amazing Spider-Man. Strange says they have to track down any other interlopers and send them back where they came from. Peter agrees but says he’ll need some help and so he calls in the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D, a responsible adult, his girlfriend and Lego partner.

Peter chases down a report of a flying monster and runs into Electro played by Jamie Foxx and Sandman played by Thomas Haden Church. I…think. Honestly, Sandman and Lizard spend the entirety of this movie as CGI models so they could both be played by archive soundbites and sound-alikes for all I know. And this brings me to my other main criticism of the movie…you can absolutely tell this was made during a pandemic. Watch this movie again and see how many times all the main villains are actually on screen together. Most of the time, whenever a villain is onscreen he’s the only one in shot, talking to someone off camera as if they were filming around social distancing restrictions. And I know, that’s not really anyone’s fault apart from that damn bat, but it still makes the film feel kinda small and cheap. Especially since, after the aesthetic breath of fresh air that was The Eternals, we’re very much back in the generic bland MCU house style. And obviously this thing ate the box office alive so I’m in the minority here. But that visual sameyness is kinda fatal when the movie that is just crying out to be compared to this one is one of the most visually gorgeous animated features ever made.

No. It doesn’t have Toby Maguire. It has sexy lesbian Doc Ock and A TALKING PIG.

Like, sorry, I’m finding it a bit hard to get jonesed for seeing Andrew Garfield getting negged by Disney/Marvel’s when Spider-Verse is right there.

Anyway, Peter captures Sandman and Electro with little trouble and whisks them back to the Sanctum Sanctorum. There, everyone learns that Otto and Sandman are from the same universe, ditto Lizard and Electro.

Meanwhile Peter gets a call from Aunt May telling him that one of the guys he’s looking for has walked into her shelter. He speeds over there only to find May consoling a confused and distraught Norman Osborn who’s come looking for Spider-Man’s help. Defoe was already phenomenal in Raimi’s original Spider-Man but here, if anything, he’s even better. Look at the scene where he tells May and Peter that “someone’s living in my house, Oscorp doesn’t exist…”. He seems so vulnerable and broken. But…look closely. Right before he says “…my son”. The tiniest hint of a smile. Just to let you know, if you’re paying close enough attention, that it’s really the Goblin in control. May tells Peter that just sending Norman back to his home dimension isn’t enough, this dude needs help.

So Peter takes Norman back to the Sanctum Santorum and he meets Ned and MJ and is fascinated to discover that this Peter is also dating an MJ. This prompts Ned to wonder if there are other Ned Leeds’ out there in the multiverse.

Let’s…not pull that thread, Neddy.

So all of our merry multiversal malefactors are under look and key. You know what really baffles me though? Why they didn’t just bring in Topher Grace’s Venom so that they could have a full Sinister Six? I mean, I know Venom in that movie didn’t exactly set the world on fire but that wasn’t Grace’s fault. I mean, if the Marc Webb movies are deemed worthy of redemption I don’t see why Grace’s Eddie Brock should be consigned to obscurity. I thought he was just fine in the role. Well anyway, the villains get to swopping stories and slowly start to realise that they were brought to this universe right before they died back home (of course, the Lizard never actually died but I just realised that and expecting anyone to remember anything that happened in Amazing Spider-Man is unfair bordering on sadistic). At which point Doctor Strange arrives and is all “well, let’s send these guys back where they came from! What’ll happen to them? Damned if I know. Damned, indeed, if I care.”

Peter tries to convince Strange not to send them back because that’s basically murder and Strange gives his best Ivan Drago impersonation.

So Peter runs off with the spell to send them back and traps Strange in one of his cells, prompting Strange to mutter “this is why I never had kids”.

Ha! No it’s not.

Okay, so forget everything I said about this movie looking cheap for a minute because we get a scene of Peter being chased through the mirror dimension by Strange that is pretty darn shiny and ends with Peter leaving Strange trapped and taking his ring-thingy that he uses to make portals. He heads back to the Sanctum Santorum and offers the Sinister…Five, a deal. He’ll try and fix them before sending them back so they don’t die fighting Spider-Man. I mean, seems to me that de-powering them will actually make them more likely to die. Especially Sandman, Doc Ock and Norman. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man did not mess around, that dude killed more people than hantavirus. As a precaution, Peter gives MJ the spell and tells her that if she doesn’t hear from him she’s to press the button that will send the villains back home. She tells them that she’ll do it too and Electro deadpans “we believe you, Michelle”. Sidenote, Jamie Foxx is playing a completely different character than he did in Amazing Spider-Man 2 and if you’ve seen that movie you know that is all to the good.

