"I'll just get my gear."

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Contains explicit spoilers. Reader discretion advised.


SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME is a gimmicky MCU multiverse extravaganza, pulling out all the stops, all the comical riffs and all the ideas from the brainstorming session to achieve a rough live action equivalent to in my opinion the best Spider-Man picture by far, INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. It inevitably lacks the newness and artistic precision of the animated version (not to mention the multi-culturalism) but it is its own type of ambitious fan-pleasing accomplishment. If you haven’t heard, it treats the two previous Spider-Man movie series – Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 1-3 (2002-2007) and Mark Webb’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1-2 (2012-2014) – as alternate dimensions, and pulls those two Spider-Men and five of their villains into the Marvel Corporate Unification to bounce off the current Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland, voice of “Eddie,” LOCKE) and his adult wizard friend Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, WAR HORSE), compare web-shooters, etc.

With great power comes almost unfathomably bad judgment, so fucking Dr. Strange actually agrees to do a spell for Peter to erase the entire world’s memory that his secret identity was exposed at the end of part 2. And then Peter keeps talking while he does the spell and he fucks it up, decides to cancel it, but has already caused a tear in reality or whatever so people who know Spider-Man’s identity in other dimensions start appearing in MCU reality looking for Spider-Man.

I’m not talking just cameos. Andrew Garfield as Peter “Spider-Man” Parker, Tobey Maguire as another Peter “Spider-Man” Parker, Alfred Molina as Otto “Doctor Octopus” Octavius and Willem Dafoe as Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn are full-on supporting characters, and Jamie Foxx as Max “Electro” Dillon and Thomas Haden Church as Flint “Sandman” Marko have pretty big parts too. (Rhys Ifans also appears as Curt “Lizard” Connors – not sure if he did the mo-cap or not.) So Strange starts locking these guys in his dungeon/rec room and sends Peter to catch the other ones, and he recruits his girlfriend M.J. (Zendaya, voice of “Lollipop,” SUPER BUDDIES) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon, BLOOD FEST) to help.

Some of the antics can be a little forced at times (the scene where a room full of super geniuses can’t figure out that when MCU Peter’s friend Ned says “Peter” he’s referring to the one that’s his friend), and occasionally it felt a little bit like a Ben Stiller era MTV Movie Awards sketch. But for me the movie works because of the positive values behind its concepts.

I’ll give you an example. Garfield’s Peter Parker from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1&2 seems sometimes out of character just so he can be the funny gun in the scene. But there’s a part where the three of them are comparing super villains they’ve fought and he laments that he’s the only one who never fought an alien. “I’m lame,” he says, so Maguire’s pioneering Peter Parker from SPIDER-MAN 1-3 tells him no, he’s amazing, reassurance he says he really needed.

Obviously it’s a meta thing about Garfield’s series being received poorly compared to the others, and about it ending after only two movies before he could fight as many villains, and also about it having the word “amazing” in the title. But the sentiment behind this scene is really nice in an increasingly shiny-new-thing oriented entertainment culture. It’s saying (within the limits of corporate i.p. mega-entertainment) that it’s not all about the newest, youngest, expensivest, rebootiest version, that there is value in the old version, and even the unpopular abandoned version.

(Surprisingly there are no jokes about SPIDER-MAN 3’s controversial evil jazz club dancing. Maybe they weren’t willing to stand up for that. I am!)

Garfield’s is the series I’m not all the way up on. I still haven’t seen part 2 of 2, which introduced Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Even so, I knew (and NO WAY HOME tells us this) that it used the famous comic book tragedy of Spider-Man failing to save his girlfriend Gwen from a fall. I found it very effective when he swoops in to prevent the same thing from happening to the MCU Gwen equivalent M.J., and is overwhelmed with emotion.

I recently rewatched Raimi’s trilogy for the first time since some time before the MCU, and one of the things I really enjoyed about it was the way Osborn and Octavius, before they become super villains, can be nice, and have actual friendships with Peter, and that you see flashes of their old selves even after they’re flying around terrorizing the city with mechanical things. And Marko takes that even further – he’s a low level criminal with mostly good intentions who apologizes and is forgiven by Peter at the end. So I really appreciated how dedicated NO WAY HOME is to giving each of them a happy ending.

And that’s in the premise too. Strange builds a Cube of Magical Bullshit to send the villains back to where they’re supposed to be. To make things right. But when Peter (the MCU one, before the other ones show up) figures out that they were all zapped right before they were about to die in their universes, he actually steals the cube from Strange and makes a run for it. Not because he’s copying Shia Labeouf in TRANSFORMERS (which came out when he was 3 years old, please note, my fellow olds) but because he doesn’t believe it’s right to send them back without trying to help them figure out how to survive.

It’s like the teens are running around causing mischief, except the mischief is trying to save these peoples’ lives. It’s that very real dynamic of the young generation having different, more caring values than their jaded parents or sorcerer associates.

So yes, I absolutely love that this is about Peter and his friends, including his two new alternate universe Spider-Man associates, pooling all of their collective genius to look at the accidents that ruined these guys’ lives and see what they can do to reverse them. I really felt on my recent viewing of SPIDER-MAN 2 that Dr. Octavius’s issues came from rejecting professional medical/technological help (which, in his defense, happens because the tentacles sort of take over his mind). It was amazing to see the Peters actually address that and then to find that the doctor really appreciates the help!

It’s kind of meta about comic book movies too, because in the days of Tim Burton and Sam Raimi comic book movies they weren’t planned to go on forever, so when they made new ones they just picked which famous villains they wanted to use this time, had them turn from a regular person into a freak/villain, then had them die in battle at the end. That’s not the formula anymore and it’s cool that MCU Peter wasn’t willing to send these guys back to a world where it was.

It’s also great to see Dafoe (AQUAMAN) and especially Molina (voice of “Fairy King,” STRANGE MAGIC) improbably returning to these great, previously dead characters 17 years after the fact, and getting to play both the cackling villain and the good guy sides. One thing I wondered though was if Molina got all suited up and bowl-cut, had a chuckle at how silly he looked, knowing that was the job, but then turned around and saw that Jamie Foxx got to ditch his character’s combover, fake teeth and nerd glasses and just look like Jamie Foxx.

Oh – I could’ve had demands?

In addition to all this crossover and throwback business, NO WAY HOME also works as the continued teen soap opera of MCU Peter Parker and friends. I have always enjoyed how much these movies are about friendship, which continues into this one, so it’s very dramatic when it ends in a new status quo (the rules of which I don’t understand) in which that seems to have been taken away from them. It also stings (intentionally so) because this movie so effectively establishes that feeling of Peter and M.J. freshly enamored of each other and just getting into the groove of being a couple. If I may have one nitpick, I miss M.J.’s sardonic humor now that she can’t hide being happy, but the two are still charming together. And that’s exactly why it fits into my understanding of Spider-Man that he can’t live like that forever. Things are never too easy for him, but he keeps going.

I suppose I should discuss the other major event of this chapter, which is that the fuckin first cinematic Spider-Man villain accidentally kills Aunt May. At first I was a little too “Oh, maybe she only wanted to contract for a certain number of movies?” detached to feel the gravity of it, but I like how they are both remixing the famous Uncle Ben “with great responsibility” origin of Spider-Man and telling us that that’s what they’re doing. In the MCU it’s Aunt May who gives Peter an ideal to live up to, and we got to see it with her charity work in previous movies. Like other Peters before him, this Peter seeks revenge for his guardian’s death. It’s really cool when the other Peters see this, recognize what’s going on and know that their job is to help him understand why it’s a mistake.

That’s another nice layer of symbolism to this thing: whatever you’re going through, it’s good to know other people have been through similar things, and it’s nice when you can get support or guidance from them. Or when you can be that person seeing someone else going through it and try to help.

And for larger MCU symbolism it’s kind of cool that the ill-judged duel of vengeance happens on top of a giant Captain America shield which has fallen and broken. A reminder that this also goes against the standards set up by another New York super hero he has met and looked up to. But also I like that despite the massive multi-dimensional consequences of these events, it shows the Spider-Men as three small timers working out their problems in the shadow of the more worshipped heroes (within the story, if not at the box office).

By the way, I was so happy that shield fell off the Statue of Liberty. That was such a creepy dystopian idea that America would change the symbolic beacon welcoming immigrants to our shores to a fuckin shield! Fuck every person involved in that project. Another depressing feature of MCU reality is that J.K. Simmons (voice of “The Warden,” THE EMOJI MOVIE) reprises his role as J. Jonah Jameson, but in this reality he’s the host of a paranoid internet show instead of the editor of a newspaper, and you see how much his yelling sounds like Alex Jones (or Rush Limbaugh). It’s not just depressing because it’s true that this sort of disinformation entertainment celebrity host is a more powerful figure than a newspaper editor in the modern world, but because the character is so god damn funny when he’s the guy yelling at people in the newspaper office and he just makes you sad every time you see him in this version.

