Spider-Man: No Way Home (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers! And not just for this movie.
This came out in December 2021, but I didn't see it until May 2022. (I decided to watch it on opening night of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness", just because Doctor Strange is in both movies.) There's something that I saw rumored for quite awhile before this movie came out. And after the movie came out, but well before I got to see it, I learned that the rumors were true. It's something I desperately don't want to spoil in my review, but I just don't see any way around it, if I'm going to write the kind of review that I want to. (And what I want to do is bring up questions the movie left me with.) The thing I'm talking about is that Tobey Maguire, from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and Andrew Garfield, from the Marc Webb Spider-Man movies, both appear in this film, though not until somewhat later. So I'll get to that in due course. First, I just want to say that it's a pretty awesome movie, almost but not quite good enough for me to list it as a favorite. And a big part of what I loved about it is the interaction between the three different Spider-Man characters.
Anyway, at the end of "Spider-Man: Far From Home", Spider-Man's secret identity as Peter Parker was revealed to the world, and he was accused of murdering Mysterio. So that's right where this film picks up. Peter, MJ, Ned, and May are all apprehended by the Department of Damage Control. (I didn't catch what agency it was while watching the movie, I just learned that while working on this review the next day.) At one point, Peter says that Nick Fury knew what really happened, but the agent who took him in said Fury had been off planet for some time. It seems a bit weird to me that he would have known about that, and also that if he did know, he didn't also know that Fury was being impersonated on Earth by a Skrull. It seems to me that the first bit of privileged information would need to include the second bit, but he didn't seem to know it. I'm also kind of surprised Peter never questioned this bit of news, because it must have been confusing for him. But granted, he had more immediate concerns, and it's possible he later wondered about Fury being off planet, offscreen. It's not important, just something that needled me. Soon after being taken in, Peter gets a lawyer: Matt Murdock, from Marvel's Netflix series "Daredevil". (Because I don't get Netflix, I hadn't seen that series when it was first released, but by the time I saw this movie, I had seen the first episode on Disney+. Even if I hadn't, I'm sure I would have known it was the same actor playing that character, and I think it's pretty cool.) Unfortunately, Murdock isn't in the movie for very long. Not much longer, really, then it took to say he didn't think the charges against Peter would stick. I was disappointed that we never got any specific explanation of how or why the charges for Mysterio's murder were dropped, and it seemed much too easy, to me. Like the writers were just in a rush to get on with the rest of the movie, and glossed over that bit. But even being free, Peter and his friend have a hard time, because half the people in the world still believe he's a murderer, and don't believe Mysterio was a villain (or that he caused his own death). So, Peter and May have to go stay at Happy Hogan's apartment, which is a secure facility, I guess. Meanwhile, Peter, MJ, and Ned all apply to MIT, but all get rejected because of Spider-Man's notoriety. (Oddly enough, Flash Thompson, who uses his tenuous connection to Peter to make himself semi-famous, doesn't have any trouble getting into the school.)
Peter is more concerned about it being his fault that MJ and Ned didn't get into MIT than he is about his own rejection. So he goes to Doctor Strange to ask if he could go back in time and prevent everyone from learning he's Spider-Man. But Strange doesn't have the time stone anymore. We also learn that he's no longer Sorcerer Supreme; Wong is. (I don't think that had been revealed in anything before this, anyway. But I could be wrong.) However, Strange does reluctantly agree to try a spell that would erase Peter's secret identity from everyone's minds. But Peter keeps interrupting the spell to ask for exceptions for friends and family, and the spell ends up going haywire, so Strange has to contain the spell in some kind of magic box thing, to prevent it from messing up the space-time continuum, or whatever. Unfortunately, it did mess things up, as Spider-Man soon discovers that villains from the previous two movie franchises had been pulled from their respective universes into this one. (And they're all played by the same actors from the other movies.) The first one he encountered was Doctor Octopus, and soon he also meets Green Goblin, Electro, Sandman, and the Lizard. He manages to get them all into magical holding cells at Strange's place, but he also learns that at least some of them had died in their own universes, and had been pulled into this universe in the moments before their deaths. (TBH the only one I specifically remembered having died was Goblin, aka Norman Osborn. I'm still not sure if all five characters had died or not. I should rewatch the older movies sometime.) Peter doesn't want to return them only to die once they get there, so he wants to "fix" all of them before sending them home, so they won't be villains anymore. But Strange is more interested in restoring the multiverse to its proper state, and wants to send them home immediately, which leads to a fight between him and Spider-Man. Spidey wins (with the power of math!), leaving Strange temporarily trapped in a mirror dimension, and gives the box with the spell in it to MJ for safekeeping. And Ned takes a ring that belongs to strange, which later lets him open portals.
Peter takes the villains to Happy's apartment (which Happy will be displeased about when he later finds out), and starts the process of curing the villains. But they eventually turn against him, and a major battle breaks out. This leads to a major plot point which I'm not going to spoil. To make matters worse, J. Jonah Jameson shows up with a news crew and witnesses the destruction caused by the battle, for which he blames Spider-Man, of course. And some kind of military unit (I'm not sure if it's the police or DODC or what) also shows up, wanting to take Spider-Man into custody, but he gets away. After that, Ned tries to find Peter when he accidentally discovers his ability to make portals. But that just leads to him and MJ meeting Maguire's and Garfield's Spider-Men. (They had been in this universe ever since the spell was cast, and I think they were both separately watching over Tom Holland's Peter without interfering, until this point.) MJ does figure out where her Peter is, and she and Ned take the other Spider-Men to meet him. So they end up helping him fight (and cure) the villains, before Strange shows up to send them all home. (I guess unlike most or all of the villains, the other two Peter Parkers were taken from the present, rather than the past, since they were still alive. It makes me wonder how their own past selves would know to stop fighting the villains who were no longer villains, in the heat of the battles where they originally died. And how their living would change subsequent events in their universes, which might totally screw with the other movies so that they didn't actually happen the way we saw them happen.)
Anyway, in order to send everyone back to their own universes (and stop an infinite number of other villains from entering this universe), Strange has to recast the original spell, except instead of just forgetting that Peter is Spider-Man, they'd forget Peter completely. I don't really understand why that was necessary, I felt like the original spell would have worked just as well, but maybe I'm wrong. It's certainly a lot more dramatic this way. But that left me with a bunch more questions. Like, do people who worked with Spider-Man remember him and just not know his true identity, or what? There is later a scene between Peter and Happy in which the latter says he'd met May through Spider-Man, but I have no idea how that would have happened if he didn't know Spider-Man's identity. Also, the movie flashes forward a couple of months, and I have no idea where Peter had been living all that time, because it certainly couldn't have been with May, and he just moves into a new apartment at the end. And one of the boxes he moves in has a GED book in it, which makes sense because there's no way there would be any records of his attending and graduating his high school. In fact there'd be no records of any kind, I assume, including a birth certificate. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but I don't see how. And I got the impression he no longer has the suit Tony Stark had made for him, or any of Stark's technology. And... I don't want to spoil whether he manages to reconnect with MJ and Ned or not, now that they don't know him.
Well, I've raised a lot of questions and quibbles here, which might make it seem like I didn't like the movie that much, but as I already said, I did actually love it. It's harder for me to express the parts I found good, though. I just love the drama of it all, and of course the action, and the morality, and the universal crossovers, and all the character interactions (not just between the three Spider-Men). There's even some decent humor, amidst all the drama and chaos. I expect there were things I would have said about the movie while watching it that I've forgotten now, including both good and bad-ish things. But overall, it was a ton of fun. I should also mention that there's a mid-credits scene with Eddie Brock, from the "Venom" movies, which I haven't seen. But before the movie there was a preview for the new Venom movie, which I appreciated having seen when I got to the scene with him in this movie. It's neat that yet another fictional universe got tied into this one, and it seems to set up a potential sequel in this universe. Whether that setup pays off or not, I definitely hope this isn't the last we see of Holland's Spider-Man. I feel like there's a lot more stories to tell, both in Spider-Man movies and other MCU movies. I also want to mention that instead of a post-credits scene, there's a post-credits preview of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness", which I also quite look forward to seeing.