Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
The Movie: “Spider-Man: No Way Home”
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Jon Watts
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93 percent
Froemming: A few weeks ago, we ventured into the biggest (and, frankly, watchable) DC film in a long time. As a Batman fan, I enjoy venturing down Crime Alley from time to time with Brown, but I realized it has been quite a long time since we wandered into Marvel’s territory. And since Brown is the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man fan, I figured I would do him a solid and finally watch a good Spider-Man movie for once.
So I picked “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the movie that brought 20 years of web-slinging cinema into one, giant film featuring the two Spider-Men of these two decades: Toby Maguire and Tom Holland! And, I think there is some made-for-TV special Spider-Man in this too, but I never heard of this Garfield joker until this.
This movie also brings back some classic bad guys:
- Lightning Man (Jamie Foxx)
- Reptile (Rhys Ifans)
- Mr. Sand (Thomas Haden Church)
- Doc Oc (Alfred Molina)
- And lastly, Goblin Face (Willem Dafoe)
I call these fellas The Fearsome Five!
Brown, why don’t you give us your first thoughts (and thank me for picking this) as I distract Dr. Strange in the middle of one of his wizardly spells.
Brown: *Long sigh*
This entire review is going to be Froemming finding ways to gaslight me.
But Froemming is right: Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I was going through middle school and high school when the Toby Maguire movies came out. And I also loved the cheesy-as-hell ‘90s cartoon. I mean, listen to that intro song. It’s a banger!
Hell, when The Ramones make a version of your theme song, you (REDACTED) rule.
Full transparency: This review marks the third time I’ve seen this movie. So I think it’s apparent what my verdict will be.
Froemming, get us started while I haphazardly forget how the child lock on a car works during a Doc Ock attack.
Froemming: We pick up basically at the end of the last Spider-Man movie, which honestly I didn’t really like. I did love “Homecoming” and this, so two out of three ain’t bad.
Mysterio has been murdered on live television by Spider-Man, which like in “The Batman,” TV news stations in these flicks sure have no ethics when it comes to this sort of thing.
But before Mysterio bites it (not sure what his superpower is, having planes crash into his home in blackhole time loops?), he reveals the identity of Spider-Man to the world. Which, in the other movies in the MCU, is not a huge deal since everyone knows Tony Stark was Iron Man and Captain America was Steve Rogers. But we need to move the plot along.
So now the world knows who Spider-Man is, and they think he brutally murdered Mysterio in cold blood, causing society to be split among pro-and-anti-Spider-Fans.
Look, if Peter wanted to get people to hate Mysterio, he should have reminded everyone what he did to Taylor Swift:
I will never look at Jake Gyllenhaal the same way again after hearing that song.
Brown: I get why people love Mysterio so much. Hell, look at what he and his doofus son did to Logan Paul!
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate that this version of Spider-Man turned J. Jonah Jameson, the man who reveals Peter as Spidey on his show, as an Alex Jones type. I eagerly await Jameson’s thoughts on chemtrails and what the water is doing to the frogs in NYC.
Froemming: His life in this universe took a dark turn:
Brown: So, shit is hitting the fan as helicopters start hovering around Aunt May and Peter’s apartment. Whatever should we do?
Hire a high-priced lawyer Fan service!
“Daredevil” is probably the best thing in this MCU. And it is not even technically a part of this universe.
Brown: Seeing this twice in movie theaters, I remember people gasping when Charlie Cox came on screen reprising his role as Matt Murdock from the Netflix series. And this makes me VERY hopeful that we get Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in the future.
Froemming: I think Kingpin showed up in one of the MCU shows on Disney.
I should not know more about this stuff than you.
Brown: That requires me caring about Hawkeye. No one cares about Hawkeye. Gimme Wilson Fisk vs. Peter Parker!
With all that said… Daredevil is only here to say “lol you need a good lawyer” and catches a brick because he’s, in his own words, a good (see: blind) lawyer.