So Peter takes the villains to Happy’s apartment and starts working on them, with Norman’s help because, get this, he’s something of a scientist himself. Now, I will admit, I really, really love this. Peter Parker striving not just to defeat his enemies but to actually help them is absolutely true to the character and I love that this movie shows that. We also get some nice little character moments. May giving Doc Ock some water and trying to fight off the primordial sexual urges that come whenever an Aunt May and a Doctor Octopus are in close proximity.

Call me a prude, but the 20 pages devoted to the honeymoon were as unnecessary as they were filthily graphic.

Norman and Peter bond over the repairs and Electro and Sandman bond over their shared history of falling into shit and getting powers.

The first treatment is a complete success, Doc Ock regains control of his own mind from his robot arms and gratefully agrees to help Peter and Norman treat the others.

My isn’t everything going swimmingly? Suddenly Peter’s Spider-sense starts tingling and he susses out that Norman has been taken over by the Green Goblin persona. Gobby taunts Peter, saying that Aunt May’s morality has poisoned him and that he’s watched him struggling to have everything he wants while the world tries to make him choose. “Gods don’t have to choose” Norman says.

Apparently Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man is not a god.

Then, as the poets say, shit gets fucky. Electro is swayed by Norman’s spiel and attacks Doc Ock, Lizard escapes and goes on a rampage, Sandman does…something, I’m really not sure what his deal is and Norman and Peter duke it out.

Now, hot take, but this fight scene is bad, actually. It’s murky and badly lit, it’s terribly edited and it takes place in possibly the blandest, most non-descript apartment building ever committed to film. But, I will give it this, we finally get a fight scene with this Peter Parker where there’s a real sense of enmity. Before, when he was fighting Vulture or Mysterio or Thanos he had more of a “springer spaniel trapped in a washing machine” vibe going on, just swinging around and trying not to get killed. Finally, with Norman Osborn, we get a villain who can really get under Peter’s skin and push him to his moral limits. The fight ends with Peter and Norman in the basement. May sees Norman brutalising her boy and is about to fucking stave his head in when she gets rammed by Norman’s glider. Cackling like an arch-bastard, Green Goblin blows the building up and peaces out like a boss.

The movie plays a very clever, very cruel bit of trickery here. It reminded me of Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan actually. In that movie, you think that Spock dies in the very opening scene only for it to be revealed that he’s fine. This makes his actual death at the end of the movie hit even harder. In the same way, we get a shot of Aunt May lying on the ground apparently dead, only for her to get back on her feet to help Peter out of the rubble. Phew. She’s fine. It’s all good. They had me worried there for a…

You sons of bitches.

It’s a phenomenal scene. Beautiful. Having May being the one to give Peter the “with great responsibility” speech? Genius. And Holland and Tomei just nail it. Absolutely gut-wrenching. Good job all round.

Anyway, Peter has to go on the run while J. Jonah Jameson leads a media campaign against him, with his broadcasts being plastered over entire skyscrapers like a Geisha advertising sushi in future Los Angeles. Which is weird when you consider that he started out as basically Alex Jones and somehow he’s morphed into Walter Kronkite.

MJ and Ned agonise over whether to push the button and Ned wishes that they could see Peter. Because he’s wearing Doctor Strange’s ring, this actually summons a portal which brings Peter Parker directly to them. Just…not the Peter Parker they wanted.

Or, indeed, anyone wanted.

No! Bad Mouse! Okay, fair is fair, if there is one thing to take away from this movie it’s how royally shafted poor Andrew Garfield was because this dude clearly could have been a great Peter Parker (maybe the best Peter Parker?). I like Holland a lot but he’s quite a different character from comic book Peter. Garfield, finally set free from Sony’s awful conception of the character (remember the skateboard? do you?!) feels like he just stepped off the page. By contrast…

“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

Look, I like (some of) the Sam Raimi Spider-man movies just fine but for me, Tobey Maguire was always the worst thing in them. Just weird and stiff and…off. That said, he’s definitely much better in this than he was in the originals and the movie’s play at recasting him as the elder statesmen Spider-man mostly works so, fine. I shall tolerate Mister Maguire’s presence. Just keep him away from the poker table.