I also need to talk about the crossover character I may have been most excited for (besides Macy Gray, who does not show). Although I never reviewed it, I saw VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, which is not great but I got a kick out of Hardy’s one man comedy duo and that it has kind of a ‘90s throwback feel at times (he even poses on top of a spooky gargoyle church like it’s THE CROW or something). If you haven’t seen it, it has an end credits scene where he’s at a resort in Mexico when suddenly there’s a shift in the reality around him and then on TV he sees the thing from the end of FAR FROM HOME where Jameson outs Peter Parker as Spider-Man.

So of course, throughout watching NO WAY HOME I would occasionally remember that and wonder when and how Venom would show up. I was prepared to be excited to see him share the scene with Spider-Man(s), and the more it seemed clear that this was not gonna happen I was thinking maybe it would be funny if he didn’t show up at all – like they made that scene presumptuously and then got ditched.

Ultimately what happens is that Hardy appears as Eddie Brock in a mid-credits scene. I love that this character has gone from being a semi-normal human with Hardy’s weird touches to mostly just being Hardy being a goofball in whatever manner he sees fit. So it amuses me to no end that he finally got his chance to be in the MCU but he spent the entire time at a bar annoying the bartender with questions about the MCU. (Also, if you don’t follow the Venom movies I’m sure that scene would be as befuddling to you as the thing was in ETERNALS where I didn’t recognize the celebrity you were supposed to be excited about.)

The other great thing about the end credits is that I feel very confident that somewhere right now there are some MCU-loving young people looking up De La Soul and listening to them because of the prominent placement of “The Magic Number” on the end credits. In that sense this movie can’t help but have a positive effect on the world.

One missed opportunity involves the first big screen appearance of Charlie Cox (Caligula from DRACULA UNTOLD) as the Netflix version of Matt Murdoch, the lawyer who secretly moonlights as the brooding leather vigilante Daredevil. (An accident with radiation gave him sonar powers that are meant to balance out his blindness and lack of charisma or screen presence.) It would’ve been a good chance to send him permanently into another dimension, or at least have him disbarred. Okay, sorry, I know I was the only one who found that show torturously awful, and I should take a cue from Spider-Man and believe that he deserves a second chance.

That’s what makes Spider-Man a hero, though. I’m not Spider-Man. I’m not watching that shit again.


SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY, HOLMES is a pretty un-reviewable movie in the consumer reports sense. If you like it or not just depends on your investment in related super hero movies and your interest in either these gimmicks, corny old fashioned Spider-Man values, or both. I check most of those boxes, so I enjoyed this. I personally wish Marvel didn’t dominate entertainment culture to such a degree, but I’m glad that it’s at least an ambitious and well made movie and TV series and that in this case it makes such a strong case for things like forgiveness and rehabilitation, which were pretty unusual in Raimi’s movies and even moreso now, I think.

So anyway I think they did it, I think I’m pretty sold on Spider-Man now.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021 at 10:33 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

61 Responses to “Spider-Man: No Way Home”

  1. Citizens of Vernville, it you’ll kindly indulge me in reposting my comments from the FAR FROM HOME thread (some of which crossover with points Vern made). There will be SPOILERS for the motion pictures SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME and xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE.

    Was anyone else put out by how little Andrew Garfield seemed like he was playing the same character from his two previous films? Kinda both he and Tobey Maguire and so many of the returning characters feel like they’ve become a lot more MCU-ish self-deprecating jokesters, but it really struck me with Garfield in particular. Despite that, the film also has a couple of big moments that rely on you having seen THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, one of which plays off of his relationship with Jamie Foxx’s Electro, who also feels like a completely different character. Part of me thinks this is weird multi-corporate hubris, part of me kind of likes this non-gatekeepy approach to the cinematic Spider-Man legacy; “oh you think AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is a BATMAN & ROBIN-level embarrassment and you only want to think about SPIDER-MAN 3 in relation to memes, well what do you think of this?!?” It’s not quite Darius Stone turning up in THE REVENGE OF XANDER CAGE, but it’s something.

    The attitude towards the previous Spider-Men and their films is kind of weird. “Gosh those were kind of silly and small and not as self-aware as we are! But still those guys are great! You should spend money revisiting them! But we’re the best! But remember where we came from!”. Maguire even gives Garfield the Bart Simpson/Jay Sherman “I think all kids should watch your show!” treatment. I lose track of what’s going on between Disney and Sony with these Spider flicks, who is actually making them and who is making the money from them and want not, but it feels like there’s a battle of corporate muscle flexes going on on screen.

    The movie as a whole is fine. It’s pretty much what you expect from a film by the MCU’s most journeyman director bringing in elements from the Rami and Webb films. It will hit probably hit the audience it’s going for the way it’s supposed to.

    So is Maguire going to be suiting up again for Sam Rami’s MORE DOCTOR STRANGE? Because that would be the thing to get really excited for right? Not least as this movie reminded me that character kind of sucks. Fucking transatlantic voiced, stupid finger movements, instantly mastering disciplines FUCK!

  2. Well if you’re gonna repost, I’m gonna repost my brilliant thoughts:

    A ★★★½ review of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

    So the world knows who Iron Man, Jr. is now and it sucks shit so much he has a lawyer now, Matt Murdock played here by Rex Smith reprising his role from THE TRIAL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK, so he asks fellow Steve Ditko-creation, Dr. Strange, to change it to where no one knows who he is anymore. Unfortunately, Spidey's 'f--- everything up powers' even affects Strange casting abilities and now villains from earlier non-Marvel Studio Spider-man movies show up. This is either Marvel Studios admitting all their villains suck so it's just fan service. But what fan service it

  3. I know a lot of people like it a lot (my theater certainly hollered with joy every time something happened they recognized, the personification of the “Leo pointing at the screen” meme) but I found it such a hollow and depressing exercise in corporate synergy. It just bummed me out like nothing else I’ve seen all year. But yeah, they referenced the thing I’ve seen before, so 10/10 I guess.

  4. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

    I’m talking about spoilers in the spoiler review that Vern posted with spoilers.

    Hope this is enough spoiler warning.

    No mention of the jazz/emo dance but he does mention fighting alien space goo, another thing Spider-Man 3 haters complain about.

  5. Okay, sorry, I know I was the only one who found that show torturously awful, and I should take a cue from Spider-Man and believe that he deserves a second chance.

    I know I’ve mentioned this before, but you have the opportunity to be like Spidey all set-up. In that, the first season of that show was pretty torturously awful, however, the second season pretty much hits the ground running with ninjas and crazy mystical shit and never looks back. I know it’s a tough sell, in fact, the only reason I gave it a second chance and braved the second season was I was a fan of the comics in the ’80s. But, instead of being tortured with more ‘super-serious-Dark Knight-esque lunk-headed ponderings on the nature of vigilantism’ (or something). I was instead treated to ‘blind acrobat battles doomsday cult of elite ninjas’

    MUCH better

  6. I haven’t seen NWH or the new Matrix yet so there is literally nothing else on the internet I am allowed to comment on today except the fact that pretty much every single person who ever lived besides jojo thinks DAREDEVIL Season 2 is so shitty they never even bothered to watch Season 3. Cox in particular is awful, the phony drama is even more laborious, and the action sucks. So I would take that recommendation with a grain of salt.

    Besides, if meat-and-potatoes superhero-on-ninja action is all you want, DEFENDERS is the way to go.

  7. Disclaimer that I won’t see this until it hits Disney+, so I can’t really comment on its actual quality, but I think it’s interesting how times have changed. We went from: “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if Spidey and Captain America would randomly hang out in their movies, like they do all the time in the comics?” from “Oh no, now we even get crossovers from different versions of the same characters, like in the comics!”

    Hard not to blame popculture for THAT reaction, after READY PLAYER ONE, SPACE JAM: THE UNIVERSE THAT TIME WARNER OWNED and Co, but I have to imagine modern day nerddom being all “It’s too much! I can’t take it all!” like Nick Nolte at the end of Ang Lee’s HULK, now that they actually get everything they wished for.

  8. Marvel Corporate Unification, haha that’s great.

    I enjoyed this one, and I’m kind of blown away that they managed to juggle all this stuff and still make a mostly coherent movie. It makes me think of movies that were so overstuffed and godawful that they just break the world they’re set in and basically torpedo their own franchises, like BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DOJ, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS to name a few.

