- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
- A big on-screen team up fans have been hoping for happens in the latest “Spider-Man” installment.
- Hopefully, Sony doesn’t make this a one-time thing.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” now in theaters, finally answers the question every fan has been wondering for months on end: Are Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire reprising their previous “Spider-Man” roles in the film?
Why would we spoil that on the film’s opening night?
Let’s be real. If you spend any time online, their appearance in the film is probably one of the worst-kept Hollywood secrets in years.
The three share a group text, Maguire reportedly told a fan he was returning, and, over the past few weeks, there were very real leaked images online that Sony tried (and failed) to scrub from existence. That’s just a few of the many clues that led fans to figure out the reveals far in advance.
That in itself is fascinating. I can’t think of the last time I’ve gone into a blockbuster film where nearly every major twist or surprise has been revealed beforehand. It’s wild and, frankly, a bit sad. The reveal of three Spider-Men sharing the screen together would’ve been a better surprise sans spoilers because the returns are handled so well — it doesn’t feel contrived or like it was done solely to generate box-office dollars (which isn’t how it always felt with these Spidey films).
For those who don’t plan on seeing the film, but still want to be a part of the pop-culture conversation, here’s, quickly, how the reveals come to pass.
How Garfield and Maguire end up in ‘No Way Home’: A spell gone wrong.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) seeks out Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) at the film’s start when everyone learns he’s Spider-Man. Strange casts a spell to make people forget Parker’s the web-slinger. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as planned.
Anyone who knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man starts popping up onto their Earth. As a result, villains from every previous live-action “Spider-Man” film (Maguire and Garfield’s) start appearing in their universe. Of course, that’s not limited to just villains.
As Peter tries and wrangles up some of the villains, Ned (Jacob Batalan) and MJ (Zendaya) wait to hear from Peter. When they don’t, they start to worry. Ned is conveniently holding onto Doctor Strange’s sling ring, a device that allows him to open up portals to travel to other locations.
When Ned says he wishes they knew where Peter was, he accidentally opens a portal right to him. Spider-Man, in a dark alley, walks through the portal. MJ and Ned immediately realize this isn’t their Spider-Man. He’s wearing a different suit.
The man removes his mask to show he’s Garfield’s version of Peter Parker from “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies.
After Garfield’s Peter proves he’s a version of Spider-Man (it involves some web-crawling), Ned tries to use the sling ring again to find their Peter.
This time, Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker (not dressed as Spider-Man) walks through a portal. It turns out both Spider-Men were just aimlessly wandering around the MCU universe. When Maguire and Garfield’s characters first make eye contact, it leads to a fun moment where they try and disarm one another, skeptical that the other may be an imposter.
The reintroduction of the two web-slingers was so well done because fans likely would’ve expected Garfield and Maguire’s first scene on-screen to be with Holland’s Spider-Man.
Instead, it’s with Peter’s two best friends, which makes it more meaningful. If you’ve watched every “Spider-Man” film, it’s tough to not get emotional watching the moment and seeing the two Spider-Men interact for the first time.
The inclusion of the 3 Spider-Men doesn’t feel like a corporate gimmick or grand cameo. It’s a strength of ‘NWH.’
Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
The idea of putting every live-action Spider-Man in a movie is exciting, but only if it’s executed right and with good intention.
It’s very easy to get these things wrong if it comes across as anything less than genuine. A perfect example is this year’s “Space Jam” sequel. WB stuffed so much of its recognizable IP into the film, that it felt silly.
Many of the characters who appear in a basketball-game crowd weren’t the original actors who played the roles.
As a result, look-alikes of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, the Night King, and more resembled doppelgangers dressed in “Party City” costumes instead of the genuine ensemble. It was weird, extremely noticeable, and felt like a cheap nostalgia play to toy with the audience’s emotions.
“No Way Home” gets it right because Sony brought back all the same actors who played these villain and hero roles over two decades. That shows a dedication to doing right by your audience instead of simply recasting them or retconning the characters to be different versions than what people remember.
Further, Maguire and Garfield don’t appear on-screen for a simple cameo or a few scenes, which would have been a massive letdown. Instead, they play significant roles in the “Spider-Man” sequel.
They help guide and shape Holland’s Spider-Man into learning the life lessons he needs so he can move forward as a solo superhero, one who’s guided by the most important Spidey principle: With great power comes great responsibility.
That’s something no Avenger could have taught Peter.
Every moment on-screen with the three Spider-Men is a highlight. Their inclusion leads to fun Spidey discussions, like the different ways in which their webs work and the coolest villains they’ve ever fought. The latter, in turn, leads Garfield’s Spidey to feel lame compared to the other two and they reassure him that’s not the case at all.
It’s a rather sweet moment of vulnerability and shows that they’re not solely in “No Way Home” to prop up Holland’s character.
The movie offers much-needed closure for fans who felt deprived of a fourth Maguire-led “Spider-Man” film or an abrupt end to Garfield’s underperforming entries. They both get rounds with their own villains. Garfield, in particular, stands out here almost more than in his two standalone Spidey films.
He looks so unbelievably excited to be donning the suit again that it’s a shame we’ll likely never see him play the role once more because of how the film wraps up.
This crossover may inspire other studios to attempt something similar. It would be a mistake if we never saw Garfield, Maguire, and Holland again together on-screen.
The bond between the three Spider-Men on-screen feels like that of three brothers. Maguire is the older, wiser, and most responsible one of the group. Garfield is the cool, adventurous brother who needs some added affection (He’s lost more people than the others). Holland is the little brother who could use two solid, selfless mentors without ego (see: Iron Man, Doctor Strange) to guide him.
Their interactions felt like one of those fun CW crossover events that are must-see TV every year when the heroes from various DC shows unite. (That’s not a knock, but there’s not much else to compare it to.)
Crossovers have been popular for some time on TV and in animation. Soap operas used them to help bring in ratings during sweeps weeks (four different times of the year where ratings services like Nielsen measure TV audiences).
Other than some animated features, it’s taken longer for Hollywood to warm up to something similar in live-action to attract audiences to theaters.
It really took 2018’s gamble, the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” which allows multiple Spider-People to share the spotlight, to prove that there’s an appetite for seeing these crossover adventures on the big screen as well.
2019’s record-setting “Avengers: Endgame,” which brought just about every one of Marvel Studios’ characters together, signified that an interconnected universe had far more reach than a standalone movie. It earned over $2 billion worldwide.
The biggest mistake “No Way Home” makes is seemingly closing the door on the possibility of Holland, Garfield, and Maguire’s Spider-Men reuniting again at a time where other superhero franchises are becoming more interconnected.
At the film’s end, Maguire and Garfield’s Spideys return home to their own universes with their respective villains.
WB’s upcoming “The Flash” looks like it may do something similar when it reintroduces Michael Keaton’s Batman in some capacity. Reports indicate that Ben Affleck’s Batman may appear there as well.
Because of how “No Way Home” ends, with everyone forgetting Peter Parker’s existence, it’s unclear what Spidey’s future is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He could be back, but he could stay solo (something that’s rather convenient for how Disney and Sony want to share Spidey moving forward).
If the latter is the case, Sony has the built-in audience to continue its own live-action “Spider-Verse.” It would be pretty awesome if every third Spider-Man film saw a reprisal of the three together again in the way that the Avengers all team up after their solo films.