Anyway, Peter 2 (Maguire) tells the gang that ever since he’s arrived in this universe he’s been looking for Peter 1 because he “just has this feeling that he needs me”. This, of course, is a reference to one of Spider-Man’s lesser known powers, Deus Ex Machina Sense. (Again, really easy fix, just establish that Peter 2 saw that Aunt May died on the news).

With the two new Peters’ help they track Peter 1 (Holland) to the roof of the school. Peter 1 is ready to just give up and send the villains back to where they came from but Peter 2 and Peter 3 (Garfield) talk him out of it. The three Spider-Men team up to cure the villains and Peter 3 offers to take Connors because he’s already cured him once so it’s “no big deal” (which I’m convinced is a reference to the infamous leaked Sony “NBD tough mudder” Spider-man email but I have no proof or friends). We get a nice scene of the three Spiders sciencing together and a funny moment where Ned learns that both older Peters had best friends who turned into Goblins and tried to kill them. You pulled the thread, Neddy. You pulled the damn thread.

Anyway, they decide to lay a trap for the villains and catch them like…I dunno…some kind of animal famous for weaving traps. Peter sends a video to the Daily Bugle basically calling the villains to come and fight him at the Statue of Liberty. Which, for a super-villain, has got to be the equivalent of being asked if it hurt when you fell from heaven.

“Parker, you basic bitch.”

Oh, and the Statue of Liberty has been fitted with a Captain America shield. And THIS is the equivalent of your boyfriend suggesting a threesome.

“Joking! Joking! We’d never do that! Unless…you like the idea?”

While waiting for the villains to arrive the three spiders chat about this and that and it’s funny and charming although I can’t help but feel sorry for Andrew Garfield because some of the jokes at the expense of his movies are honestly kinda mean. Like yeah. Those movies sucked. But we have mounting evidence here that really wasn’t his fault.

Anyway, villains arrive and we get a battle around the Statue of Liberty that’s perfectly adequate. They manage to cure Sandman but Electro proves far more difficult. Fortunately, Doc Ock shows up and helps them subdue Electro and MJ and Ned manage to transform the Lizard back to normal. Doctor Strange arrives and is genuinely impressed that Peter’s attempt at rehabilitation has been so successful but, of course, we’re still short a villain.

“Can Memer-man come out to meme?”

Green Goblin arrives and blows up the spell, with the explosion causing MJ to plummet off the statue. But Peter 3 leaps after her and is able to save her and…oh boy…sorry…

I’m gonna need a minute.

While Strange tries desperately to re-capture the spell, Peter 1 and Norman battle it out on the remains of the giant Captain America shield. Peter, having lost May and almost having lost MJ to this asshole, proceeds to beat the ever living piss out of him. Peter 1 is about to impale him with his own goblin glider (I was going to say “how ironic” but it’s less “irony” and more “that thing that always happens”) but Peter 2 stops him. And then the Green Goblin just shivs Peter 2 in the back because he is the actual worst. Peter 1 then cures Green Goblin by stabbing him very hard in the neck with the antidote. Peter 2 isn’t fatally wounded and Norman Osborn is real sorry about everything he’s done but that’s where the good news ends.

As Strange tries desperately to hold the multiverse together Peter asks him to cast another spell: one that will make everyone forget he even exists. Strange’s line in response is straight up beautiful: “You gotta understand. Everyone who knows and loves you…we’d…we’d have no memory of you.”

It’s the little catch in Cumberbatch’s voice when he says “we’d” rather than “they’d”.

That’s what’s causing you pain. That’s where the sharpness is.

Peter says his goodbyes to his brothers from another studio and to Ned and MJ. He tells them that they’re going to forget who he is, but that he’ll find them.

MJ tells him she loves him. And they kiss for the last time.

Several months later, an anonymous young man arrives at a cafe and orders a coffee from the pretty waitress. They make small talk. He asks about a bandage on her forehead.

She tells him it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Later the same anonymous young man visits Aunt May’s grave and Happy Horgan asks how he knew her.

And the movie ends with Peter Parker moving into his new apartment and putting on a new, homemade, decidedly un-high tech costume and swinging out into to the night.

Penniless. Friendless. Forgotten.