    Well here’s a movie that has the brass balls to do the throw-everything-at-the-wall brand of screenwriting, literally break the fabric of its own universe and then proceed to tie up loose ends from two other franchises while also doing some pretty effective housekeeping for the ever-ballooning plot of its own franchise.

    The only thing that kind of left me bothered is what happened with all the extensive online records and media reports of Peter Parker being Spider-Man? Am I to understand that all that fall under the umbrella of “the world is about to forget” and be erased like everyone’s memory of it? Or will all that data end up smudged like the photos from THE RING? I suspect a future MCU movie will tell me.

  9. That does sound much better, jojo. Do any ninjas kill Foggy?

  10. Oh man CJ, I wish Nolte was in NO WAY HOME and they try to figure out what he wants and he makes a big speech that makes them even more confused.

  11. CJ, in my now infamous review, my issue wasn’t the inclusion of so many characters/universes. It was that they spend so much time recapping those movies there was no time left to do anything new with those characters (a few good ASM moments landed).

    And every Marvel fan with issues with me totally understood the nuance of that assessment and we had respectful discussions about the pros and cons of the film…

  12. Vern, don’t watch any more Daredevil. The terrible supporting cast never goes away and the show never becomes properly paced. Also, despite the more fantastical elements, the tone doesn’t change like jojo is insinuating it does. I still like the show with reservations, but Cox as Murdock is not one of my reservations, I think he’s terrific.

  13. That does sound much better, jojo. Do any ninjas kill Foggy?

    Unfortunately, no. But thankfully, the producers find other manners of killing time and relegated him to handling the Marvel Quips™ (also know as ‘rudeness’ in the real world) and looking real concerned when the blind acrobat says things like “There’s a nest of elite ninjas hellbent on bringing about the end of the world in the bowls of this city, and I’m going to fuck them up”

    Oh, and the Punisher is in it. He beats like 53 people to death. The only thing that’s missing is Nick Nolte giving a weird speech then taking a bite of an electrical cable for no apparent reason. But then again, people on the internet thought that was lame too…

  14. And just to tie everything together (like a x-mas package) with another current review:

    Remeber when Joe Carnahan jockeyed for the Daredevil gig by using comic panels, clips from the Warriors, and action shots from the Affleck movie?

    Wonder why he didn’t get the job?

  15. Bah! A lot of fecal matter being rained down on DAREDEVIL the TV Show. It’s the best of the Marvel Netflix shows, marred only by the padding required to stretch a show across 13 episodes a season. Cut it down to 6-8 episodes and it can go toe to toe and kick the ass of the current crop of Marvel Series, and that too without an in-built fanbase from 20 odd movies.

  16. I also think that the audience could have taken, and would have been very willing to see, a revival of the SPIDER-MAN 3 Bully Maguire so beloved by comedy mash-up fan videos. But I kind of wondered if Maguire initially showing up in “cool youth pastor” street clothes, rather than the Spidey suit, was meant to remind us of it.

    I loved that the film reuses two Maguire-era lines beloved by meme culture – Maguire’s “Ow, my back!” (seen in Bully Maguire videos) and Defoe’s “You know, I’m something of a scientist myself.” I didn’t even remember that the latter was a Spider-Man line, I just know that line from memes.

    It was definitely a missed opportunity to not have Maguire’s Peter become temporarily evil and get to say “You’re trash” and “How’d that get in there.” I’m sure some people hate this sort of thing, but I always love it when big corporate Hollywood bows before the might of silly ironic grassroots meme culture (see also Samuel L. Jackson’s famous fan-dictated line about being fatigued by the presence of reptiles on an aircraft).

    I never saw the Andrew Garfield movies, on purpose, and heard that they might have sucked anyway. So to include his Peter in such a good movie, with such a theme of redemption, actually got to me hard. I remember Vern’s review of THE DARK KNIGHT saying how inspiring it is that we managed to get from BATMAN AND ROBIN to here, and I honestly feel the same about NO WAY HOME.

    I only think of myself as a casual MCU fan, but I get sick of people complaining about it for being the one thing that has actually managed to make a fickle audience happy in a changing culture, like that’s some kind of mistake to apologize for rather than be thanked for. I don’t even like Spider-Man that much, and I loved this movie.

  17. Curt – I think the historic first instance of that was “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” in X-MEN 3. I didn’t know it was a reference to a redubbed cartoon on Youtube so I thought the guy in front of me who fully jumped to his feet and screamed in burly bro exuberance was just really into the character.

  18. It’s good! It has proper themes and is trying to say something beyond the typical MCU shallow platitudes – I love how tightly focused it is on communality and empathy, and how it revolves around, explores and reinforces those subjects; It’s sad that I feel the need to praise this, but it puts it way above most of the MCU films (some, even most of which, I enjoyed!)
    Even at a meta level it compensates for the obvious franchise-building/consolidation with, well, kindness towards the protagonists and villains of the previous franchises. Neat trick.
    Not a shade on the first two Raimi films or Spiderverse, but that’s fine. It’s a bit bloated, too artificial at times, the action is ok (but good for Marvel) and like Far from Home it’s one of those films that’s better if you don’t think about it too much, but is so good natured and fun I’m happy to wave away its dumb bits unlike, say, in most of the Russo bro’s Marvel oeuvre.

  19. I really loved Matt Murdock’s cameo here: it was just enough to show that the Queens where Peter lives is the same New York of the Hell’s Kitchen where Daredevil does his thing. In the unlikely event the viewer was unfamiliar with either the Charlie Cox or Ben Affleck versions of the character, you could still tell he had his own story somewhere else.

  20. And here I thought the Netflix Daredevil series was almost universally liked. I had the same issue KayKay had with it, too many episodes. Yes, the “hallway fight” was magnificently choreographed. After 13 episodes and about 1,000 variations of that fight I was ready to throw in the towel. Other than de-powering him, I thought the D’Onofrio Kingpin was great. (Imagine my happiness when the Hawkeye show brings him back but has him ripping off car doors and throwing Kate around like a rag doll.)

    Overall I thought the Netflix shows had great stories and until the fourth show were cast almost perfectly. But despite liking them I will probably never revisit them because the idea of slogging through 13 episodes of 8 episodes worth of stories again is soul crushing…

  21. I was a big fan of the Daredevil comic books growing up. Some of the rare Marvel stuff I actually used to read every month. I was also into The Punisher enough to buy the two main comic series from the 80s and early 90s. After the internet creamed their pants over their shows I gave the first episode of each series a shot. Was bored to tears. It was like THE AVENGERS (2012) all over again where I just didn’t get what everyone was gushing about but saw enough that I knew this stuff was not for me. So I just never looked in their direction again just like I did with the MCU. I might give Disney+ a try once the Obi-Wan show drops. So if their new Disney shows are also around at that time I might take a look but I honestly have no expectations at all for Daredevil’s TV future or The Punisher for that matter.

  22. SPOILER thought that just occurred to me.

    Seriously, spoilers here. If you still haven’t been spoiled, even by Kim Kardashian, stay away.

    So because the three Spider-Men are the ages they are now, that means Spider-man evolved at different times in each universe. Maguire in 2002, Garfield in 2012 and Holland around 2015. They certainly weren’t playing it that they’re all recent high school grads, which is appropriate, but also odd that the multiverse has such different timelines.

  23. Hey there, SPOILER avoider, I’m gonna discuss the SPOILERS that Fred discussed with his SPOILERS. The truth is out there, and in here, and by truth I mean SPOILERS. Keep watching the skies. For SPOILERS. Like here.

    (SPOILERS)

    Yeah, even before I saw this I thought the idea of multiverses being able to bring us three pretty different looking white guys from Queens, New York all called Peter Parker and born around a decade apart doesn’t make much sense. To my understanding it would be more logically consistent for there to be three PPs who all look more or less like Holland, but one wasn’t bitten by a Spider, one is really angry etc. Or maybe they’re the same age as Parker but look different, or maybe they’re a woman because blah blah blah statistics about conception etc. If I recall SPIDER-VERSE had two pretty different PPs too, but the general concept of different people or animals all over the world being bitten by the Spider and becoming their universes’ Spider-thing seems more logically consistent to me. Although if we take the concept that there’s a timeline for every single possibility out there, I suppose it’s possible that people in New York, Queens with the names Peter Parker would all be born in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, all have their parents die or disappear young, all be raised by their Uncle Ben (except maybe Holland?) and Aunt May, all be bitten by a radioactive spider and dedicate their lives to fighting crime, and all know people called M.J. and Gwen Stacey. It’s *a lot* though.