Off screen, Murdock helps Peter beat the charges for killing Mysterio. But he’s not going to win in the court of public opinion.
Not only is this affecting Peter and Mary Jane, who are now living in Happy Hogan’s highly secured bachelor pad. Because of their involvement with Spider-Man, MJ and Ned are getting denied by every college they apply to. Even MIT, which makes sense. Spider-Man in Boston doesn’t feel as grand as Spider-Man in New York City.
Froemming: But Spider-Man could go to Cheers on his 21st birthday. Maybe have Ned get drunk and beat the hell out of the dashboard of his car as Judas Priest plays as he is driving him home…like someone I know.
Anyway, because in this MCU, only a few colleges exist (seriously, go to another one and transfer once the heat dies down) Peter decides “what the hell? I’ll just ask Dr. Strange to (REDACTED) with people’s memories!” and goes to see this wizard man to do just that.
Now we come to probably my biggest issues with Marvel movies: The forced comedic banter. Peter’s talk with Strange has these weird jokes and humor sprinkled in during what is really, kinda a big deal: Casting a spell to make the world forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Maybe take this part seriously.
Though, I do enjoy Peter just (REDACTED) up Strange’s spell by not shutting up as this wizard man is about to play God with people’s memories.
But, alas, Peter keeps messing up Strange so he stops the spell. But, the spell has started another issue: Cracks in the multiverse. Or something like that.
Brown: Before we get too far into the multiverse, let’s all take a moment to appreciate Hannibal Buress returning as the gym teacher who hates Peter for killing Mysterio.
Froemming: Maybe he should also take his own advice:
Brown: For some reason, Hannibal’s deadpan delivery in these movies always leave me tickled. Plus, let’s remember that the man once hired a lookalike to hit the red carpet in his place during “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Now, I get that Peter changes the parameters of Dr. Strange’s spell because of lol teenage awkwardness. However, Strange needs to take some blame on this one for not spelling it out beforehand that “hey, let’s get this spell sorted out before I perform it.” This movie could have been 15 minutes long with just a little planning, Stephen.
So the spell doesn’t work, and this leads to one of the more humorous moments of the movie. Dr. Strange apologizes for the spell not working and then it finally dawns on Peter that he could have just called MIT to plead his friends’ cases. And when Dr. Strange realizes Peter went to a wizard before making a phone call, Peter incurs the wrath of the wizard and is kicked out of the Sanctum Sanctorum.
So, Peter finds out that someone from the school is on the way to the airport. Which begs the question: Would you rather sit in New York rush-hour traffic to get to the airport? Or, would you just drive the three hours from New York to Boston to get back home?
Froemming: The parking situation in New York is pretty horrible, so I would just fly in. You could spend all day trying to find a spot, or pay way too much for one. There’s a reason people just don’t drive there I guess.
Anyway, Peter decides to harass this woman from MIT on a jam packed bridge full of angry New Yorkers. Not sure who is more dangerous: Angry citizens of the Big Apple at peak road rage or (REDACTED) Doc Ock!
Yes, out of nowhere, Alfred Molina shows up, reprising his role from the greatest Spider-Man movie ever made (on this issue, there can be no debate), as Otto Octavius! And, honestly, he is the biggest highlight in this movie to me.
Brown: Being a big fan of all these movies, it was almost stunning to see these MCU Spider-Man movies finally acknowledge Peter’s spidey-sense when Doc Ock hits the scene.
And it’s a pretty cool fight on the freeway, complete with Nissan product placement and saving the MIT woman from certain doom. When Doc Ock gets the upper hand, Peter’s iron spider suit saves the day.
Which, ughhh….. My biggest problem with this current trilogy of movies is Iron Man’s importance in them. With that said, this is the least offensive of the movies in that regard.
Anyways, the nanomachines in Peter’s suit save his vital organs but show his face. This leaves Doc Ock confused because this is not his
beautiful wife Spider-Man.
Amid the confusion, Peter gets the upper hand thanks to *checks notes* Bluetooth technology?