But still with great power.

And with great responsibility.

***

Soooo…I actually changed my opinion over the course of this review. When I first saw this movie I remember being deeply annoyed by the general messiness and the frankly unladylike amount of fan service. But for all that. It gets Spider-Man and what makes the character wonderful. It’s no Into the Spider-verse, but in terms of live action Spidey movies I think we have a new king.

Scoring

Adaptation: 19/25

There is a distinctly ramshackle script here. A lot of coincidence, a lot of moving pieces around a board rather than natural-feeling character motivation. That said, they adapted frickin’ One More Day and made it good so that’s pretty damn impressive. And, it does deliver a new status quo for Spider-Man that I’ve been saying he needed since he first appeared in the MCU. He’s an underdog hero standing on his own two feet and not Iron Man’s sidekick. Cheers to that.

Our Heroic Heroes: 24/25

Holland is giving his best performance as Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield may be my favorite live action Peter Parker ever (God that feels so weird to type) and even Tobey Maguire is actually likeable in this. My God, it truly is a multiverse of infinite possibilities.

Our Nefarious Villains: 17/25

Obviously, with five villains they’re not all going to be ringers.

“No one’s going to get that joke, Mouse.”
“I don’t care, Mouse.”

First, the good. Willem DeFoe’s Goblin goes straight to the very top tier of MCU villains. Doc Ock is great. The new Electro is a vast improvement and Jamie Foxx is clearly relishing getting a second chance to do the character right this time. And Sandman and Lizard are also there.

Our Plucky Sidekicks: 23/25

Back when I reviewed the first one I said that the supporting characters were great but Marvel should just get JK Simmons back as J. Jonah Jameson. Welp, time to hold up my end of the bargain.

The Stinger

In a bar, a very drunk Eddie Brock gets a barman to tell him the entire history of the MCU from Iron Man onwards and then vanishes back to his home dimension, leaving a tiny blob of symbiote behind him.

And the audience went…

Like everyone else, I love Venom and I don’t know why I love Venom and I just have to live with that. Also, this exchange between Eddie and the symbiote just cracked me up.

“And there was a really angry green man? Hulk?”

“AND YOU THOUGHT “LETHAL PROTECTOR” WAS A SHIT NAME.”

“Yeah. Because…it is.”

It really, really is.

Are there X-Men yet?

Considering everyone who knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man was coming through the holes in the sky at the end there, yeah, Wolverine or somebody probably was floating around. But good luck proving it.

FINAL SCORE: 83%

NEXT UPDATE: 09 June 2022

NEXT TIME: Well, I haven’t seen this movie yet, I know nothing about it and in fact never even knew it existed until I was asked to review it. But I’ll tell you one thing:

Bragging about being the director of Shark Tale is a RED FLAG.

34 comments

  1. I cannot be objective about this movie. It’s a love letter to the legacy of Spider-Man. It lets Peter learn lessons from potential future selves and have them comfort and support him. It takes him from being the most supported and resource-having Spider-Man to the least. It works in stuff from the PS4 game. (May’s gravestone message ‘If you help someone, you help everyone’ was from that.) It goes from him making a short-slightest selfish decision to him becoming almost literally selfless for the greater good.

    And MY BOYS. MY BOYS. Tobey as the sadder but wiser moral signpost big bro. Andrew Garfield as the attention-starved middle child. Tom as baby bro must protec. *Chef’s kiss* My favorite is Tobey and Andrew getting so excited when they think Tom was in a band LOL. Garfield kinda stole the movie IMO, which is pretty incredible given the rest of the cast.

    Goblin, Doc Ock., and Electro were all charismatic AF and suitably threatening. IIRC Sandman and Lizard’s actors literally couldn’t come on set due to Covid b/c they were not in the US, hence the reduced roles.

    Strange as bemused mentor was fun. Ned is a sweetheart as always and while I was lukewarm on MJ in previous movies they made me really root for these two crazy kids in this one. (I do wish they’d dye her hair red but minor quibble).

    And I’ll go more in-depth when you get there but I heartily disagree RE Dr. Strange 2. It did some things really well but it took some contrived shortcuts to wedge certain characters into the roles they wanted them in *cough* Wanda and Mordo but mostly Wanda *cough* and so the emotional arcs felt a little hollow because of that, whereas I 100% bought everyone’s No Way Home arcs. Also there was both less multiverses and less madness than I expected in a film called Multiverse of Madness.