    Not really a criticism of the film, as it’s essentially splitting hairs over what is theoretical at most and straight up fantasy in the way it’s used here, just something that occurred to me too.

    You can come out now. The SPOILERS won’t harm you here.

  24. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    I really didn’t like the Amazing Spider-Man movies, to the point that I thought Andrew Garfield was miscast as Peter Parker just because I thought the whole operation was such a miss… but I thought he was *really* funny here. I didn’t give him enough credit. I wish he would have gotten a better showcase series, I want more of this version of the character. I laughed hard at the exasperated way he consented to being “Peter 3” and at his sincere apology to Electro for not being black. “Aw man, I’m sorry.”

  25. SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–

    My first trip to a cinema in 2+ years. This was solid Marvel fun. The core motifs of brotherhood, vulnerability, and redemption are powerful and heartfelt, and that’s something I need right now. The strongest characters and performances of the film, in order: Garfield (not just funny but a truly inspiredly quirky, winning, and vulnerable performance), Dafoe, Molina, Foxx, Ned, Flash Thompson. The competent but forgettable: Cumberbatch, Maguire, Tomei, Zendaya, Haden Church. I can’t ever really call Rhys Ifans’s contribution a performance (no fault of his). Garfield and Dafoe own the film, with Molina taking the silver and Foxx the Bronze. Holland does nothing wrong, but his character is boring, and his “Oh, geez, Mr. [Insert Older Male Role Model Here]” schtick has been played too far.

    While enjoying these films more often than not, I continue to struggle with the fact that they are fundamentally emotionally manipulative collections of individually satisfying vignettes, quips, and sight gags that fail to issue from, serve, or coalesce into a truly powerful narrative that sticks to the ribs. So, when we get to the beautifully acted Aunt May death scene, I just can find a fuck to give, because I don’t feel connected to Aunt May or Peter or their relationship. The performances are great, but they’re just one more tactic to deliver that emotional manipulation hit. They don’t deliver new and challenging characters or ideas, we never fully connect to them. We are amused, we geek out, and we even can lose ourselves in hypnotically induced bouts of the feels. But these seem to be feats of psychological engineering and technique, not triumphs of storytelling.

    Still, the first-rate cast having a lot of fun is well-worth it. Good feel-good emotional candy.

  26. SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–SPOILERS–

    I was running out of steam yesterday night, so, allow me to elaborate a little bit about the soul-less-ness of these films. They work as feats of psychological engineering, stringing together a set of individually pleasing vignettes, sustaining your attention and working your emotions purely through sound and sight and deus ex machina and not through actual storytelling. I’m thrilled to see all these great actors on the screen together, chewing the scenery, having fun, and ultimately getting hopeful, redemptive endings. What bothers me a bit is that none of it feels earned. I don’t know why I should care about Garfield’s character, because I haven’t even seen his two films, but he’s such a good actor that he makes me care through sheer tyranny of will. Nothing about the story or character earns my affection for him, it’s just his bravado performance. Same with the rogues: Of course, I want to see them redeemed, and it pulls the heart strings, but it is not earned, because it’s done instantaneously through Tony Spark’s Magic Antidote Printer device. These films view of their human characters and the struggle for change is ultimately a glib, ethically muddled and spiritually impoverished one. Good the same way a bag of Doritos or a funny cat video is good, but I long for the sustained journey and spiritual-ethical challenge of something like T2 or the TDKR.

  27. A pleasant contrast to this is HAWKEYE, which is a pretty great little series. By going longer and deeper with a couple of key characters, we free ourselves of the clutter and the winky winky cloying emotional manipulation and actually get to build with a handful of resonant characters. Even with HAWKEYE, though, near the end, it has to deliver some universe-building cameos and some abrupt and mostly unearned character arcs (particularly in Yelena’s sudden change of heart toward Hawkeye). Hailee Steinfeld owns the HAWKEYE series the same way Garfield owns this SPIDER-MAN:NWH, and her character and performance run circles around her same-aged peers from NWH.

  28. I’m not trying to talk you into liking it (and I don’t think it’s the greatest movie ever), but isn’t that a good thing if you were moved by Garfield’s performance and not by having to see all the related movies? Shouldn’t we want that?

  29. Here’s the thing: As I said above, I DID like it! :) In the sense of enjoying myself and thinking it was fun. Loved Garfield, Dafoe, Molina, and Foxx in that order. And I agree with you about Garfield, but I think all credit for that goes to Garfield’s sheer awesomeness (and ditto the others), which basically serve to offset the film’s narrative and structural weaknesses and fundamental manipulativeness. If I ask myself why I’m so moved by Garfield’s awesomeness, it’s because he is that awesome *in spite of such* generally weak and cyncially engineered material.

    It’s similar to the actors and performances in RISE OF SKYWALKER (though, don’t get me wrong, this SPIDER-MAN film is way, way better than that): The SPIDER-MAN: NWH works because it has the money and the good sense to cast phenomenal performers and get out of their way and let them elevate the material through their remarkable talents. The Han-Kylo scene from ROS works *in spite of* it being awkwardly shoehorned into a film that this a complete mess. The individual parts of ROS almost make it work in spite of it being bloated, unfocused, and bereft of new storytelling ideas. The Han-Kylo scene works only becuase of residual investment in the characters, general susceptibility to feel-good reconciliation/redemption motifs, and because the two performers are so damned good. The film doesn’t do anything to earn that; quite the opposite, it coasts on sheer talent, emotional manipulativeness, and event-ness to paper over the lack of narrative imagination or substance. David Harbour and Florence Pugh are a similar case in BLACK WIDOW.

    The contrast is with a film like TDKR, or T2, or (for Driver and Garfield) SILENCE, where the strength of the narrative and storytelling execution (arcs, pacing, focus) hold their own with the performers. Hell, in T2, the material actually elevates Arnold’s performance, whereas he the performances are what elevate the material.

    The real issue I have is how the films trivialize humans and human character development with the idea that the difference between villainy and redemption is not a matter of human choice and struggle but a matter of getting a dose of Stark’s magical serum or not. This treatment of the characters reduces them to props or multi-million dollar action figures and shows the propensity to coast on nostalgia and incredible casting/acting talent (e.g., Dafoe) to paper over a lack of careful, disciplined, original storytelling or true regard for the characters and performances as something other than gadgets to push feels buttons. We see similar things in other films: BLACK WIDOW adopted the same model of chemically induced instantaneous redemption.

    And we see it in other ways, as well. Thor undergoes a total personality change from part 2 to part 3, because we found out that Chris Hemsworth can be actual funny and not just straight-man funny. Zendaya can go from brassy and stand-offish (part 1) to docile damsel (part 3) because that’s what this film needs her to do and all it has room for her to do. The way Tony Stark can switch back and forth between glib asshole and righteously indignant asshole and suffering servant and back again in an oscillating random walk. Characters’ personalities are plastic and their moods are labile in ways that have everything to do with manipulating emotions and little to do with character development that gets truly earned and locked in to stay. When characters finally get killed off, it’s only because we need to make room for new ones, or because maybe they’re getting too expensive or over-used– not because we’re taking actual narrative risks.

    Great films see the essence of film as the joining of many disparate elements (sound, sight, human performance) via narrative to produce a cohesive and transcendent story that has the power to suprise, challenge, expand, and transform our understanding of what life is and can be about and what it means to be a human in this world — both the is and the ought of human existence. To plumb the depths of humanity and the human condition and its moral and ethical dimensions

    It’s not that I don’t like the film — I did enjoy it, it’s merely the observation that most of the marvel films are empty calories that engineer emotions through manipulation rather than earning them through truly thought-provoking and challenging storytelling and multi-dimensional characters who undergo earned transformations. They are fun films. But they go everywhere physically and nowhere spiritually and seem more interested in pandering to us than challenging us. I see the Disney-verse as mostly in that space of pandering to us while creating the illusion that we are being challenged. Of creating false stakes that can and will be walked back as needed. Of creating momentary cases of involuntary feels syndrome that feel more manipulated or engineered than earned. Well-manufactured junk food.

    So, I enjoy the films for what they are, but I want them to be more, because they are the only game in town as far as shared cultural moment types of films. They’ve devoured and assimilated all of the competition or forced the competition to follow the same mold and business model. I want some big shared cultural moment film to feel weird and strange and new and challenging or risky in a TDKR or T2 (both sequels, mind you!) felt. I want a film to earn its emotional beats without cheating.