I don’t know how I feel about the technology I use to put music in my car being used in a superhero movie.
Froemming: You know what his Bluetooth can’t protect him from? A (REDACTED) pumpkin bomb! Yes, old Goblin Face is here too, we hear his maniacal laugh before Dr. Strange time warps everyone back to his house, and he imprisons Doc Ock, which I think is technically kidnapping and a felony.
Brown: Like bird law, kidnapping involving interdimensional beings is not governed by reason, Froemming.
Froemming: Strange has also kidnapped the Reptile, (full disclosure, Brown is trying to edit how I name these villains. He will fail) …
Brown: Like I said, people: I’m being gaslit.
Froemming:… which I assume is from one of the Spider-Man movies made that I have no memory of existing. I think this is a Mandala Effect scenario.
Now Strange informs everyone that his piss-poor job of casting a spell is bringing all sorts of entities from other universes that know Peter is Spider-Man. And it is up to them to stop it.
Why…is this their problem, Strange? Last time I checked, it was you who messed up the spell.
Brown: My question is this: Dr. Strange uses one of his wizard holes (technical term) to bring Peter to the room in the Sanctum where all the multiverse villains are being held. … Why couldn’t you have used one on Green Goblin when he was mere feet away from Peter when you warp whistled him?
Froemming: Because the script demanded it.
We do see Goblin Face near a dumpster later on, where his mental health is displayed as “problematic” what with the voices in his head and whatnot. Also, good to see Willem Dafoe back in the role.
Brown: Also, good to see James Franco NOT back in his role as Harry Osborn.
Froemming: I have never liked Franco, so his being in those other movies always bothered me.
But first, Spider-Man needs to capture Lightning Man!
Froemming: Lightning Man is sucking up a lot of electricity out in the deep woods of New York City (?) and Spider-Man shows up, with his suit inside out because he got splashed with paint by a protester earlier, making him look like the Venom-Spider-Man. Again, I have no idea who this is because apparently there were two Spider-Man movies made that I had no idea about. Adding insult to injury to my confusion, there is a bad guy I unfortunately do remember because Brown and I reviewed “Spider-Man 3,” and that is Mr. Sand!
Yeah, Sandman comes and helps protect Peter from Electro’s lightning bolts.
This is also where we mention that Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, gets a major revamp. Instead of being the awkward character from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” complete with thinning hair and Michael Strahan-like tooth gap, Electro is… pretty much Jamie Foxx.
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for Jamie Foxx’s negotiations to be in this movie. It had to be “Yeah, I’m not a bitch this time around.”
And man, does this movie love to take a dump on “ASM2” and what it did to Electro. Not that it doesn’t deserve it, what with the villain origin including electric eels. But it teetered on the edge of light-hearted poking fun and straight up insults. Doesn’t look good, too, when Lizard, the villain in the first “Amazing Spider-Man” is basically hidden in the shadows so they didn’t have to pay for better CGI.
Later, this movie acts as a redemption for Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, which is a weird shift in tone when “No Way Home” shits all over the rest of those Garfield movies.
Froemming: Let’s also mention Thomas Haden Church is only here via CGI. I thought that was weird. And, incredibly awkward at the end when we see him in non-sand form and he is still a creepy CGI version of Thomas Haden Church. I get he is now 20 years older, but come on. At least cut the human form version at the end. It was (REDACTED) jarring. Or, cut the character completely. Mr. Sand really does not add anything to the plot of this. And he switches from face to heel at random.
Brown: Yeah, the Sandman effect doesn’t hold up great, either. Plus, is it just me or did they do the old Hanna-Barbera trick where they use the same animation of Sandman in multiple scenes?
Anyways, Peter takes down the power lines, draining Electro of his power and leaving him prone to be teleported via wizard web gauntlet? Also, Sandman gets teleported, too.
So, all that’s left is Green Goblin, right? We can get this movie wrapped up in a tight 50 minutes.
That should be the case. And then that bleeding heart Aunt May gets in the way.
