REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021)

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SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021)

Spider-Man: No Way Home opens immediately after the shocking mid-credits scene of the previous film with Peter being outed to the world as Spidey and accused of killing Mysterio. When Peter approaches Dr, Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to create a spell to make everyone forget he is Spider-Man, some last-minute indecision causes the spell to go awry. Instead, it starts bringing villains from other universes into Peter’s world to wreak havoc. Worse still, many of those bad guys died battling Spider-Man and returning them to their universes would sentence them to death. This puts a morally torn Peter in conflict with both friend and foe.

Sequel is again directed by Jon Watts from a script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. On the negative side, the film teeters on the edge of becoming a mess with so much going on and so many characters. Thankfully, it doesn’t, though the middle section drags, as Peter tries to find a way to cure the villains so they may have a second chance when they return home. It’s a bit convoluted. Finally, the whole murdering Mysterio sub-plot is brushed aside with a simple line from a surprise cameo and that is the end of it. What could have been the most interesting aspect of No Way Home—a fugitive Peter Parker trying to clear his name while battling multiple villains—is quickly discarded ten minutes into the movie. It’s simply lazy writing. On to the good stuff…

There is far more positive than negative, which makes up for a lot of the film’s flaws. The banter between Peter and his friends with Dr. Strange is a lot of fun, as are the conversations between the villains from both of the previous Spider-Man series. It’s entertaining to watch a Raimi era villain trading barbs with a Webb era villain and the dialogue is well written here. The battle scenes are also very good, such as Peter’s first introduction to Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) who is expecting another face under the mask. The last act is a real blast, though discussing most of the reasons why would spoil some great moments. Let’s just say the battle royal at the Statue of Liberty is worth the price of admission alone. The film has a couple of scenes that have some very strong emotional resonance, too, and there is some nice closure given to a few characters’ storylines from previous films. The FX are fantastic, and the cast all perform their parts well.

Tom Holland continues to be a great Peter Parker and he handles a complex story with varying emotional requirements skillfully. He’s charming and sympathetic as a superhero still trying to find himself while in over his head with bad guys and multiverses. Zendaya is still the smart, sarcastically funny and sweet girl next door beauty that is MJ, and she gets to be involved in a little more of the action. Cumberbatch is still solid as Dr. Strange, as is Benedict Wong as the briefly seen but lovable Wong. As for the villains, Willem Dafoe returns as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and it’s as if he never left the role. Same can be said of Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus, who has some of the better lines. Jamie Foxx gets a second go as Max Dillon/Electro. There is a brief reappearance by his blue form from TASM2 till the energy in this world alters him to a more traditional character look. He’s a badass in this new incarnation. Sandman and The Lizard are mostly CGI with ever so brief appearances by actors Thomas Hayden Church and Rhys Ifans. The supporting cast, such as Jacob Batalon as Ned, Tony Revolori as Flash, Jon Favreau as Happy, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, all recreate their endearing and entertaining supporting characters, and all have their moments.

No Way Home isn’t perfect, but still delivers a lot of what we expected from this venture into the multi-verse. It dispenses with some of the last film’s set-up too quickly, has some convoluted plot points and drags in the middle after an action-packed start. The film makes up for a lot of it with a great last act, some strong character interaction, some spectacular battles and some wonderful returns and cameos, not to mention a young actor really growing into the role now after multiple appearances. Stay through all the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) webs!
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REVIEW: JOHN CARTER (2012)

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JOHN CARTER (2012)

As a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian Chronicles, I have been waiting for someone to adapt these nearly 100 year-old pulp sci-fi adventures to film since I was a boy. Now after years in development hell, Disney finally brings the adventures of Earth-man John Carter and his adventures on Mars to life. And it’s not quite the classic epic I was hoping for, but definitely not the bomb it’s sadly labeled.

The simply named John Carter takes a lot of liberties with Burroughs’ stories, too many to list here and in result comes up with a tale that is a bit talky and more plot heavy than needed. Burroughs’ books were short, action packed and to the point. So should have John Carter been. The book based story tells of Confederate Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) who is whisked unintentionally by a series of events to the planet Mars, where he finds an ally in four-armed, green warrior Tars Tarkus (voiced by Willem Dafoe) and love with beautiful princess Dejah Thoris , who has now graduated from the damsel in distress in the books to also being a scientist and woman warrior here, played by Lynn Collins.

Adaptation is directed by Andrew Stanton (director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E) and is not bad. Stanton may have written a lot of dialog scenes, but when there is action, it is fast moving, epic in scale and exciting and he gets good performances out of all his cast. He does set a good pace for a film with an over-complicated plot and he does capture some of the pulp charm nicely in many scenes as well. It‘s too bad he couldn’t follow Burroughs’ lead and keep John Carter a bit simpler and get to the spectacular action a bit sooner. It’s never boring, but there is a lot of traveling back and forth before the plot really gets moving and Carter, with his enhanced abilities due to Mars‘ thinner atmosphere and lesser gravity, gets to the business of saving Mars and his lady love from the devious Therns, who weren’t even in the first John Carter novel A Princess Of Mars. Plot and character development are obviously important, but I still feel the film’s 132 minutes could have been better managed.

Criticisms aside, the film is sumptuously, though somewhat derivative-ly, designed. The SPFX are flawless and spectacular and there is nice atmosphere from Michael Giacchino‘s (Star Trek 2009, Super 8) beautiful score. Stanton does give the film a lot of charm and charm is what makes those century old books it’s based on still so enjoyable. The enormous budget is on screen and despite it’s flaws, the end had me wanting to see more of Carter’s adventures on Barsoom (their name for Mars) as there are 11 books and now that the central characters have all been introduced, we can get right to the fun. And John Carter wasn’t without fun, it just needed a bit more of it and a little less of the politics and conspiracy elements which fill it.

The film also stars Mark Strong as Matai Sheng, Dominic West as Sab Than, James Purefoy as Kantos Kan and a vocal performance by Thomas Hayden Church as Tars Tarkus’ dangerous rival, Tal Hajus. Despite it’s flaws I like John Carter and it has grown on me even more with repeated viewings and it’s status as a box office bomb gives it a bad reputation that it doesn’t really deserve. It’s a good movie, but just not the great one that the source material warranted. But I still recommend you give it a chance if you haven’t seen it.

3 Woolas!

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