  30. I’ll echo the HAWKEYE love. Not the best of the MCU shows on D+ (my vote would be LOKI) but I like how they channeled that DIE HARD 2 vibe of an action hero already over being a celebrity. Plus that finale was the best of those shows, having no qualms what so ever about being silly at times. I think those shows (unlike the Netflix programs) benefitted from doing whatever # episodes they want, not just an arbitrary 13 episode format which led to padding/wheel spinning.

    As for NWH, yeah its great hardcore nerd porn. I respect that for all the dabbling with all the different live-action versions of Spider-Man, most of it still works to frame up Holland’s narrative in some form or fashion. Its his story and in retrospect NWH serving as the end of Act 1 of MCU Peter Parker…yeah the ending reminded me of DARK KNIGHT in regards to a downer conclusion (if essentially Peter Parker-y) that still also made me pumped up to see what they’ll do with this new soft rebooted status quo. Maybe Spider-Man will fight Kingpin alongside Daredevil (cue Vern groans) or Kate Bishop or Black Cat or WTF ever?

    Also how they incorporated the Spider-Men and their versions like how Greg Berlanti years ago with his CW DC tv shows did folding Matt Ryan’s John Constantine in his FLASH/ARROW shared universe: (1) yeah CONSTANTINE was brief and kinda sucked and (2) we didn’t create or run that show but (3) we agreed with most fans that Ryan’s JC was dope AF and lets add him to our toybox. Cynically you can define this as corporate synergy but I like it when creatives are respectful of other people’s spins and even if they’re messy, realize hey there’s still a diamond or two buried in that dung. Praise be King Kevin Feige for taking Andrew Garfield’s SM (despised by the Internet for several years) and now weeks after NWH’s release, you have an obnoxious Twitter fan campaign to get TASM 3 produced.

    Contrast that with rumors of the upcoming FLASHPOINT which is going DAYS OF FUTURE PAST but on steroids with the DCEU and basically nuking films/casting interpretations and erasing them from that timeline. I’m not a MAN OF STEEL fan, but it has (rather vocal) fans and basically telling them “yeah fuck you it doesn’t count anymore” seems kinda counter productive but hey WB is doing what they want.

    (You know they’re bringing those Spider-Men and their surprisingly gangbusters chemistry together again at some point in the future, SECRET WARS adaptation makes sense. But will they shoehorn Garfield into say VENOM 3? Time will tell.)

    Vern – I find those VENOM movies fascinating. Not a fan of #1, enjoyed #2 on a level of most MCU programmers: decent afternoon diversion with little staying power though well-cast and maybe an under-utilized villain. *But* Tom Hardy seems to get what people like about his interpretation and want. Like Ryan Reynolds, he seems to be the creative force driving that boat (or Reynolds did before the Fox merger and now working for Feige) unlike a filmmaker or a studio. I find that fascinating.

  31. The more I think about this film in light of the broader Disney strategy, the more I polarize against it. Tom Holland’s Spider-man is the least interesting thing in his own bloated film, the Holland-Tomei death scene has zero emotional weight (and is easily eclipsed by Garfield’s performance), and the characters and performers from previous Spider-man iterations are no different from resurrected CGI Peter Cushing or part-human, part-CGI Carrie Fisher, or the walking back Boba Fett’s death: Manipulatively utilitarian gimmicks that co-opt and suck the marrow out of great actors and old IP to recycle it for profit. No one ever really dies, nothing can’t be walked back, and entire personalities and life histories are rendered meaningless through mind-wipe spells, time travel, free will-subverting chemical antidotes, and duplicate versions or variants of characters that can be resurrected or conjured at will. This Spider-Man film coasts entirely on nostalgia and represents the MCU’s boldest-yet experiment with Disney’s Star Wars nostalgia playbook. And it represents all of Disney’s worst tendencies: no real stakes, an acquire-and-exploit business model, IP over story and character, bloat and fan service over narrative build. “What if we could bring back so and so?”, “What if we brought legacy character x into character y’s world?”, “Can we use popular thing a as a launching pad for new thing b?”

    If it were a single film or just one modest development in filmmaking, it would be one thing. But it is the bulk of the Disney model, and even in their most restrained and original storytelling (terms I must use loosely), they don’t resist the impulse. The result is an impoverished and pandering view of what it means to be human and to live a human life of choice, growth, and consequence. And the Disney universe-i-fication, nostalgia-fication, commodification of everything is the dominant model of tentpole filmmaking these days. So, they are a big target, with a big influence who have contributed to and profitted from this state of affairs, and I don’t think its fundamentally pandering and manipulative approach to storytelling and humanity should get a pass.

    From what I understand, the new MATRIX film is a meta-commentary on the very gross-ness of the “modern film franchise as opiate of the masses” / “sheeple would rather stay asleep and be manipulated” worldview? Disney is the main purveyor of and profiteer from that worldview. They’ve co-opted and monetized fan-boyism and fan-service-ism, delivering us a stakes-free “no one ever really dies” dystopia where our primary shared cultural events are a fucking BOBA FETT IS ALIVE tv show and Spider-man film that openly human centipedes its own legacy.

  32. I gotta say, am digging the ever living heck outta Skani’s thesis-level analysis of Spider-Man:NWH. There’s some good stuff in there I’m chewing on with relish.

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    “This treatment of the characters reduces them to props or multi-million dollar action figures and shows the propensity to coast on nostalgia and incredible casting/acting talent (e.g., Dafoe) to paper over a lack of careful, disciplined, original storytelling or true regard for the characters and performances as something other than gadgets to push feels buttons.”

    This I agree with wholeheartedly. In spite of liking SPIDER MAN:NWH, it’s yet another reminder for me that Holland-Spidey still lacks sufficiently strong legs to stand on his own.

    Introduced in what’s practically a mini-Avengers Ensemble movie CIVIL WARS, his first solo movie HOMECOMING had the larger than life presence of Tony Stark all over it, the next one FAR FROM HOME, the legacy of Stark and Nick Fury propping it up and finally in NO WAY HOME, some hefty 500 pound gorillas in the room like Strange, Maguire-Spidey, Garfield-Spidey and 4 villains from their respective franchises stomping about. Take that away, and I find myself not so interested in Holland-Spidey or his travails, because frankly speaking, I’m not invested in this version of the Web-Head or his relationships (Marissa Tomei is under-used, the Ned character never rises above being comic relief and I don’t get the fuss over Zendaya). Plus, Holland-Spidey makes some pretty dumb-ass decisions in this one:

    – So, he approaches Strange, a man who went through a billion permutations of the Endgame to arrive at the one that would defeat Thanos, a Sorcerer Supreme who fucked with time to best the evil Dormamu, and ask him…for a forgetting spell so Peter and his friends can go to college? Next stop, Peter borrows Thor’s hammer to hang up a few photos in his college dorm.

    -Call me a crusty old curmudgeon, but not for a second could I feel invested in the warm glow of Holland-Spidey’s “Humanity” in needing to “cure” the bad guys. Why should he give a fuck? From a narrative POV, these are 4 random assholes who gate-crashed his universe and started fucking shit up. And he acts like an ass to Strange to do it. I get it, he’s a “kid”, but this is a battle hardened one that’s fought an intergalactic war, got blipped, then blipped back right? Thanos should have been a lesson that not all villains are redemption worthy.
    It points to a larger problem I have with the MCU needing to make all it’s baddies sympathetic (Killmonger just got fucked over by the T’Challa clan, Thor’s sister was sidelined, Shang Chi’s dad is just pining for his wife etc etc) so much so I find myself reaching for my PUNISHER:WAR ZONE DVD to watch a movie completely invested in the belief that a full bore shotgun blast to the face is all the rehabilitation a criminal needs.

    But credit the movie for having Holland-Spidey face the consequences of his actions. I like shit like this, where a Good Guy inadvertently does Bad Stuff with the Best Of Intentions, but ultimately pays the price, because at the end of the day, Bad Shit still happened because of you and other Good People suffered for it.

    Look, I ultimately liked this Holland-Spidey movie a lot, while fully aware that Holland-Spidey isn’t one of the contributing factors for it.

  33. Skani, I loved the movie, but I nonetheless respect your use of “human centipede” as a verb.

  34. Lol, as I said, I did *enjoy* the film. It delivered what “adult Disney” generally delivers — well-produced, well-acted, rousing, but ultimately soul-less and disposable entertainment that views its characters first and foremost as properties to be cultivated, milked, cross-branded, expanded, and recycled. I feel compelled to ramble on about the negative aspects mostly out of a perverse need to try to reconcile my short-term reptile brain sugar high enjoyment against my long-term reasoning moral agent qualms. Cognitive dissonance, yo. I do think the dissonance is instructive: Is it possible that Disney-fication is the real MATRIX? Is it possible that the excuses and rationalizations we make for it and our participation in it are the rationalizations of a junkie? Of a Keith David who’d rather slug it out with Roddy Piper than put on the damn glasses?