Froemming: Aunt May, that dirty lib, calls Peter saying some Norman Osborn is at her soup kitchen (?). Here we see Norman, dressed in green and purple in a nod to the comics, asking for help. His mind is shattered, he is homeless, this universe doesn’t even have a (REDACTED) version of him or his creepy son.
Also, we find out all these villains showed up right before they died at the hands of Spider-Man in their universe. Spider-Man, the Forrest Gump of homicide in the MCU, since it is all murder via happenstance.
Brown: I mean, Batman’s gotten away with that technicality for years, right? Case in point:
Froemming: Yeah, the whole Batman doesn’t kill is horseapples. Yet, this is some whataboutism on your part, Brown, so let’s stick to the subject of Peter Parker brutally murdering his enemies by accident.
Brown: After talking to Aunt May, Peter decides that it’s not good enough to just send these multiverse villains back just to meet their respective ends. He wants to heal them of their mental illnesses via
years of therapy, medication and hard work by well-versed professionals magical drugs and dodads via magic Iron Man box.
This… this movie isn’t the best in how to deal with mental illness.
But before Peter can heal them, he has to stop Dr. Strange from pressing the button on a magic spell MacGuffin that Strange introduces.
It leads to a pretty cool fight that brings back the mirror dimension from Dr. Strange’s movie. But ultimately, Peter wins that standoff via *checks notes* math?
Froemming: Look, this whole part and Peter deciding he, like all my exes, can fix and change people is pretty bad. I will let Hank explain to Spider-Man the situation here with this group of bad guys:
Brown: With the wrath of the wizard contained, Peter and May bring all the bad guys to Happy’s apartment to use the Iron Man magic box to heal everyone.
eight-armed John Lennon Doc Ock.
And… all Peter does is make a metal device that goes into Doc’s head and it *checks notes* stops the voices in his head.
This… isn’t a safe message.
The next science dodad is a device that’ll take all the excess electricity out of Electro’s body. But Electro isn’t completely into this because he’s apparently super evil this time around instead of being a nerd who fell into a vat of eels and hated Spider-Man for not knowing his name. New York is a big city, dude.
When Peter starts working on something to help Norman Osborn, his plot device spider-sense goes off yet again.
I hate the spider-sense being used this way. But when it leads us to some top-tier overacting from Willem Dafoe, I’m 100 percent for it.
Froemming: I think before he was Norman/Goblin Face, he was Bobby Peru!
Brown: Norman gives a speech to all the bad guys about how they’re not mentally ill. They’re gifted. And this is enough for this coterie of supervillains to start blowing stuff up.
And apparently the Goblin is spry enough to go toe-to-toe with Peter. And this movie does a great job with its action scenes. I also appreciate how Dafoe basically becomes Heath Ledger’s Joker when he’s getting punched in the face by Spider-Man.
If you’re gonna lift something from another movie, it should be one of the best superhero movies ever.
Froemming: So we get this big fight where the others just vanish and Goblin manages to mortally wound George Costanza’s crush, Aunt May.
As she is dying, she utters the infamous words of Spider-Man lore:
Brown: Fun fact: I used “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing” as the title of my biography I had to write in senior year of high school.
Also, (REDACTED) you for more gaslighting.
Look, I get going this direction with the “great power comes great responsibility” bit. But I did roll my eyes at this moment in the theater. Like with Batman in Crime Alley, at this point, I’ve seen the Uncle Ben/Aunt May scene so many times that I think I killed them.
Obviously, Peter’s world is shattered. MJ and Ned can’t get in touch with Peter. So, to help Peter Parker, they enlist the help of *checks notes* Peter Parkers. Plural.
How do they do this? Magic!
See, when Ned was at Dr. Strange’s Sanctum, he mentions that his grandma said there’s magic in the family. And after the Spider-Man/Strange fight, Ned gets Strange’s sling ring. He somehow gets this device to work and summons the Andrew Garfield Peter Parker.