  2. When I was reflecting on this movie after seeing it, I was reminded of when you said in the Raya review that there were no movies that were big cultural events anymore. Which is why watching this in theaters was so fun. Having everyone laugh at the jokes together and cheer at the previous actors returning… I hadn’t had that much fun in theaters since the first Avengers movie.

    Reflecting on the movie, it’s still a blast. Maguire, Dafoe and Molina feel like they never stopped playing these characters, and I’m glad Garfield and Foxx were given a second chance to get their characters right. Sandman and Lizard are just kind of there, but they do fine. That actually is their original actors, but they only did the voices, and the rest is CGI and using footage from their original movies.

  3. “One More Day needed to happen.”

    Okay, gotta stop you right there Mouse.

    MJ was indeed vivacious and fun-loving, but a huge part of her character post “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” was recognizing that her “nothing’s ever wrong with Mary Jane Watson” attitude was to cover her own trauma. She, her sister and her mother will all abused by her father. And her slamming the door at Peter’s attempts to push her away and getting him to open up and grieve was the moment the both of them began to heal. Gerry Conway once described how appropriate that a broken man (not child) like Peter to hook up with an equally broken woman and together they become whole. The issue isn’t the fact that Peter and MJ are married, the issue is that writers decided to take Mary Jane (who took self-defense lessons from Captain America, could rescue herself from the worst predicaments and had no problem talking smack to superheroes and villains) and turn her into a wet blanket.

    Okay, rant over.

    This is my favorite Spider-Man movie thus far, not only did it manage to tie up the loose threads from two continuities, but it also provided a sense of hope for these Spider-Men. Toby has managed to get his life together and Andrew is given a sense of hope and some much needed support. Seriously, the two of them channeling Robin Williams and giving him a “It’s not your fault” really helped me look past my dislike and see that it wasn’t his fault the script didn’t support his talents.

    By the way, during the Goblin fight. If you’re focusing on the apartment décor and not the fact that Mr. Defoe’s cackling skull is trying to burst out of his skin, you’re watching the wrong thing.

  4. Every negative thing you say about this movie is true, and I couldn’t care less. It’s like saying my cat is fat and stupid, of course I acknowledge that she is, but she’s my cat and I love her to pieces.

    I’ve honestly enjoyed every live-action Spider-Man, though of the non-MCU five of them, I’d only say Raimi’s first two are actually good movies. And even those come with caveats, like Tobey’s Peter being just kind of a weird gremlin and having negative chemistry with Kirsten Dunst. Garfield’s films feel like wasted opportunities, they had good parts but no real substance.

    The MCU Spidey films were improvements, but that mostly feels like a product of them being part of the MCU, a franchise that even made a star out of Rocket Raccoon. Holland’s Spidey is so dialed into to the metaplot of the universe (debuted in a Captain America film, mentored by Iron Man, fights alongside the Avengers, Guardians, and Doctor Strange), that one could make the case there’s not much special about him. If you saw only the MCU movies with Spider-Man before this one, with no knowledge of the character’s history and significance, would you know he’s a bigger deal than, say, Ant-Man? To paraphrase Tony “If you’re nothing without the franchise, you shouldn’t have it”.

    Until No Way Home.

    Someone told me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man effectively has a six movie long origin story, and god I wish I’d thought of that. This is it, he’s finally Spider-Man, it was all Act 1. And hell, you can call it an eleven movie origin, because he’s standing on the shoulders of what came before. Like Into the Spider-Verse, this is a love letter to one of the few characters in all of pop culture who could possibly justify having this sort of story about them.

    Like, you couldn’t do Iron Man: Into the Ironverse, because there’s only been one version of Iron Man anyone has given a shit about. The list of characters who could survive something like this includes Spider-Man, Batman, the Doctor (every anniversary special) and…that’s about it.

    Yes, it was memey. Spider-Verse did that too, with the dancing and pointing scenes, though it worked better there because that film was more overtly a comedy. But this movie is specifically a tribute to Spidey’s history in film, and the memes are a part of that legacy too. And at the same time Holland’s Peter learns what it means to be Spider-Man from his own past incarnations, he’s stripped of all the MCU support structures that were propping him up before now. All Spider-Man needs is Spider-Man.

    I get your point about One More Day, it was done to keep Spidey from being An Old, maybe a necessary reversion for a medium where nobody really ages, horrible execution aside. But No Way Home does something better, something the comics had repeatedly tried and failed at; they finally found a good way to let Spider-Man grow up.

  5. I feel like I am losing my damn mind when people talk about this movie. Everyone keeps telling me how great this one is and I just do not like it. It manages to be my favorite MCU Spider-Man movie, but is that is damning with the faintest praise. It gets a lot of points for actually being a Spider-Man movie instead of an Iron Man jr. movie. (btw, why does Spider-Man get a hyphen and Iron Man doesn’t?) Admittedly, I don’t always have the most mainstream Spider-Man opinions. I am still a real big fan of the first Amazing Spider-Man movie.

    I hated this movie until the other Spider-Men show up, and that is pretty late in the movie. The whole bit with helping the villains feels like it was written by people who only know the other movies from the memes. Not only is Lizard alive and in jail at the end of Amazing Spider-Man, Sandman ends Spider-Man 3 alive and free. Giving Doc Oc a new chip does nothing to help him. If he already knows that Peter is Spider-Man, he is already coming around to good on his own, and it is already too late. The reactor has reached the point where either he dies, Peter dies, or all of New York City gets destroyed. I guess this way he can die doing the right thing because someone else gave him new technology, instead of being inspired to do the right thing on his own. So you know, that’s just 3/5 of the villains who don’t need this help at all.

    Beyond that, it is just really ugly. Like, the CGI is bad. I rewatched Amazing Spider-Man after watching this, and the Lizard looks better in that movie. That’s probably because that movie knew the basics of lighting and cinematography. The fight scenes here , with the exception of the one between Peter and Strange, in this look like rubber puppets bouncing off of things. Also, minor point, but it becomes really clear that the effects teams that do the fights in the MCU are completely separate from the rest of the team, because they totally killed off Flint Marco. He gets cured, and then the copper room he is in gets a full blast from electro, and he is never seen again. Good job Petey, a guy who ended his movie perfectly fine got fried because you felt a need to cure him.

    Finally, #notmyJonah.

    Sorry got a bit rant there. I just have serious opinions about Spider-Man movies.

    Addendum: Why do all of these movies shoehorn “home” in to their titles when home isn’t actually a theme in them?

  6. Ohhhh boy. If that opening essay doesn’t get this comment section filled to the triple digits, nothing will.

    I’m not the best person to talk about the Peter/MJ marriage, since the people who got me into comics as a teenager all hated OMD with a passion (one guy even proudly made graphs charting how hard sales had tanked in its wake), and anyways I’m not even the tenth biggest Spider-fan who reads this blog. I would, however, like to comment on your usage of Superman as a contrast.

    1. The idea that Lois complements Clark both in-story and out is a beautiful one. Unfortunately, it rarely if ever works in practice. Why? Because Clark Kent is already a reporter. There is virtually nothing she can do that he can’t do better, simply by virtue of being able to hear a rumor whispered in Beijing, and fly there before your next heartbeat. I fear that’s the real story-engine most writers, from the Golden Age ’til today, use for her: to get constantly upstaged by The Hero, as is the fate of any civilian in a superhero story.

    (You could, theoretically, get more mileage out of focusing on her personality – something colder and more cynical to contrast the all-loving, ever-optimistic Superman. Alas, most people are happy handing off that niche to a certain fella in Gotham.)

    2. Related to the above – I’d like to note the Super-marriage has lasted only slightly longer than the Spider-marriage in terms of publication, and I’m not sure creators or fans were that much more gung-ho about it in any period. Setting aside the bazillion dead-end Imaginary Stories (and the similarly disposable Earth-2 Superman), they didn’t tie the knot ’til the ’90s; before that, and intermittently after, Superman also had a veritable conga-line of love interests.

    (And maybe that’s inevitable. Maybe, in the world of Capes, “steady” just means you don’t have any right holding down a monthly title.)

    1. One small hole in Point 1s logic – Lois Lane can a actually STICK with a story, because she doesn’t have to juggle saving the day, keeping up a secret identity, chasing the latest story and just living her daily life.

      She’s all reporter and Clark is, at best, a part-timer; he has to be or he’d be the sort of person who’d willingly ignore disasters chopping down on human lives for the sake of pushing his own career.