  35. I don’t know, Skani. It’s more meta than, but not that different from, the entire history of pulp heroes, comic book and otherwise. Of course characters can come back from the dead. It’s the oldest literary convention there is, not an abomination against God. The important thing is what they do with it, which in this case is a nice message about redemption and in the case of Boba Fett it’s worth it for me to turn the icon into more of a character, played by a great actor who doesn’t usually get an opportunity to shine so much outside of New Zealand.

  36. Skani – Thanks for articulating what bothers me about the MCU films so well. I normally shrug that sort of thing of as ‘being all blockbustery and shit’, but the modern Disney stuff is (while perfectly entertaining most of the time) way too willing to put audience gratification, and the things they identify as their brand, first and foremost, to the detriment of everything else.

  37. Whatever complaints people have about the MCU, many of which are deserved, I’m sure, I don’t think anyone can deny that they are extraordinarily managed and interwoven so tightly that it blows my mind to think of how they pulled it off, especially while giving people room to use their own creative juices, like Taika. I have my doubts that they’d let Disney stick their nose in and fuck that all up just to pay fan service by bringing in the other Spideys or their villains. But maybe I’m wrong and phase two won’t be as well managed.

  38. I’m not arguing that the very concept of ever bringing a character back to life is itself an abomination against God. I’m specifically arguing that live action Disney and the general Disney/MCU-ification of tentpole (event, watercooler) programming is an abomination against God. Jokes aside, it’s not just about this film, but it’s about the aspects of this film that are a microcosm of the Disney/MCU/Star Wars worldview. It’s the same worldview that I believe Martin Scorsese is reacting to when he dismisses the films as not cinema, and its the same worldview that George Lucas had in mind when he made the unguarded comment that he had sold out STAR WARS to the “white slavers.”

    The characteristics of that worldview
    1. The circular uber-narrative – There is a fractal property to characters, scenes, films, and entire film series in the MCU, such that each of these elements exists not to tell its own story or fulfill its own destiny with a sense of finality. Rather, everything exists to deliver a temporary emotional and to position and sell the next thing. The prime directive is to keep the cash cow healthy and producing, and every individual character, scene, or film serves that broader end and is not an end in itself. This cannot be said of Cameron’s TERMINATOR films, Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy, the original STAR WARS trilogy, or the original Disney animated classic films that were always presented as stand-alone pieces.

    2. The character as action figure – Individual character personalities and moods manifest primarily to push emotional buttons and/or deliver fan service in the immediate scene as opposed to telling a greater story about those characters that respects their personhood. Characters change moods or personalities for purposes of emotional and fan service expediency. Characters routinely undergo abrupt and radical change via deus ex machina chemical, physical, and magical operations, not through actual psychological development and struggle. We’re not just talking about serums that make people bigger, stronger, or faster, we’re talking about spells and serums that fundamentally change aspects of their inner life. Again, not true of the aforementioned films.

    3. Technique, gimmick, and vignette over story – Related to the above, the green-screen, CGI’d nature of the physical aspects of these films (which is fine) is wedded to a similar uncanny valley artificiality in the personalities, interactions, relationships, conflicts, and resolutions. SPIDERMAN:NWH in particular is a collection of emotional micro-doses of individual set pieces, visuals, effects, one-liners, banter exchanges, fan servicey call-backs and walk-on appearances. For me, at least, pivotal death scene is clearly intended as the film’s Oscar bait-style emotional pivot point, and it is a total brick in spite of the fine performances, because nothing of weight and gravity has been done to build up that relationship in a way that we should care about it. And the emotional beats that do grab us are entirely bravado performance plus nostalgia, not organic or challenging storytelling. It’s pure “member-berries.”

    4. Acquisiton-driven and inward world-building – Disney’s primary game is playing with characters and within worlds that were established 40+ years ago, and this is not merely one element of its strategy, it’s the whole worldview, reproduced across STAR WARS, MCU, and the recent glut of live-action remakes of its animated hits. It’s a fundamentally IP-oriented, derivative, recyclical model of storytelling. In most cases, the characters and stories were not developed in house but were acquired, the same way Facebook acquired Instagram or Google acquired YouTube. Give up building new worlds: instead, use your market dominance to acquire and monetize the competition’s ideas (see also #1).

    5. Capitalist brand synergies – Disney is focused on films that can sell merchandise, vacations, subscriptions, now capturing not just kids (like the Disney of the 1990s and early 2000s), but also adolescents and adults. Fan service and safe stories that only pay lip service to the political or ideological dimensions of human behavior and ethics are critical to selling merchandise, vacations, and endless tie-in opportunities.

    In many respects, Disney enjoys the closest thing we have seen to cultural, critical, and commercial hegemony. It has unparalleled cultural influence, and it uses that influence to preserve and increase its influence and profit by delivering steady doses of consequence-less ephemeral, cross-promotional brand synergy fan service. It pulls and assimilates everything into its orbit, acquiring it, co-opting, defeating it, or influencing it to emulate the Disney model (nostalgification, expanded univers-ification, neoliberal, tech bro-friendly, corporate-friendly “progressivism”).

    This is not WEIRD TALES, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, or the Marvel comics of old.

  39. In retrospect while Tomei’s meaty scene in NWH is quite good, it would’ve maybe been even better if she had similar good thespian-chewing moments in her previous appearances (I mean FFH she’s an afterthought.) It’s like if say that scene had happened in the Raimi movies, after those little moments provided by Rosemary Harris. That probably would’ve landed even harder.

    I just don’t get Internet discourse’s obsession specifically with slapping movies for satisfying audiences lately, and I can chalk it up to the fallout from LAST JEDI where…yeah, you all remember that BS which seems to spill into every goddamn SW-related project discourse in some form or fashion. I dug how TLJ subverted (or tried to anyway) the SW formula tropes, I also dug ole Mando and its simple joys of tossing Jawas and fighting monsters. I know post-TLJ is when “fan servicing” started being used (me being among them sometimes) as a knock.

    What does interest me is when these sort of movies give fans what they want…and then give them stuff those fans *didn’t* realize they wanted. Yeah people masturbated to the idea of the Spider-Men swinging together punching people, but their respective fraternal chemistry was a nice surprise for many folks. I think back to AVENGERS when even experienced comic fans marveled (har har) at the Stark/Banner friendship concept. Or more broadly, how FAST FIVE turned those street racing movies decided nah lets get characters from the previous movies together and do an ensemble heist romp which transformed that franchise to say the least.

  40. MaggieMayPie – On the micro, people have a point about those productions most of the time feeling like “eh good enough” and handcuff themselves instead of trying to push themselves after a certain point. I mean I enjoyed BLACK WIDOW, but WTF was up with Taskmaster or Ray Winstone going fuck it and just abandoning his Russian accent during a scene? C’mon guys.

    Reminds me of the ole EON approach to James Bond, plug and play that old reliable formula and simultaneously give people what they expect while trying to do something new or make that cheeseburger taste fresh. I think it was Puck newsletter which did a great in-depth piece on Kevin Feige that’s worth reading* which wrote: “No producer or executive in the modern era has known his audience better than Feige.”

    On the macro though, I’m a 007 fan and the half plus century of Bond movies and I’m amazed how some are awesome, some are shit but most are decent pleasing entertainments. It’s hard to make a good movie as is, but keep doing it most of the time and juggle through cultural/geopolitical/casting shifts? I respect that. Most MCU things I enjoy on some level, the only homerun for me this year was NWH but Shang-Chi/Loki/Wandavision I would chalk up to “really good.” Eternals was the only one that didn’t one that didn’t work** for me, but even then that was just an interesting failure that I shrugged at. Sure I stand by that “simultaneously” critique, that said I do find it fascinating how (with King Mickey supplying a blank check apparently) King Kevin and his crew trying to apply that formula for better or worse to different genres/sandboxes in film or TV and see what sticks.

    *=Its behind a paywall but somebody on Reddit c&p-ed it thankfully.

    **=If we include individual episodes, I fucking hated the Zombies episode on WHAT IF…? Hated that original comic, baffled by why fans get a boner for it, and I know I’m skipping that upcoming Marvel Zombies cartoon spin-off show.

  41. Opps, here’s the reddit link

  42. Goddammit. Just Google MarvelStudiosSpoilers reddit, search “Kevin Feige” and you’ll find that article and text. It’s amazing that after all these years, I still struggle posting links here in the comments.