Froemming: It is at this moment, MJ, Ned and myself all asked the same question:
Brown: It’s the Spider-Man who was too old to play a high schooler in his movies! But now, he’s even older!
But you know what? Good for Andrew Garfield. I still think out of the three, he was the best Spider-Man. Tobey was the best Peter Parker. And Tom Holland is the best mix of the two.
Froemming: To prove he is Spider-Man to MJ/Ned/Myself, they ask him to crawl on the ceiling and he refuses, until Ned’s grandmother asks him to kill a bug, then suddenly he’s Lionel Richie.
To find where Peter has vanished to, they ask this Peter. And he says someplace where Peter can go to get away from everything. And these good-time buddies just happen to know where Peter goes to not be found?
Brown: We just ignoring Tobey Maguire’s intro into the movie?
Froemming: I still am angry at him for this:
Brown: Fair enough. Let me address it then.
Seeing how they didn’t get the right Peter Parker, Ned goes for his magic ring again.
This time, we get another Peter Parker. This one has been removed from Sam Raimi’s corny storytelling to show up in his best Mr. Rogers jacket to help out.
Froemming: Side note: Raimi is directing the new Dr. Strange movie, so full-circle thing here.
Brown: Again, seeing in this in the theater, there were audible gasps when Tobey made his intro into the movie.
Froemming: Nothing shocked me in this because Twitter exists, I am on it, and every (REDACTED) movie is spoiled for me within 10 minutes after the first screening. If I somehow avoid a spoiler, I can count on Brown to call me and spoil it anyway, like he did with “Fast 9.“
Brown: Yeah, I did my best to avoid spoilers in this movie. But yeah, the Garfield and Maguire cameos were a poorly kept secret.
So NOW, we get to the whole “go where Peter goes to get away” bit. MJ and Ned find Peter sobbing away. And then the Spider-Men appear to help console Peter. He appreciates the effort but he’s done; he wants to use the MacGuffin to let all these villains die.
That’s when our two older Peters marginalize the young Peter’s anguish by saying “Hey, our people died, too.” Tobey mentions Uncle Ben. Andrew mentions Gwen Stacy, his MJ, as he puts it.
… Uhh, Andrew, you also lost Uncle Ben. Way to favor pussy over your beloved father figure.
Froemming: Wait wait wait wait. I just looked up “Amazing Spider-Man” and they had Emma Stone, famous redhead, NOT play MJ? What in the actual (REDACTED) was going on with that crap!?
Brown: Oh yeah. They dyed her hair blonde and everything, man.
And Garfield and Stone had WAY more chemistry than Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ever did, mostly because Garfield and Stone were dating at the time.
Brown: While Froemming picks up the pieces of his keyboard, we’ll resume the plot.
With three super geniuses working together, the Peters go back to the plan of helping the villains avoid their deaths via miracle devices instead of intense counseling.
They need to lure all the baddies together, so they call into Jameson’s InfoWars-like show saying the MacGuffin is there. If they want to avoid death, they need to come to the Statue of Liberty and get ready for a showdown.
Froemming: My favorite moment with the three Spider-Men: The confusion of how Maguire naturally shoots webs out of his wrist, when the other two have to make the stuff. And, of course, one of them asks if it comes out of other parts like he is Brodie Bruce meeting Stan Lee.
Brown: I don’t know if their worlds are protected by the Brown Widow.
Also, the Statue of Liberty has been altered in this universe to wield Captain America’s shield.
My reaction in the theater:
Watching the movie with closed captions, there is some expositional dialogue early in the movie where people call into a radio station mad about the Cap shield. That still doesn’t make this less cringey.
Froemming: The hatred toward the French is alive and well in all universes I guess.
Well, our three heroes are now beginning their battle with their foes, only to find out they work horribly together. They are all used to working alone they say, though Holland saying that is a dirty lie, what working with the Avengers and shit. That nerd is just trying to fit in.
