“Spider-Man: No Way Home” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei
Where to watch: In theaters
As per Merriam-Webster, redemption: the act, process, or an instance of redeeming – serving to offset or compensate for a defect.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is all about redemption. And on multiple levels.
The new blockbuster – yes, it’s already a blockbuster, with its opening weekend numbers soaring to the number two spot for best United States domestic box office debut of all time ($250 million, only behind “Avengers: Endgame”) – is setting records, despite the pandemic and the new omicron variant. And with it earning more than $600 million globally, it is well on its way to joining the just under 50 movies in the $1 billion box office club.
That’s redemption, in some ways, for a movie industry – especially theaters – badly battered from the pandemic, with many shuttered for months, and with current numbers still mostly just a shadow of their previous selves.
It’s also redemption for this franchise. Bursting out the gate with the initial film in this latest reboot, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, starring 25-year-old British actor Tom Holland, was one of the best films of 2017 (far better than “Wonder Woman”), and breathed new life into the character Spider-Man, and brought fresh youthful energy to comic book movies, in general.
However, something went off course slightly with the follow-up, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in 2019, which had only glimpses of what set “Homecoming” apart. Furthermore, it paled in comparison to the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” released the year before.
But “Far From Home” did set up the intriguing premise for “No Way Home”, including the revelation that Peter Parker is indeed Spider-Man.
And as a result, we have what is quite possibly one of the most creative and fascinating ways a comic book-based movie series has ever incorporated the vast history of its long-running franchise.
With a theme revolving around (again) redemption, it delves into the concept of do-overs, and of second (or even) third chances. With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, our friendly neighborhood web-slinger is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life as Peter Parker from the high stakes of being a superhero. When Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange, the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
There are plenty surprises at every turn. And at every level, satisfaction – from the twists, the action, the adventure, and especially the humor. To say any more about the plot would be to spoil so much. But if you’ve managed to avoid the spoilers, you’re good! Keep up the great work.
Just note that the entire cast is firing on all cylinders. To borrow an oft-used adjective to describe Spider-Man:
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is amazing!
Zendaya as M.J. is amazing!
Benedict Cumberbatch, as the transplanted Dr. Strange, is amazing!
Marisa Tomei (Aunt May), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), are all amazing!
Everyone in the large cast, with all the many surprise appearance – amazing! And they deliver smiles and cheers every minute.
“No Way Home” strikes what may be the perfect note for a comic book-based superhero action film – a deft blend of fantasy and not-entirely-outside-the-realm-of-possibility drama/angst/tension/seriousness, plus healthy doses of fun, adventure and humor. It is everything one could want from a film in this genre, making all the others that came before it this year look like child’s play. It is simply one of the best films of 2021.
“Tick, Tick… Boom!” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens
Genre: Biograph, Music/Drama
Where to watch: In theaters
Speaking of the amazing Spider-Man…
Since his adventures playing the web-slinger (from 2012 to 2016), Andrew Garfield has gone on to achieve some incredible success.
With an Oscar nomination for his spellbinding performance in “Hacksaw Ridge”, and a Tony Award win for the Broadway revival of the play “Angels in America”, Garfield is proving he’s one of the most versatile young actors working today.
He shows off more diverse skills in the recently released Netflix film “Tick, Tick…Boom!”. The musical drama from Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda, based on the autobiographical musical by playwright Jonathan Larson (“Rent”).
It’s the story of the aspiring composer in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice, all while navigating the pressures of love and friendship.
It’s a compelling story, and relatable for a lot of young people. The film does start off feeling a little too eccentric, but becomes more enjoyable and accessible as it moves along, with catchy songs and lively choreography, and fantastic performances all around.
But this is all about Garfield. It’s clear that with seemingly anything he does, he’s simply amazing!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.