Reviewed by: Shawna Ellis
Feeling defeated, insecure and pessimistic
The fantasy and unbiblical idea of the existence of multiple universes
Sorcerery in the Bible
Villains teaming up to destroy a hero
Tom Holland … Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Zendaya … MJ (Michelle Jones)
Benedict Cumberbatch … Dr. Stephen Strange—Master of the Mystic Arts
Marisa Tomei … May Parker—Parker’s aunt
Jamie Foxx … Max Dillon / Electro
Alfred Molina … Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus
Jon Favreau … Happy Hogan
Willem Dafoe … Norman Osborn / Green Goblin
J.K. Simmons … J. Jonah Jameson
Benedict Wong … Wong
Jacob Batalon … Ned Leeds—Parker’s best friend
Tony Revolori … Eugene “Flash” Thompson—Parker’s classmate and rival
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See all »
|Distributor||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
Does everyone deserve a second chance? When does something wrong become “our” problem?
As “Spider-Man: No Way Home” opens, we are in the immediate aftermath of the previous film in the franchise, “Far From Home.” Sensationalist newsman J. Jonah Jameson has just revealed Spider-Man’s secret identity as well as accusations of wrong-doing to the entire world. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is wrestling with this unwelcome notoriety as he just wants to get on with school and his blossoming relationship with MJ (delightfully portrayed by Zendaya).
Public feelings about Spider-Man are mixed, including those of the admission staff at MIT, which is the school of choice for Peter, MJ and Ned (Jacob Batalon). Peter has just saved the world, but it feels as if everything in his life is unraveling. The once-optimistic young man struggles with the weight of these and other issues, driving him to seek help from Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). What could go amiss when you combine potent but sensitive magic and the impulsivity of youth? Suddenly Peter has more than college admissions to consider as dangerous and powerful enemies begin seeking out Spider-Man.
This has been a much-anticipated film with more than the usual amount of speculation and hype. In an effort to not spoil the film for those who have not seen it, I won’t reveal more of the plot and characters than was seen in the theatrical trailer. It is best watched without foreknowledge of who is in the film and what exactly transpires. I’ve never enjoyed giving spoilers in reviews, and will instead try to focus on content.
Just as Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker has grown and matured since his first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” we see continuing maturation of the character in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” While still making mistakes due to his immaturity, Peter is entering the world of adulthood with increased burdens and responsibilities, including what to do with the problems created when he disrupts Dr. Strange’s spell.
His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) tries to remind him that helping people is what they do, but Peter is not always so sure. On a few occasions we hear an exasperated and over-burdened Peter say, “It’s not my problem.” Biblically, we read in James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
How can I know what is RIGHT or WRONG? Answer
How can I DISCERN whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer
What is GOODNESS? Answer
What is RIGHTEOUSNESS? Answer
What is HOLINESS? Answer
Are we living in a MORAL STONE AGE? Answer
All of this chaos leaves Peter in need of guidance from those who are older, wiser, and who understand what it means to balance power and responsibility, relationships and danger, morals and bitterness, mercy and revenge. It is heartening to see young Peter learning what it really means to be Spider-Man, but this also means that the film has a darker tone with choices that will have greater and more lasting consequences for the character.
Peter’s attempts to set things right often seem to lead to more problems, as well as accusations of weakness. One character cruelly jabs that Peter is “… strong enough to have it all, but too weak to take it.” Often we mistake mercy or even morality for weakness.
But the ultimate mercy-giver, Jesus Christ, was not weak. He had ultimate power but willingly chose to set that aside to make a way to save us (Philippians 2:6-8). And we definitely need saving! Over and over again, God’s Word shows us that we can’t fix things on our own.
One villain in this film rejects Peter’s offer of help, claiming “We don’t need you to save us! We don’t need to be fixed!” Too often we in the real world have these same attitudes, and it is not until we see our desperate need for a Savior that we can accept Christ’s offer. We should be thankful that we have a God who offers us a second chance through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus!
The audience with which I viewed the film cheered and clapped as the movie progressed, and I heard many praising the film for being simultaneously fun, heartfelt, and nostalgic. I found it to be very entertaining, well-acted and surprisingly moving in a way that greatly exceeds the previous installments. Unfortunately, though, it has some of the same problematic content as the other two MCU Spider-Man films. This is especially troubling because Spider-Man is a character with so much appeal for young children.
LANGUAGE: There is vulgar and crude language peppered throughout, with several uses each of the usual vulgarities. Sometimes these are used repetitively for extra comedic effect (such as Strange telling the teens twice to “Scooby-doo this sh*t”). In another instance a few of the characters repeat a vulgar phrase in turn, making it highly “quotable” for younger viewers. It was good to see that they stepped down the near-use of the F-word which they had toyed with in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” but at one point Dr. Strange is holding a coffee cup that replaces that word with a picture of a fox to read, “for fox sake.” There were also multiple misuses of God’s name, including one paired with damn. Profane language includes several uses each of damn and hell.
SEXUALITY: Aunt May refers to her relationship with Happy Hogan as a “fling.” Adults walk in on Peter and MJ while she is helping him change out of his suit and assume that there is something more happening. Peter is shirtless and wearing boxers in this scene, but even after donning a shirt he spends the next few minutes with no pants. Another male character is naked for some time but not seen below the waist. Some of May’s clothing reveals cleavage. When discussing organic rather than mechanical web shooters, someone asks if he can shoot it out of “anywhere else” in a way that seems a bit suggestive. A couple shares a few kisses. In a mid-credits scene a character suggests going skinny-dipping.
VIOLENCE: Expect a similar level of violence as previous films in the franchise, with characters thrown, beaten, crushed, shot at, stabbed, electrocuted, and nearly blown up. There is frequent peril to both regular humans and those with powers. Some blood is shown, but nothing overtly gory. A character dies and others are sometimes presumed dead. Some monstrous images and scary villains might frighten young children.
OCCULT: There is heavy use of fantasy magic, including a spell with physical components such as stones and mysterious liquids. The unbiblical theory of the existence of a multiverse is explored. There is talk of fate and destiny. One character likens himself to a god, saying, “Gods don’t have to choose, we take.”
OTHER: A mid-credits scene takes place in a bar with a character who is drunk.
Despite the negative content, this film has powerful messages about redemption, responsibility, sacrifice, compassion, teamwork, loyalty, the worth of a life, and what it means to consistently choose to do the right thing. It is too bad that these wonderful themes are tainted by the addition of problematic language and situations, but even so, this would not be a film for young children due to peril, frightening imagery and confusing situations involving magic.
Teens and young adults will probably be particularly drawn to the young heroes of the film. Tom Holland’s sensitive portrayal of Peter captures all the confusion and angst of a boy growing up in a unique situation, MJ is likable and relatable as she tries to help the one she loves, and Ned is a great and loyal friend.
Technically, the movie is well-made, although almost visually overwhelming at times (in the typical fashion of Marvel movies). We are taken from frenetic battles to intimate conversations, from light-hearted banter to grief and angst, and I found that it all worked. The characters were believable for the most part (although Dr. Strange’s motivations could be questioned at times), and the nostalgia element was delightful without being too much for a casual uninvested viewer. I left this movie thinking it has been my favorite Spider-Man movie, and even after a second viewing today it lost none of its initial charm and heart.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.