SPOILERS FOR A RECENTLY RELEASED MOVIE
I just can’t talk about this movie without going full spoilers. There’s a lot to cover, so this will be on the longer side.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is the biggest crossover movie, full stop. Now, some people would argue that Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were bigger since it had more movies, but nah, man. All of the movies that led to Infinity War were taking place in the same universe and were written with the intent to lead to that point (more or less). No Way Home not only is the continuation of the overarching story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it draws from the 5 non-Mr. Tom Holland Spider-Man movies that came before it which is a big deal since those were completely different continuities with different Peter Parkers. After a spell to make the world forget Spider-Man’s secret identity goes wrong–remember, Mysterio revealed it at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home–villains from previous movies enter the MCU and go after the web-head. We have Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) from Spider-Man, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) from Spider-Man 2, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) from Spider-Man 3, the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) from The Amazing Spider-Man, and Electro (Jamie Foxx) from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. So that means that the previous movies did happen, but in an alternate Earths. That opens a lot of potential for bringing existing characters into the MCU, but that’s just a possibility and not something concrete.
Faced with so many villains–most of whom died fighting the previous Spider-Men–our Peter Parker is faced with a conflict: sure, sending them back to their native timelines would be the easiest option, but that’s a death sentence for several of them. He chooses to help them, starting with fixing the faulty microchip on Doc Ock’s neck that had his tentacles take over his brain (I’m realizing I probably should’ve covered all the previous movies before this, but whatever). But not everyone wants to be cured, and this leads to Green Goblin killing Aunt May. I knew her fate was sealed the moment she said, “You have power. And with great power, there must also come great responsibility.” Fun and/or grim fact, this is actually Uncle Ben’s original phrase from 1962, so that was a nice touch. Filled with rage, Peter is ready to kill the Goblin. Meanwhile, MJ and Ned try to get to Peter, and they technically succeed…?
Y’all, I knew that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were probably going to show up, but they had a much bigger part than I anticipated. The previous Spider-Men–I’m going to call them Original and Amazing–catch up with MCU Peter, ready to take the remaining villains on. We get some truly great moments between the three of them, including wrapping up Amazing Spider-Man’s story in a way that he never go to do since there was no The Amazing Spider-Man 3. Still mourning his failure to save Gwen Stacy, he’s the one who redeems himself by saving MJ. And I just like seeing Tobey Maguire, who is the one to convince MCU Spider-Man that killing the Green Goblin won’t stop the hurt of losing Aunt May.
In the end, the only way to stop the multiverse from seeping into the MCU is by making everyone forgot Peter Parker. Like, MCU Spider-Man did all the previous things and people remember that, but Peter Parker was effectively wiped from the world’s memory. The villains–now generally cured and/or fixed–go back to their home dimensions with the implication that they can avoid their bad ends–don’t think about that too hard–and Original and Amazing also go back home. MCU Peter decides not to tell anyone who he is, which is real sad since it almost seems like MJ remembered him.
I feel like this movie was made for nerds like me. For example, my mom hasn’t seen any of the previous, non-MCU Spider-Man movies and isn’t a huge Tom Holland fan, so I all but told her to avoid this film. It’s the most Spider-Man it could be, in part because it has three different Peter Parkers interacting with each other. I loved it. They not only drew from the stories that came before, but interlaced them in a way that it didn’t feel excessively gratuitous, even though it is objectively excessively gratuitous. And even I have to admit adding any other characters would’ve been too much, no matter how much I would’ve like a moment where Zendaya’s MJ Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane had a moment together.
Oh, and I haven’t even touched on the fact that Peter’s lawyer at the beginning of the movie was none other than Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), AKA Daredevil. News had come out that the MCU wouldn’t recast the character and a lot of people believed he’d have a role in this movie, but this joins Hawkeye brining Vincent D’Onofrio back as the Kingpin in asking the question, “No, really, are the Netflix shows canon or not?” So not only did we have the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy universe and the Andrew Garfield The Amazing Spider-Man universe, but we also may have the Netflix Daredevil universe in one fashion or another! And then there’s also… well…
So back in Venom: Let There Be Carnage–oh, yeah, I saw that a while back but didn’t talk about it because something else came up–the post-credits scene had Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) teleported to another universe. The mid-credits scene here confirmed he came to the MCU, which is a little weird since all the other characters came to this reality because they knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man and he has no idea who either of those characters are. It’s extra weird when he appears to be punted back to his own, separate continuity/universe, leaving a small drop of symbiote behind. Seriously, dude, why are you so bad about keeping that thing to yourself? So I guess that was all just to have the possibility of a Venom and/or black suit Spider-Man in the MCU, but I feel like getting Topher Grace from Spider-Man 3 back would’ve been an easier option. He must’ve said no, because that’s the only thing that made sense to me. Props for the Tom Hardy cameo, but if there isn’t a symbiote Spider-Man story, then it was utterly pointless.
So then… wait. What universe does the upcoming Morbius take place in? The trailer had visual cues from the Spider-Man trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man duology, has the return of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and graffiti saying Spider-Man is a murderer from the MCU’s Home trilogy, and then also directly references Venom. This movie just established that those are all separate universes that didn’t get melded together, so what’s the deal with Morbius? Enh, I suppose I’ll know more when it comes out soon enough.
Back to No Way Home, the post credits was atypical in that it was a full on movie trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Apparently Doctor Strange’s solution at the end of this movie wasn’t enough, and the multiverse is… doing something bad. He needs help from Wanda Maximoff, and we get the first overt reference the movies have made to the Disney+ shows. Sure, Black Widow did everything except spell out “To Be Continued in Hawkeye” in big letters, and the multiverse connected to the MCU exists because of actions taken in Loki, but Wanda and Stephen directly reference what happened in Westview. We all knew the Disney+ shows were canon, but this is a hint of how they’re going to be incorporated in. This probably isn’t a big deal but it’s been on my mind a lot, especially thinking back to Agents of SHIELD and the Netflix shows and how their connections to the MCU were incredibly one-sided. Sure, Ike Perlmutter is no longer CEO of Marvel and the TV and movie departments are talking to each other again, but still.
Oh, and Multiverse of Madness may also have Dark Strange from What If…?. So that might be a thing! In case it wasn’t obvious, a lot went on in this movie.
Next: Moon Knight
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