Entertainment

'Spider-Man: No Way Home' Spoiler-Packed Review: A Marvel Masterclass

As Tom Holland and Zendaya swing into home release, let's just say we'll all be signing the Amazing Spider-Man 3 petition.

No Way Home stuck the tricky landing.
Sony

It's the next Avengers: Endgame. It's bigger than Avengers: Endgame, because it combines 20 years of movies, instead of 10. It's the movie that will save cinema, and it features the best best-friend handshake of all time.

Prepare for all of those hot takes and more right here in CNET's global spoiler-packed review of Spider-Man: No Way Home, available to buy and watch at home on Vudu now (and coming to Blu-ray and DVD April 12). The third Tom Holland Spider-Man movie broke box office records, and the reviews are, for the most part, radiant. It's the crowd-pleasing, fan-servicing Spider-Man bonanza years in the making, and somehow it sticks the landing.

Check out how CNET staffers reacted to Spider-Man: No Way Home below.

spoiler-warning
Sony

'A masterclass'

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a masterclass in balancing MCU Peter Parker's story with nearly 20 years of legacy elements. Green Goblin is particularly intense, and Willem Dafoe is clearly having an amazing time being a total monster. Ditching the silly flight suit was a wise move; the new look lets Dafoe do plenty of face acting and brings him much closer to the horrible comics version of the character.

The arrival of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Peters was magnificently timed, bringing hope in a super dark moment. It was fun to catch up with Maguire after 14 years – I was super relieved he and MJ stuck together. However, Garfield reminds us that he's the most talented actor to play the role (but got stuck with a mess of a movie in The Amazing Spider-Man 2); he oozes charm every moment he's on screen. 

-- Sean Keane, London

David Lee/Netflix

'Best bit: Charlie Cox's pitch-perfect Matt Murdock cameo'

Pretty much everything you've read about in the online rumor mills is in the film – even the now-iconic midair fight, which has its missing characters airbrushed back in. The result is that, much as with an Apple press event when all the news has leaked ahead of time, the surprises aren't really all that surprising, even if they're still pretty cool. 

The three Spider-Men do what they came to, although I would have liked to see more Maguire-Garfield interaction as a pair of fish-out-of-water (universe?) heroes, and they could have clawed back some excess Happy Hogan screen time. One of the film's best grace notes is how the characters from the first two Spider-verses are stunned that magic (of the Dr. Strange variety) exists on Earth-616 (or is it Earth-199999?). In fact, in the film's denouement, Spider-Tom resets himself to something closer to those more grounded incarnations, with a hand-sewn suit and a new shabby neighborhood to patrol. Best bit: Charlie Cox's pitch-perfect Matt Murdock cameo. Worst bit: They couldn't find a spot for 1970's TV Spider-Man Nicholas Hammond.

-- Dan Ackerman, New York

Sony Pictures

'Redemption'

I've always said Avengers: Endgame is the best MCU movie because it's the movie that pulls from more than a decade of movies to make an amazing and coherent movie. Then we have No Way Home, and it does that even one better. It combines three different universes that were never meant to tie together, and it just works. 

What I appreciate the most about No Way Home is how much redemption this film provided for Andrew Garfield and Jamie Foxx. These are two great actors who were put into a bad sequel, but they were given another shot. Foxx establishes himself as the smoothest supervillain Spider-Man ever faced, while Garfield gives everything that you want from a great hero. I think the biggest compliment for No Way Home is that it's easily on the same level as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which many consider to be the best Spider-Man movie. 

-- Oscar Gonzalez, New York

Marvel/Sony

'Sense of closure'

No Way Home is not only an excellent movie on its own, but it somehow retroactively makes prior movies — going back to the original Tobey Maguire trilogy — better. The film could have easily brought in the cast of the previous films in one-off cameos, but No Way Home brilliantly incorporates many of these characters so they're critical to the plot and the development of Tom Holland's Spider-Man.

Andrew Garfield, as mentioned, was dealt a poor film, and the way the film resolved his arc by saving Tom Holland's MJ (after, spoilers, losing Gwen Stacy the same way) was powerful, as was seeing Maguire stop Holland from killing Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin. Little grace notes like Maguire reconnecting with Alfred Molina's Doc Ock and Garfield talking with Jamie Foxx's Electro were nice moments that offered a cathartic sense of closure.

The ending, when Holland's Spider-Man opts to live in a world where no one remembers his Peter Parker, brings back that classic down-on-his-luck character that doesn't have the luxury and Stark technology or aid from the Avengers. By turning the "Home" trilogy into an extended origin story, it lets us better appreciate the films while getting hyped up for what's next.

-- Roger Cheng,  New York

Marvel Studios

'Incredibly moving'

I'm struck by this film's emotional impact. Not only was it thrilling to see the three Spider-Men come together, but it was also incredibly moving to watch them relate to one another's pain and loss. Nothing makes a superhero more relatable than the problems they can't solve, and their struggles with accepting a fate they can't change. 

I loved the advice the older Spider-Men gave to Tom Holland's character to never become bitter about what's happened in the past, because it won't fix anything. It made me think about how everyone watching in that theater had surely experienced some form of loss and grief, and we could all take a moment to disconnect from that pain and find comfort in these characters – and, by extension, in each other.

-- Abrar Al-Heeti, San Francisco

Sony

'Real stakes'

My favorite thing about this film is its commitment to real stakes and the consequences that come with them. It would have been easy for the writers to have come up with a quick fix from Dr. Strange to make a happy-ending all around, but Peter is forced to make a real sacrifice and give up the things that are most important to him.

The dynamic between the three Spider-Men was absolutely brilliant. Some people might think that the "joke" got old during their dialogues (for example, how the eldest Spider-Man's superhero body could actually make webbing), but I was eating up every minute of it. All three absolutely nailed their characters, and where they realistically could have been in their lives this many years later. Though this proved once and for all what I've always thought: Andrew Garfield is the king of all Spider-Men.

 -- Andy Altman, San Francisco

Sony

'Blending vibes'

If there's one thing you absolutely need to give this film credit for, it's how seamlessly it blended the vibe of each Peter and his film set. Tobey Maguire's mature Peter has always held more of the weight of this responsibility, so it felt all the more rewarding to see him as a sage mentor for not just Tom Holland's Spider-Man, but also Andrew Garfield's. Meanwhile, Garfield's Peter was easily the most troubled, so to see him finally shed the emotional baggage and guilt in No Way Home felt right. 

Yes, this is me echoing all the demands for an Amazing Spider-Man 3. 

Tom Holland himself did a lot of heavy lifting, but I think it was most important to have No Way Home bring back Peter's wild science brain. From mid-dimension mathematics through to developing cures for not one, but five different ailments, Peter grounds himself in science in a world that feels more magic than reality half the time. Science gives him something to hold onto.

-- Steph Panecasio, Sydney

Sony

'Educational'

No Way Home turned out to be an incredibly educational movie. It taught me several things. The golden ratio is a unique mathematical relationship that can be found in the natural world. Tobey Maguire is 46 (and still in incredible Spidey form). And, unequivocally, Andrew Garfield is the best Spider-Man ever and The Amazing Spider-Man 3 needs to happen. Please look up #MakeTASM3 for more information.

-- Jennifer Bisset, Sydney