  43. Here, again, I’m not slapping Disney/MCU for producing competent, crowd-pleasing films as such. Certainly, producing a satisfying movie is better than producing an umambiguously crappy or incompetent film that is not so bad as to be interesting or fun in its awfulness. Even here, I should caveat that I don’t think all films should be enjoyable or crowd-pleasing in a narrow sense: A lot of great films can be challenging to watch. For example, I have not seen MARTYRS, but my understanding is that it is a great and powerful film but not an “enjoyable” or “crowd-pleasing” film, at least not in the conventional sense. This may seem like splitting hairs, and, I mean, it is, but the point of the hair-splitting is that it *is* worthwhile to ask philosophical types of questions about films and about the broader historical matrix in which they exist and evolve — e.g., individual films, studieos, technolgical and industry trends, artistic and production trends, and broader political and mass cultural happenings.

    In any case, the point of my critique of Disney/MCU (which I’ll readily grant is not an especially original one) is that it represents an often insidiously soul-less and dehumanizing view of humans and human, both the characters on the screen and the viewers in the audience. Like McDonald’s, it is a large corporation with network advantages and economies of scale that approaches its craft as one of engineering satisfying visceral and emotional experiences that that are not actually healthy or nutritious or life-giving but are actually empty calories and possibly even unhealthy in the way they transform the “consumer.” However, at least McDonald’s does not pretend to be something it’s not.

  44. I saw ETERNALS with the kiddos, and I would not say that it is good, but it is weird and different and risky fpr an MCU film in ways that I appreciated. Not sure it’s a hopeful sign that it’s the worst-reviewed and one of the less financially successful MCU film, but it offered a glimmer of hope that MCU can be strange, melancholy, and willing to make films that are totally non-reliant on established MCU celebs and beloved A-list characters. Some interesting visuals and ideas in this one, even if a bit clunky and disjointed. Pretty experimental and arty by MCU standards.

  45. ” but it offered a glimmer of hope that MCU can be strange, melancholy, and willing to make films that are totally non-reliant on established MCU celebs and beloved A-list characters”

    You mean like when GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY came out?

  46. Except, pre-release, most of the write-ups on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was about insignificant crap like who the Guardians actually were, their comic-book antecedents etc etc.

    ETERNALS, on the other hand had some really IMPORTANT op-ed pieces, a few from the director herself about how diverse the cast is, how it features the first deaf and gay superheroes, it’s first sex scene etc etc which unless they actually made BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN or SOUND OF METAL but with capes and tights, will I bet, be so low-key and dealt with in a stray statement or shot, that editing them out in less “tolerant” countries (one of which I call home) will be a breeze. It’ll be a case of Sulu’s Husband and Q’s Date. Although, my friend who caught it in cinemas here in Malaysia, thought a few scenes came off “choppy”, most likely due to edits in the scenes implying characters were gay, which leads me to believe it got a little more emphasis here.

    Seeing it tomorrow. But I do have a fond wish that film-makers get around to talking about what their movie is ACTUALLY about.

  47. Brian Tyree Henry’s character has a husband. There’s a little more than implication that they’re gay. Especially when they kiss. All the things you listed are organic parts of the story that I like seeing in Marvel movies, especially having Lauren Ridloff, who was in SOUND OF METAL but is also good on The Walking Dead. I’m not the biggest Zhao fan but she did plenty of interviews about what the movie “is ACTUALLY about.” Obviously she’ll be asked questions about the most diverse Marvel cast, the first Marvel gay marriage, the first Marvel deaf character and the first Marvel characters fucking on a beach. And then she’ll answer those questions and every website that aggregates super hero movie news will have one or more separate posts for each answer because they know people will click on them. And that’s all you’ll read and you’ll say that’s all she said about the movie but of course it’s not, not even close. And the more times anyone mentioning diversity raises your hackles the higher my eyebrow raises at you, buddy.

    I’m sorry I didn’t review it when I saw it. I do appreciate that it has some weirdness in it and early on I was kind of thinking I was going to love it. Unfortunately I think it gets pretty dull and it does the normal Marvel banter much worse than the other Marvel movies, which makes it disappointing that they didn’t try just being very serious this time. But I think my main problem with it is the same as STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE – they have this ensemble of interesting characters and the story is totally focused on the two bland ones.

    BIG TIME ETERNALS SPOILER

    I forget if I said this in another comment but one way I could tell ETERNALS didn’t make an impression on people is that I saw more than one movie outlet doing posts about how the phase 4 (?) films have all felt kind of standalone but NO WAY HOME finally has events that effect the larger story. As if having the world deal with a giant sleeping space god that will wake and destroy the planet if we don’t prove that the human race deserves to survive is not a big deal.

  48. Yeah, but doesn’t pretty much every MCU movie end with the Earth almost being destroyed? Off the top of my head, Doctor Strange and Shang-Chi both featured eldritch abominations *almost* coming to our dimension and ending all life and most people in the Marvel universe didn’t even notice.

    And not to let the clickbait artists off the hook, because they are awful, but it is basically a real-life running gag how often Disney has had a “first gay character ever” who turns out to be incredibly insignificant, only very very vaguely ‘gay,’ and usually a negative stereotype as well. Remember the vain, conceited dandy in Jungle Cruise who had one line about “not being the marrying type” or something? If Disney wants to milk that for publicity, I think people are entirely right to be cynical about it, because Disney’s intentions are clearly cynical in the first place.

  49. KayKay’s insistence on being more contemptuous of imperfect (and imperfectly motivated) attempts to address the chronic lack of diversity in Hollywood product than he is of that lack of diversity itself is, as always, highly suspect, but he’s not wrong about the particulars: That sex scene and the kiss between husbands WERE cut into the edit in such a way that they could easily be excised in countries even shittier about that kind of thing than America without disrupting the flow of the film at all. The sex scene even happens AFTER the traditional PG-13 “camera pans off kissing couple, suggesting sexytimes to come,” making it particularly self-conscious and redundant. Clearly, there is a gap in the market for more diverse franchise content and Disney is in the customer service industry so of course they’re going to try to fill it. It’s easy to be cynical about that. But it’s more important to remember the other end of that supply chain: the rainbow of diverse viewers who would all sincerely like to see themselves as superheroes someday. Achieving that is a noble goal, and I think it’s churlish to focus more on the flawed attempts to get there than on the problem they are attempting to solve.

  50. “…has events that effect the larger story.”

    This is a problem I’ve had with my fellow Marvelites who seem to judge an installment isn’t worth their time if it doesn’t quote connect to the “bigger” story (I saw this alot with people who skipped on HAWKEYE.) I mean unironically having this mentality only gives ammo to folks who say these things have no stand-alone merit.

  51. Well, I like discovering all that character beats organically in a story too, not hit over the head repeatedly in any write-ups leading up to it. Because at the end of the day, this IS like the 25th installment of a mega franchise that is fundamentally about super-powered beings blowing up shit right?

    And I’ll concede there’s some “chicken and egg” thing going on with where the emphasis on the characters’ sexual orientation, diversity and what not comes from, but if you say Zhao gets asked those questions, where do you suppose the people ASKING those questions got the information to ask them anyway? Or are we saying carefully leaked studio information, with the full cooperation of the film-maker (not that Zhao or any other film-maker gets the type of autonomy they crave under Overlord Feige) is a thing of the past? Something that gets a buzz going because you are putting out a product without the mega wattage pull of an IRON MAN, THOR, CAP, GUARDIANS or SPIDEY headlining it?

    You know Vern, you get a major bug up your ass whenever ANY opinion that even comes close to questioning a conversation about diversity etc takes place. If you think me questioning why so much pre-release chatter about a SUPERHERO movie needed to focus on stuff that as Kaplan mentioned above, will eventually boil down to the usual lame-ass Disney version of trying to be progressive while in actual fact giving you the most watered-down and least-offensive take on it automatically slots me in the “racist/homophobic/anti-trans” box, then buddy, my eyebrows are raised at the lack of nuance here.

    Shit, I have ETERNALS queued up in my streaming watch and will most likely see it tomorrow, despite my complaints about the pre-release hype and what it chose to focus on and nothing else. I know dicks who won’t give it a chance based solely on the cast credits. Slotting me with them is what makes, pardon me, a certain type of Liberal almost as bad as a certain type of Conservative.

    But it’s your blog Vern, so if you want me to toe the party line and fuck off with these opinions, consider it done.

    I can still pop in for your reviews.

  52. So you read interviews about a movie ahead of time and then complain when you’re not surprised by it. Sounds entirely like a you problem to me.