These three Spider-Men are forcing a cure on these bad guys, which is toxic behavior and probably will one day be a college thesis on toxic positivity. I am not joking, I am willing to put money down on that being a reality.
My gambling addiction aside, they do manage to shoot Reptile with a serum that turns him back into a boring old white guy. Against his will, remember.
Brown: Hey, man. It got Rhys Ifans a payday for about 10 seconds of screen time.
The Sandman becomes human once again after they use some flashy device. All that’s left in this grouping is Electro, who is more powerful than ever.
… Until Doc Ock comes around and jams Electro’s cure right into his chest.
Froemming: It is OK, he is a doctor. He can do that. Unlike those three chuckleheads without medical degrees.
Now all that is left is Goblin Face, who somehow is the most powerful villain Spider-Man has ever fought, and he fought Thanos, so I am more baffled than anything else here.
Brown: I mean, does Thanos have pumpkin bombs? Then again, if we learned anything from “The Batman,” you can take a bomb right to the face and you’ll be perfectly OK.
Froemming: Did Thanos’ snap kill half the populations of these other universes as well? I mean, he had all those damn stones in that Power Glove of his.
Brown: This all leads to a battle between this universe’s Peter Parker and the Green Goblin. Peter gets the upper hand and is about to ram Goblin’s glider through Norman Osborn’s torso until Tobey stops it. Spider-Man doesn’t kill, after all.
Froemming: Except when he does.
Brown: But Goblin kills. Or at least tries to as he stabs Tobey through the torso with a pair of blades.
Tobey’s reaction at this point:
Froemming: Tobey basically became old Willie:
Brown: This is indeed a disturbing universe.
Andrew Garfield throws Tom Holland the Goblin cure, and all the villains have been redeemed, I guess? I mean, Dafoe did kill Aunt May.
Froemming: Garfield also got to save MJ from falling to her death. Unlike the time he let Gwen die because he is a failure and her blood is on his hands, no matter how many people he saves.
Brown: Today, we spell redemption G-A-R-F-I-E-L-D.
Now, there’s this whole issue of the universe tearing itself apart. Because there’s infinite possibilities out there in the multiverse, the universe is losing it as more villains that know Peter Parker is Spider-Man are trying to storm in.
The solution here: Make everyone forget who Peter Parker is.
Yep, we’re not above ex-machina BS in these movies.
Also, making everyone forget who Peter Parker is, did you just ruin the lives of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker and his MJ? Granted, that relationship is extremely toxic, but this is still messed up.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, he may as well be the sad, beer gut Peter from “Into the Spider-Verse.” But you’re ruining their lives, too.
Doesn’t matter, though. The spell will work, and Tom Holland Spider-Man will save the world! Even if it means he won’t be friends with MJ or Ned or Happy. And he won’t be in the Avengers. And he basically has to restart his life as a kid with no social security number, no savings, no school… Do computer records also get deleted by the will of the wizard?
Hell, what happens to all the other Peter Parkers in New York City? I have to imagine there’s more than one in NYC…
Froemming: You think MJ not remembering Peter Parker is what turns her into a drug addict on that show “Euphoria?”
Anywho, we see Peter somehow get an apartment in New York without:
- A valid ID, since nobody remembers him so how would he have one?
- Any credit score since, you know, nobody would remember him .
- Any money, because he was dirt poor and whatnot.
- References because, again, nobody has ever heard of him.
Froemming: Anyway, Peter goes to MJ’s coffee shop, where he will now stalk her like a crazy person. His interaction with her here is very, very awkward. Like, call the cops awkward.
And so, that brings this movie to a close. Almost. We get a mid-credit scene with our friend Tom Hardy getting hammered at a bar with his symbiote Venom. Being as confused as I am about the MCU. Thus bringing Eddie Brock into the Spider-Verse. Maybe.
Brown: God, I hope not. Also, no Morbius, please.
Froemming: Brown, let’s sling on down to recommendations!
Brown: Absolutely. This movie is absolute fan service. And as a big fan of the Spider-Man movies, I was serviced.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: