Spider-Man No Way Home 4K Review: Post-Spoilers, It’s Still Good

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home, in case you are somehow still avoiding them!

There probably isn’t a Marvel Studios fan alive who doesn’t love the rush of excitement when a movie or TV show blindsides with surprise casting, or a plot point nobody guessed they could pull off. Marvel and Sony, and to a lesser extent all other studios, feed into that rush. Companies guard their movies more closely than Langley. Every mention of a plot point faces punishment by massive social condemnation if not the studio themselves.

It’s fun to be surprised, and Marvel is very good at it, even when, in the case of Spider-Man: No Way Home, most of the surprises were among the worst-kept secrets since Jon Snow’s resurrection. Most major Marvel spoilers aren’t hard to avoid unless fans are actively looking for them. But almost everyone suspected the three Spider-Men plot, and correctly assumed that Daredevil cameo was coming.

The movie can only pull that kind of surprise off once. But some fans, like those who groused that even so much as seeing Alfred Molina in the trailer ruined the entire movie for them, take the rush of surprise much too seriously. Others want to own the movie, and understand that, as Uncle Ben might say if he were alive, with repeat viewings comes repeated enjoyment. People aware of the Skywalker family lineage still love The Empire Strikes Back.

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Judging by its record box office, many fans did see No Way Home more than once. That’s what what it was meant for all along. The story and themes strike some serious chords. Although it can be hard to see that when all of the big-name actor returns are happening the first time around.

All three Spider-Man movies Sony co-produced with Marvel Studios consciously reflect the structure of high school. Sophomore year (Homecoming) involves wanting to be seen as an adult, and learning how to put in the work necessary to do it. Junior year (Far From Home) is about the last gasp of freedom to find yourself, and find love. It’s also about navigating the social hierarchy of high school, defining oneself, and realizing that mentor figures don’t know as much they seemed to. If you don’t love Peter as Night Monkey, then you don’t deserve his Spider-Man!

No Way Home does senior year — the realization that being tossed out into the big, bad world and college comes very soon. The turning point at which young adults leave their parental figures and even old friends behind to start anew. Many try to keep their high school girlfriends and best friends via long distance relationships. Relatively few succeed. And with parents far away, and the only mentor figures found in new, literally Strange teachers, it becomes all about self-reliance. Core beliefs get tested, and adult character defined.

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The title calls to mind Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again, in which the residents of an author’s hometown turn against him until he is no longer welcome there. The title also refers to the fact that “home” will never be what a person remembers it as. No Way Home begins with Spider-Man’s identity exposed, and Peter Parker mostly unwelcome in New York City. It ends with Peter entirely forgotten by all his loved ones and alone in an empty apartment. It’s a major bummer of an arc, and yet it’s somehow the plot of the feel-good movie of the season. It’s also crucial to Spider-Man. The Tom Holland iteration occasionally faced criticisms that his Peter Parker didn’t feel tragic enough. Like many plot points in the MCU, it just took a little time.

A common cliché in comics and cartoons is to show a literal angel and devil on the main character’s opposing shoulders. Each urges their respective moral path. Disney and Sony combined to go big. So Spider-Man gets two full-sized angels and five devils. The previous Spider-Men offer differing paths for a hero; the five returning villains offer destruction, corruption, and opportunity.

In an obvious twist on X-Men‘s finale at the Statue of Liberty, wherein evil mutants want to change all humanity, No Way Home‘s analogous battle features villains resisting the chance to have a fresh start and become better people. The bad guys claim they don’t want to be fixed. And Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn also seeks to corrupt the hero by forcing him to kill, thereby joining them in the morally gray area of self-justification.

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There’s a lot to take away from No Way Home, but true to Stan Lee’s ’60s ethos, its rejection of violent revenge and advocacy of good for its own sake feels particularly valuable in our selfish, divided era. Who among us would sacrifice all of our positive relationships in the world for nothing more than the satisfaction of doing the right thing?

Because of the nature of digital sets and spoilers, the theatrical movie left some savvier viewers guessing as to how digitally assisted certain scenes were. In particular, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man frequently appeared composited in. Behind-the-scenes featurettes show that’s not the case. His darker, shinier suit and less textured profile simply make him visually separate from the background more than the others.

In 4K, other moments that send the Twitterverse into a tizzy, like Aunt May’s graveside, look no less tactile and real than the rest of the movie. Many of the extras will likely surprise you with regard to different scenes’ reality, or lack of it. And the high dynamic range feels especially useful in Doctor Strange’s dark dungeon, where separation of black shades gets crucial.

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Add to that the fact that on the smaller screen, the geography of complicated fight scenes becomes more coherent. During the finale it’s still not quite clear which villain cure is where — or why Sandman turns on the Peters Parker, when he shares their goal. But those Doctor Strange fights with the portals and the use of math…in any other movie, would serve as the standout, grand finale. Here, they’re just part of the buildup.

Like many Sony superhero movies, No Way Home does not include a commentary track. And its featurette on Easter eggs irritates: it points out some of the obvious ones, then suggests you look for more. Some of us prefer when commentary tracks point out the trivia, rather than this kind of game-playing. The gag reel is largely beeped-out swears and dancing between shots, so it’s not much either.

But rather than any one standout featurette, the combined effect of all of them includes various isolated moments that play well. Jamie Foxx impersonating Dafoe, for one. Glimpses of another Charlie Cox scene, and the original auditions by Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon are also a treat. Group interviews with the three Spideys and the three main villains, clearly done early in the shoot, offer real moments of chemistry. It also confirms that Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church were never on set.

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Stunt rehearsals contrast with the final scenes. We see Zendaya actually falling from great heights, safely. Nobody mentions Tom Hardy. Tony Revolori praises the cast’s diversity. Director Jon Watts brings home his desire to bring a John Hughes sensibility to superheroes, and reflects on his journey. In the best purely frivolous extra, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) tears into Flash Thompson (Revolori) for claiming to be friends with Spider-Man. In the real world, a media figure picking on a self-promoting high-school student might lead to horrible outcomes. But here, two of the biggest phonies in the movie go against each other, and it’s hilarious.

Many of the extras feel like the featurettes the studio wanted to release in advance, but couldn’t without spoiling the film. One literally is the Atlanta for New York video Sony put out online. But seeing everyone together behind the scenes is almost as fun as seeing them on the big screen.

Grade: 4/5

Spider-Man: No Way Home is available now on 4K, Blu-ray, and digital.

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