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Spider-Man: No Way Home makes second chances cool again 

Editor's note: Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood and Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal are filling in while the Starkeys are on vacation.

With Spider-Man's secret identity now revealed to the world, the teenage web-slinger is no longer able to separate his regular day-to-day life as high school student Peter Parker from his role as a superhero. (148 min.)

click to enlarge SUIT UP Tom Holland plays Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, in his third solo outing (if we're not counting additional appearances in team-up Marvel flicks), Spider-Man: No Way Home. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Sony
  • SUIT UP Tom Holland plays Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, in his third solo outing (if we're not counting additional appearances in team-up Marvel flicks), Spider-Man: No Way Home.
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Caleb There's just no way around it; No Way Home is hard to talk about without diving into its juiciest spoilers, but I'm gonna try my best not to. Even before walking into the theater, I was convinced that the trailers had already given away too many of the film's surprises—including the return of Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina, as the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, respectively. There's always plenty of hype surrounding anything Marvel puts out, but the promise of getting to see these guys bring back their characters from, arguably, the most nostalgic and beloved era in Spidey history (the Tobey Maguire years) really raised the anticipation bar, at least for me. Fans of the franchise already got a taste of the "multiverse" concept in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where multiple iterations of Spider-Man from alternate realities collide with each other. No Way Home's Peter Parker (Tom Holland) finds himself in a similar predicament after he seeks help from a powerful sorcerer and former collaborator, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). After the events of his last live-action outing, Far From Home, Spider-Man's identity is no longer a secret, which not only complicates Parker's life, but the lives of his aunt May (Marisa Tomei), girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) as well. Parker asks Strange if there's a way he can make the world forget he's Spider-Man, so the caped wizard agrees to cast a spell to do just that, but there are some unexpected side effects—namely in the form of new, yet old, Spidey villains suddenly appearing out of thin air.

Bulbul No Way Home is definitely a Spidey smorgasbord for every generation of Spider-Man fans (spoiler-free hint), and it's a feel-good tear-jerker thanks to its central message: Second chances are cool. Every single movie iteration of the web slinger is grounded in an almost formulaic pattern of making the best out of the cards you're dealt. Parker–with his lively teen spirit–messes up, pays the price with an unspeakable loss, lashes out at the world to fill the gaping hole, and ultimately realizes that revenge isn't the healthy way out. With the identity leak, No Way Home teaches him a lesson through a wholly original dilemma that speaks to the human and the superhuman in Parker. The thrilling plot got Downtown SLO theater patrons to gasp and yelp, no holds barred. That's exactly what an action-packed superhero movie should incite. No Way Home does leave some unanswered questions though. Marvel movies always claimed that fiddling with time travel causes ruptures in the timeline of those alternate universes. So, what happens when old Spider-Man villains leave their original realities to come to a New York City protected by Holland's hero? Do their universes, storylines, and previous Spider-Man flicks crumble because of their surprising fates at the end of this movie? We never find out.

Caleb I think there's a dangerously time-consuming Reddit thread full of potential answers to that, but it is unfortunate how contrived the universe-crossing stuff can feel at times. I appreciate the film's straightforward, humorous attitude about that stuff for the most part, though, and the way it leans more into fantasy rather than sci-fi. Having Doctor Strange involved, and the film's plot resulting from a magic spell gone haywire, somehow don't sound as convoluted to me as your usual science-driven time travel fare. Suspension of disbelief aside, this movie really tugged at my heartstrings, and it's honestly hard to separate how much of my enjoyment came from nostalgic appeasement or unbiased admiration for, you know, other stuff I should take into consideration. I'm almost afraid to watch it again, because of how euphoric I still feel toward it after one viewing. There are some genuinely touching and beautifully executed story-driven moments in this film. They're just too spoiler-centric to gush over any further.

Bulbul I'd happily watch No Way Home again if I stumble across it on some streaming service soon. It's layered with nostalgia (watch out for J.K. Simmons reprising everyone's favorite crabby news reporter, J. Jonah Jameson), and made me feel right at home. What I love the most about Spider-Man is that he's a nuanced hero who gives equal importance to all the relationships in his life, be it his family, his best friend, or his girlfriend. Mutant opponents may underestimate him for being young, but it's Parker's "never-say-die" humor even in the darkest hour that makes him endure the test of time, what with eight movies and three actors donning the Spidey suit. No Way Home is proof that the franchise can breathe new life into what could be a predictable plot blueprint. Run to catch it on the big screen, and relive the fantasy when you get home with the Reddit thread. Δ

Split Screen was written by Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal and Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood this week. Send comments to gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.


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