Hey! Hallie here!
As you can already tell, I’m not pulling any punches when it comes to spoilers in this review. That’s because I’m firmly convinced that I’m one of the last people on the planet to have watched this movie. And no, I did not manage to stay away from spoilers for all that time I was waiting for this to come out on digital. So, to those very few who have stumbled on this post and have also managed to avoid every single spoiler for the last few months, I give you my sincerest apologies. But I feel that’s enough warning. This movie wasn’t an instant win for me in the same way it was for many Spider-Man fans before it was released. I didn’t grow up on Spider-Man movies, I’ve watched the past Spider-Man films (animated and non) but I’ve found them as a whole to be hit or miss, and I didn’t much enjoy ‘Far From Home’ despite my love of Holland’s first outing as Peter Parker. Also, I’m a massive multiverse storyline skeptic. So this movie could have gone either way for me. And it did win me over! But not nearly as much as I expected it to and not in any of the ways I expected it to either. I’ll explain myself as this review goes on, so let’s get into it!
What I Liked:
Doctor Strange: I’m starting off this review with a controversial opinion so I’m going to try to explain my reasoning here. Stephen Strange is very obviously irresponsible with his magic. This is an issue he’s had in every single movie he’s appeared in, and it’s one he will seemingly see consequences for in ‘Multiverse of Madness’. It’s hard to argue that this isn’t a major character flaw given the fact that Wong has warned him against half of the things he does, including the spell he does in this movie. But he is not responsible for the multiverse breaking or for the spell going wrong. That fault falls to Peter Parker, who admits he’s at fault. In the film, Stephen Strange wants to help Peter because he feels Peter has been through a lot. He uses a spell he’s used successfully before in order to do this, though it’s still a dangerous spell. And Stephen recognizes its danger, becoming frustrated at Peter for changing the spell as he’s casting it and shutting it down once it gets out of control. He rightfully becomes more angry when he discovers that Peter came to him before attempting to solve his problems on his own first, and makes Peter clean up his mess as a result. And after all this happens, Stephen impresses on Peter the urgency at which they need to clean up this mess at the cost of the multiverse possibly splitting apart, which is a fair concern and one that Peter is very clearly not concerned with. What I’m saying here is, Stephen can be pinned as irresponsible, but I feel the majority of his actions are justified in this movie. And despite it all, he still makes clear to Peter that he cares about him and tries his best to help him out in the finale. I honestly loved Stephen’s wit and charm throughout the movie, and I enjoyed having a reasonable voice to rise against Peter’s here.
Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and Electro: The main highlight of the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies is far and away the villains. Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is campy, but intriguing, frightening, and very well-acted. Meanwhile, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is my favorite villain Spider-Man has ever faced on screen for being both intimidating and heart-wrenchingly conflicted. These two were treated with the care and love they deserve. Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin was made a little less campy, which fits the MCU’s tone better, but no less fun. The way Norman Osborn could be so meek and sweet, to the point of luring Aunt May and the entire audience into a sense of comfort, is a testament to Willem Dafoe’s acting. Because we all know that Norman Osborn can’t be trusted, and yet it was still heart-stopping to see the Goblin reveal himself. Doc Ock was also very dangerous feeling. But he never felt truly evil. Even before he was cured his intelligence frequently won out, allowing him to provide the most helpful information of the villains. And his harsh opinion of being cured was always at war with his reluctance to harm anyone. Once he was cured, he played a major role in curing Electro and helping fend off the other villains. All of it felt true to the character and his capacity to be good. Electro, on the other hand, was nothing like he was in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’. That’s a very good thing. Everything from the ridiculous personality to the horrible blue design was reimagined here for the better, and they even address it in the movie. Electro fights against Spider-Man because he likes who he’s become after coming through to the MCU universe and he doesn’t want to go back. I wouldn’t either if I were him. He’s much easier to understand here and much more likable besides. (Edit: I do want to point out here that I can’t really see a way to avoid Doc Ock having to sacrifice himself to destroy the reactor at the end of ‘Spider-Man 2’, even after getting the cure for his chip. Something worth noting.)
Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire: This was a movie where I felt like a voice of reason was needed. A more mature party who could see Peter’s empathy and balance it with some emotional maturity and logic. That was exactly what Garfield’s Peter and Maguire’s Peter brought to the film. Andrew Garfields Peter Parker definitely brought the most charm, whether that be bantering back and forth with MJ and Ned, or comforting Electro after they cured him. He also brought a good level of emotion as a result of the death of Gwen Stacy, leaving me crying at multiple points in this movie. Andrew Garfield is my favorite live-action Spider-Man, and his presence only reminded me of why. Tobey Maguire came in with a wisdom expected of the oldest Spider-Man. He was funny and sometimes awkward in the cute way his Peter was in his own films, but he was also a voice of comfort to Andrew and Tom at different points of the film. He even ended the film wounded in order to help Holland’s Peter reject the idea of revenge. Most importantly, I loved that in both of these versions of Peter, we finally saw Spider-Man as the mature superhero we haven’t seen in most Spider-Man movies. It’s not that they were gritty or world-weary, it was that they finally didn’t have the “he’s just a kid” storyline hanging over their heads. I don’t have anything against those storylines, but after years of seeing it used over and over again, even within the same franchise, it was refreshing to see that Peter had finally grown past it.
What I Didn’t Like:
Peter Parker: Here I’m talking about our main MCU Peter Parker. I didn’t hate him in this movie, but it’s safe to say he frustrated me to the point that I found him less enjoyable than I have in the past. I was yelling at my screen the entire time he was adding things to Stephen’s spell. The fact that most of the events of this movie could have been prevented if he had called MIT is very frustrating. I was also screaming at my screen during the long sequence where he let a group of villains he knew to be dangerous roam around an apartment with no defense. Well, no defense except for Aunt May who has no superpowers, and we all know how that worked out. I did really love how his empathy won out against Stephen Strange’s warnings to send the villains back as fast as possible. His empathy is one of the most important parts of his character. But I also feel like Peter wasn’t at all concerned about the multiverse until it started poking through at the end of the film. His entire reasoning for sending the villains back during the points in the movie where he became discouraged was simply the “it’s not my problem” reasoning, which is clearly bad reasoning and doesn’t even begin to touch what Stephen Strange was worried about. Throughout the movie I just couldn’t understand him in the way I usually can and it didn’t sit well with me.
Lizard and Sandman: These characters might as well have not been in the film. Lizard wasn’t in most of the major scenes. In fact, he was locked up in a van for a decent portion of the film. When Andrew Garfield was connecting with a villain, it was Electro, not Lizard. I didn’t see the point of him at all. Sandman was interesting in that he brought a voice of empathy to the villains that Peter came in contact with. Except he was often silenced in favor of other villains, and instead of fighting alongside the Spider-Men at the end of the film, he fought against them because he just wanted to be sent home. Why? No idea. It might have been interesting to explore an anti-cure position that came from a less self-serving point of view, but the movie didn’t care enough about Sandman to actually do that. So he was just confusing, and once again, not a villain Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man was really focused on amongst the villains from his films.
The Endings: When I say the endings, it’s because I’m talking about the ending of ‘Far From Home’ too. There isn’t much that I dislike more than a movie deciding to go for a shocking ending by completely changing an important piece of a character. This is true of the ‘Far From Home’ ending, which removed Peter’s secret identity despite the importance it plays in the ‘Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’ narrative. Because I disliked this move, it made the entire beginning of ‘No Way Home’ rough for me. So I was happy that this movie decided to undo that decision. I wasn’t happy, though, that it undid it by changing Ned and MJ in the process. Let’s be honest, wiping their memories of Peter undoes a large portion of each of their character development. And I very much dislike that. I get they were going for the sad ending, but that didn’t make me more ok with an ending that comes at the expense of the characters.
I realize that my opinion of this movie doesn’t align with most MCU fans. I went into this movie hearing only glowing reviews and I came out of it entertained but not completely in love. I do think that I’ll return to this movie for Doc Ock, Andrew Garfield, and the general fun in this film. But it didn’t make me any less of a multiverse skeptic, nor did it strengthen my love of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. It seemed as though the end of this movie was setting up to get back on track with Peter protecting New York on a more intimate scale, and I look forward to that, but I’m not sure I love how we got there. Ultimately, I really liked this movie and also was really frustrated by it. I wish I could have liked it more. I’m 100% up for a third Andrew Garfield Spider-Man film, though!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!