      It also bears pointing out that Superman can do just about anything, but not everything – if he’s listening in on somebody locking & loading for a gunfight in Beijing, how’s he going to notice a people trafficker in Suicide Slum without the sterling efforts of Lois Lane?

    2. Also disagreeing with point 1 here. Especially as a journalist and reporter, Lois Lane definitely can be better and even superior to Clark, and some of the better Superman stories definitely played up that part. Yes, Superman is better at eavesdropping, but that doesn’t make him better at research and doing the legwork. Clark is too much of a do-gooder to earn the trust of street-level informers, and Lois can be so great to get under a scummy businessman’s skin, get info out of him (or his connections) that neither Clark or Superman have access to. At least, in the Superman stories I prefer the characters are utilized exactly like that (yet another thing the Snyder-Films absolutely didn’t get about the characters).

  7. Honestly if there was any Disney film from 2021 that visibly proved it was made during the pandemic, it’s Encanto. And I think the reason that Topher Grace isn’t in NWH is because Tom Hardy is accepted as the definitive Venom these days for good or bad.

      1. There are some glaring animation errors and the story’s resolution is extremely rushed.

    1. What are the glaring errors? And the end of the movie is more due to limited runtime for animated films so there was no room for that and Camilo for who more was planned. Maybe it could have been done better but it worked and I don’t think it’s pandemic related. Animated films ought to be least effected since the animators can do some work at home.

      1. At the very end of the Bruno song when everyone’s circling around Mirabel, the fishbowl lady’s behind Isabela. When Isabela crosses in front of Mirabel, Fishbowl Lady disappears and Dolores is in her place. Considering that the fans watch this particular song more than any other scene in the film, it’s staggering how no one picks up on it. And I’m glad there weren’t more scenes of Camilo, a little of him goes a long way. I’m surprised there weren’t more scenes planned with Dolores, her character seems the most underdeveloped.

  8. Talking as someone who has never read One More Day, what the hell (pun) did Mephisto have to gain frome someone’s marriage? Doesn’t he deal on souls like any other comic book demon? What was in it for him? If he actually gained something like power from it somehow, doesn’t that make Peter responsible for what Mephisto does with it? And if he didn’t, why to bother at all?

    Furthermore, if Mephisto can change the past, why doesn’t change it so he takes over the world?

    The movie should have been a two parter, with the villains just swatting Tom around for part one and Tobey and Andrew arriving at the end of it, and then part two is all about their three way teamup. That way everything is given more breathing room and Sandman and Lizard can actually do something. To make it an actual Sinister Six, make it so they spring Vulture out and force him to take them to Peter. Better than that being pulled to Morbius’ lame duck of a film.

    Also, what need is there to erase the concept of Peter? How can he even have a home, social security and anything at all then? Just making it so everyone forgets he’s Spider-Man suffices because he’s lost his only family, his superpowered pals, and he’s only that kid again for MJ and Ned. It even works thematically better because he actually gets what he wanted but it’s not what he thought it’d be.

    And also, yeah, these movies don’t get Jonah. The point of Jonah is that, blinded and bullheaded as he is, he’s got integrity and morals. He’s too much of a sleazeball here.

  9. Spiderverse absolutely made me like No Way Home less by its mere existence. Spiderverse is maybe the best superhero film ever and No Way Home just doesn’t compare. But I still liked it a lot.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on Andrew Garfield, when I first saw Amazing Spiderman I thought he was an absolutely perfect choice for Peter Parker, especially when compared to Tobey Maguire who I never liked at all. I always did find it kind of funny that the Raimi Spiderman movies had such great villains (at least in 1 and 2) but such a bad Spiderman while the Amazing movies had such a great Spiderman but such terrible villains. The MCU Spiderman movies are the ones that kind of put it all together, great Spiderman and great villains. But even there I think Spiderverse wins out!

    The one moment in the theater that made me absolutely go nuts was Charlie Cox showing up as Matt Murdock. I’ve loved Charlie Cox for a long time, everyone go watch Stardust if you’ve never seen it, and I thought the Netflix Daredevil show was fantastic. So seeing him show up in the MCU right after the events of the Hawkeye finale (which was an excellent show all around IMO) made me lose my mind there. I saw the movie with my wife, dad, and sister right before Christmas and they had no idea why I was freaking out so much.

