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Spider-Man: No Way Home Is A Triumph, But You Already Knew That
Reviewing the 26th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Spider-Man: No Way Home, can be tricky. I’m not saying that it’s tough to navigate through spoilers for the film; just avoid it altogether and give a summation of your feelings, with some technical know-how if you know any.
When I mean by “tricky”, I mean to say: is there even a point to review something that the majority of cinema-viewers will go and watch regardless?
I mean, it IS a new Spider-Man movie, where the title character is arguably the biggest and most revered hero in pop culture next to Batman and Jesus. The movie itself is what the trailers tease, and then some. Spider-Man gets tangled up in multiverse problems thanks to the good intentions of Doctor Strange. The trailers show off villains from other universes like Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Electro (Jamie Foxx), so of course, Peter Parker will have to deal with that while his identity’s been revealed by the last supervillain he fought in a previous Spider-Man movie.
And yes, there’s a lot more the trailers did not tell you. Suffice to say, it’s worth watching for the many, many surprises and payoffs it has in store. There’s a good balance of comedy and drama amidst the superheroics; there’s a lot of action going on in key scenes, and the film’s direction, cast choices, purposefully-crafted callbacks, and pacing gives viewers room to breathe in-between using character development scenes and dialogue.
And just like most of the 25 other MCU films, the production houses spared no expenses in delivering a great-looking Spider-Man superhero good versus evil film, particularly when Doctor Strange’s special skills are involved. The last third of the film is pulling off a feat similar to Avengers: Endgame in spirit, and it’s fitting given that this is Tom Holland’s third headliner bout as Peter Parker. And like those films, you have to stay around during the credits for the mid-credits and post-credits scenes to see what’s in store for 2023 and beyond. If you’re not in tune with the MCU or the general zeitgeist of Spider-Man in films, you may be lost at some of the plot elements and nods in this film.
I looked at what I wrote so far, and it looks like a template for every other MCU film review from us and everyone else online. Odds are, you don’t need my review or anyone else’s to give you an informed decision about a blockbuster film like this. IP holders Disney has more money than most countries out there, so if they want to create a film that follows the set MCU template and appease the legions of merchandise-buyers and pop culture fans, they will do it if it fills up their bottom line. No doubt Spider-Man: No Way Home will do that in the first few weeks worldwide; even if it ended up being a half-hearted soulless mess (which it wasn’t, thankfully), it’ll still make its marketing budget back in the first few days. That’s the power of the wallcrawler and his Marvel branding.
As I’m typing this review, a Sony Pictures representative asked me to share a one-liner about the film for global reporting purposes. I just went with the usual adjectives from the Spider-Man comic titles because it’s a crowd-pleaser move. “Amazing. Spectacular. Sensational”. Simple stuff, really.
And that’s really what gets people’s attention these days: quips, Twitter reviews, hot takes, 10-minute video ramblings on YouTube where manchildren talk about why their opinion matters more than the other manchild YouTuber, complete with the appropriate eye-catching thumbnail. Or if you want the traffic, have an opposite opinion than everyone else and argue why. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as it drums up a civil conversation with like-minded folks.
One wonders whether there is a place for the conventional review with the final score anymore, which is what we do just to show that we’ve done our work and spread the word. Truth be told, our non-review features where we break down a movie and its easter eggs and nods fare way, WAY better throughout the many years running Kakuchopurei. Unless you’re a review outlet that’s been around for 10-years plus like your Red Letter Medias, there really isn’t a point for a traditional review, save for PR media monitoring purposes to earn a spot on an aggregate site.
Put it this way: the recent video I put up on our channel that’s about Granblue Fantasy Versus’ yandere fighter spotlight a few hours ago before watching Spider-Man: No Way Home will get way more viewers than whatever I’ve written here.
Don’t misunderstand: there is always going to be a place for film criticism and thoughtful op-eds on film Y or Z. And the critic’s place is to do their diligence and also curate what is worth your time and what isn’t with clever words and related anecdotes. It’s just that the usual templated “what I like and what I didn’t like about film X” bullet points spiel and the score may be a bit outdated; ironic considering the film I’m talking about here is using mostly a set template. And that we should reserve our criticisms for films that deserve the spotlight and attention, not something that is obviously being backed by so much marketing. Thankfully, I know a good number of peers in Southeast Asia already doing this and going beyond.
I can always sum this film up by saying something like “go watch it if you’re into comic book movies”. Then again, you probably are one of the many who pre-ordered a ticket for the film’s opening later this week, and you probably want to read a review that agrees with your assessment. You’ve already made up your mind and are ready to love whatever you’ll be watching. Even if I gave it, oh say, a…
… you’re not going to care. Or maybe you care so much that you’ll start questioning my credibility while leaving angry comments on our YouTube page while you’re wearing your Miles Morales heart Spider-Gwen custom t-shirt using some fanart you saw on Twitter. It’s free speech here online, so go ahead.
Besides, it’s way easy to swing the other way for films like these. Like you will be confused if this is your very first Spider-Man film. It’s not as manipulative as Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but it relies more on the viewer’s memory and nostalgia to be effective at making them feel things, especially in the middle part.
I’ll say this: the MCU template has already been set a decade ago, and it’s only going to continue unless it’s not making Disney a lot of money. We do need these popcorn action films, but at the same time, reviews on such films are nothing more than obligations for future coverage from respective distributors, and for the latter to add to their bean counters if you’re an outlet averaging a hundred thousand unique viewers daily.
Moving on, my team and I will need to do some soul-searching on how we can go beyond this format of reviewing. Not just for films, but also video games. We won’t start immediately -we have stuff on queue this week and the next few. However, we will have to figure this out next year. We’re in the business of curating content for people who want to read what we have to say, so we have to start writing in a way that’s easily consumable, relevant, and less long-winded and self-styling with simple opinions and obvious takes.
The times, they are a-changing. It’s up to us whether we can keep up.
Where was I? Oh yes. Overall, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a great, epic, and fun watch, but like all MCU films, you need to do the homework to appreciate everything it throws at you in full. Because that’s the way the MCU cookie crumbles.
We attended an early screener of Spider-Man No Way Home courtesy of Sony Pictures Malaysia. Spider-Man No Way Home is slated to premiere on 15 December 2021.
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