  53. For what it’s worth, I also have trouble getting on board with celebrating ETERNALS for it’s gay representation for the reasons Majestyk said. It’s so very easily cuttable. I’m sure Chloe Zhao did her best to be sincere, but the end result, after being filtered through the Disney machine, still feels insincere to me. It feels more like checking a box than a genuine attempt to be representative. (I also agree with Majestyk that it’s suspect to keep getting upset about this kind of thing, even if I agree with the specific point of contention.)

  54. I would also like to point out that this is yet another movie in which an Asian man and a Caucasian lady clearly have a romantic relationship, yet the script goes out of its way to make sure we know they are just friends. I’m gonna let us off the hook on this one. I don’t think Americans particularly have a problem with Asian men “stealing” white women. That’s not where our hang-ups lie. No, I’m gonna say this is a China thing. I’ve seen it happen too many times to believe it’s a coincidence.

    Still, I liked the movie overall. I particularly appreciated that it is not taken as a given that humanity is worth saving. Kingo actually sits out the climax because he thinks EVERY SINGLE LIVING THING ON EARTH DYING is a net positive, and he’s still a good guy at the end. I’ve never seen some shit like that. As a Misanthropic-American, I felt represented.

  55. The irony is as much as Hollywood bends over backwards to get played in China, lately the movies (1) have been refused period like the last few Marvel releases and (2) if they did play over there, they’ve done squat money wise to the point that its not worth it anymore (MATRIX RESURRECTIONS opened to just 2 something million over there.) The movies in general would be better off quit that market cold turkey and if they want to exhibit Hollywood stuff, cool but we’re not giving you a free reacharound anymore.

    As for ETERNALS, I’ll admit a rewatch on Disney Plus it played better for me which is something I couldn’t say for rewatches of say MAN OF STEEL or Ang Lee’s HULK (in regards to MOS, a rewatch annoyed me even more.) That cold distance for ETERNALS I had in theaters is replaced with a watchable shrug. Ultimately this is going to be for the massive prolific MCU media franchise the equivalent of your favorite band/artist’s weirdo arty project with its hardcore acolytes within that fanbase, like say Prince’s THE RAINBOW CHILDREN.

  56. I saw this one twice, but only because I had one family member foolishly coming into town from Arkansas wanting to watch ALL the movies. We only saw this one in the theater, tho. And we sat in the front row like we always do. And I coughed into my elbow when I had to, coz I’m a smoker. But for a 154 minute (I may have that exact running time wrong, and if I do I apologize) movie, this played even better the second time, in my opinion. Which could be totally wrong. If you saw it twice and it dragged for you the second time, I’d totally understand. I didn’t really like the second iteration of Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield. I thought he was a better-written Spidey but a pretty ridiculously cool Peter Parker which kinda turned me off, but if you disagree then I’m probably wrong. Nevertheless, I thought that his moment of saving Tom Holland’s MJ was a pretty great beat for him. That’s what I thought, anyway, just one person’s opinion. I may have been wrong to have teared up in that moment.

    And I loved how throwing a beat-up purple hoodie on top of Dafoe’s armor and ditching the silly mask made Green Goblin look SO much more like the Goblin from the comics. Who needs a mask when you’ve got Willem Dafoe going to town? But that could just be me being a comic book fanboy. I’m probably way off base.

    I certainly didn’t see that thing with Aunt May coming. No spoilers, just in case. But maybe I should have. I dunno. Either way, please don’t hold it against me.

    Anyway, I’d give this a 7/10. Or a 5/10. Maybe a 3/10. Whatever what won’t get me an “Actually” or a “If you’ll remember”

    I haven’t seen ETERNALS yet. I’m sure I might enjoy it. Or maybe I won’t.

  57. In general, the film felt like it was trying to win a high-stakes game of representation bingo, which I think works well enough with the narrative. I will say that, by the time they get to Paper Boy’s gay marriage to the middle-eastern-American guy, I was a little surprised that their child wasn’t also trans and in a wheelchair. The cumulative effect was kind of unintentionally funny, but I rolled with it.

    In any case, the weird and risky elements I had in mind weren’t so much in the representation department as in the general weirdness department. It also was kind of cool to feel like the film was generally less America-centric and white American male-centric. So, even though the particular lengths they went to “look at us go, we’re representationing the fuck out of this shit!!” — were a little silly, the general idea of making a film with virtually zero notable white American male characters was a cool departure that I enjoyed.

    More to the point, I really like Bryan Tyree-Henry and Kumail N and Salma Hayek, and I like Angelina Jolie in more of a supporting role. I also enjoyed the weird religious imagery and allegory, and visually the way they depicted Arishem and the deviants. And this idea of wrestling with whether God (Arishem) can have big weird plans that are completely compatible with suffering and extinction and the ethical and ontological quandaries. Also, surprisingly, I enjoyed self-serious Henry Cavill, Jr. and his laser eyes (sue me!).

    Kumail should’ve been the star, though. We needed more of him, as he’s clearly got the most raw charisma of the bunch.

  58. Also, the weird time-hopping / flash-backing-and-forthing was a little distracting at first, but I sort of settled in and kind of enjoyed the non-linear quality. It reminded me a little of CLOUD ATLAS, another sometimes confusing, unwieldy, clunky, well-meaning, semi-spiritual, quasi-historical fiction, trying-to-be-cross-cultural, sci-fi epic. I liked that this film was somehow both dour and goofy and darkly existential and weirdly new agey and hopeful and ultimately about diverse people forming a sort of family and deciding to love and save humanity in spite of how wayward and shitty we can be. Most of all, I liked that there were zero Avenger characters.

  59. KayKay – You don’t have to fuck off with your opinions. But when you hyperfocus on that topic it makes you seem like one of those guys who hyperfocus on that topic. So people, including me, may note that. That’s all.

  60. After you watch it here’s an interview where she talks about some meaningful aspects of the movie:

    https://uproxx.com/movies/chlo-zhao-interview-the-eternals/

    (And they still put Star Wars in the headline)

  61. Finally caught up to this. I was shocked there were like 20 people in the theater for a Sunday matinee in my small town, on the fourth week of release. Including a group of teen girls! They’re probably huge Willem Dafoe fans.

    This movie was certainly overstuffed and overlong, so it’s a miracle it hangs together as well as it does. Most of my favorite parts were bits that could’ve been cut for time. Plotwise, this feels like an episode of Rick and Morty– you’ve got Peter (Morty) aw-jeezing his way through convincing surly, portal-producer Dr. Strange (Rick) into fixing a simple problem by way of an fantastical geegaw, and it leads to multiversal complications. But unlike that show, this movie wears its heart on its sleeve and focuses on empathy and kindness, which I much appreciated. One thing from these Marvel movies that nags me is the casual willingness of our heroes to kill their enemies. I hated when Cap tossed that guy out of the skyship, or when Spider-Man used his magic suit to stab all the aliens to death. So I dig that Peter’s goal in this one is to save his enemies. Even if I’m not sure how removing their powers and zapping them home is going to prevent their deaths. Or how the final forgetting spell fixes everything. Does it erase Flash’s tell-all memoir? Did it work in all universes? Is Tobey going to go home to a Mary Jane who doesn’t remember him?

    These MCU Spider-Man movies have not felt like Spider-Man to me (not Tom Holland’s fault), but this one seems to acknowledge that and actively tries to push the character in the “right” direction by the end. And they certainly have a lot of balls putting their off-model Spidey in a movie with the “real” Spiders-Man. I did not expect Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield to get as much screentime as they did, but I loved the amount of interaction they got to have with each other and with MCU-Peter. The third act of this film gave me what I wanted out of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was the new guard and old guard getting to hang out and work together for a substantial amount of time. Maguire is “my” Spider-Man and it was fun to see him again, but I agree that Garfield steals the movie, and appreciated him getting an emotional catharsis that draws upon everyone’s least-favorite Spider-movie. Garfield does get stiff competition though from Willem Dafoe, who glides into the movie like nary a day has passed since 2002. I, too, liked how this movie realized you don’t need a Goblin mask when you’ve got a face like Dafoe’s. From the current crew, I honestly think Zendaya is very good. She sells the hell out of what little they give her.

    My nerd-brain is miffed that they only had five villains. It’s Spider-Man, you may as well add one more for the Sinister Six. Did Sony veto Topher Grace? (I thought he was going to be sitting next to Tom Hardy at the end.) Did Gyllenhaal refuse to come back? Could Giamatti not get a couple days off from Billions? Or they could’ve introduced a new guy, or thrown in the Scorpion or something. Oh well.

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