  10. Ooh, hard disagree on ending the Spider-marriage. “mediahunter” up above really summed it up. I’d like to follow up with pointing out that Mary Jane was a fairly shallow character until “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” when Gerry Conway and the writers after him really began to add depth to the character. Until then, she was the fun-loving party girl, which may have been more appealing to many fans then Gwen Stacy, but there wasn’t much substance to her. As mediahunter also said, it was mainly poor writing that dogged the Spider-marriage, not the marriage itself. Straczynski and DeFalco, for example, demonstrated just how strong the marriage could be when you actually understood the relationship and put some effort into depicting it.

    Also, “Brand New Day” was NOT a renaissance. “Big Time,” when Dan Slott took over solo writing responsibility of “Amazing Spider-Man,” was the start of a renaissance. Yes, Slott’s run on Spidey has become pretty divisive and there are several things that fans think aged poorly, but “Brand New Day” was an absolute mess. Sales of “Amazing Spider-Man” were DECLINING due to “Brand New Day.” There were three different creative teams with no shared direction for the character and each with their own pet love interest, a mostly forgettable cast of mostly unlikable new supporting characters (Dexter Bennet? Vin Gonzales? Jackpot? Anybody even remember these characters?), and a slew of lame villains (such as Freak, Paper Doll, Prof. Benjamin Rabin, the Bookie). Only a few things from Brand New Day have stuck around, most notably the only cool villain of that era, Mr. Negative.

  11. Dear Mouse, I’m very pleased that you came
    around on this film and especially repeated that I shan’t need to get catty about yet another negative review of my Very Favourite Spider-man: Mr Andrew Garfield’s Parker is a Snarky Little B**** and I have never stopped loving that take on the character as a result.

    Also, I would dearly love to believe that the first thing he did on getting home was walk right into his very own “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot” moment; I’m also fond of the notion that Spider-Maguire ran into his own universe’s version of Doctor Strange right after coming home “Spider-Man, what just happened?” “Strange things happened” “Well played, young man, well played – you’ve been stabbed!” “I definitely got stabbed. House call?”

  12. Nothing like a long, nerdy, passionate review from you to cap off a very long day. Reviews like this is just the Unshaved Mouse at his best. I disagree with certain opinions tho. I love Tobey Maguire, I’m sorry. I think the Raimi movies portrayed a better more compelling story of personal struggle. I’ll admit, however, that part of my affection for the Raimi trilogy comes from simple nostalgia. He’s my Spider-Man and the Spider-Man of many many people. That’s why the moment when he and Doc Ock met again touched a lot of us. A lot of the movie runs on that kind of nostalgia that appeals more to people who mostly know Spider-Man through either Tobey or Andrew, not the comics. Personally, I really liked No Way Home. I find, too, that it finally gets Tom’s version to where he needs to be. Anyway, again, thanks for the great review Mouse.

  13. I know you gave up on the “Do they look…skrully to you?” segment years ago but given Secret Invasion is eventually happening, do you think there’s any chance Happy Hogan was a Skrull in this? Because he felt kind of off to me in this one, with May breaking up with him all of a sudden, and with that Stark tech stowed away in his apartment after letting Stark Industries get completely caught up in the Mysterio mess. I can’t tell if he was just meant to be even less competent than before so the plot would progress, or if he’s meant to be suspicious

  14. Dear Mouse, I’ve just got back from TOP GUN: MAVERICK – it’s cheesy enough to give you heartburn, but the cheese is so delicious you’ll want to keep eating until you risk a heart attack!

    It is, in fact, the Real Gorgonzola and I happily recommend it.

      1. You don’t HAVE to, but if you have a single jolt of the need for speed in your body, this film will offer you some Michelin-starred catering.

  15. I nearly forgot to mention – given that any given Spidey’s default state is “The boy could use some help” I find it difficult to believe that Spider-Maguire’s strong impression that the local boy needed him constitutes any kind of plot hole.

    That’s not ESP, it’s just the Law of Probability …

  16. Mouse, might I please ask your opinion as a True Son of Eire? If so, then might one ask what it has been like to watch that Big Jubilee Party from the other side of the Pale?

    I’m a little curious as to whether the Republic’s reaction was more amusement, consternation or the vicarious thrill of watching expensive pageantry without being obliged to pay without being obliged to pay for it … 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s