[Screen It]


(2021) (Tom Holland, Zendaya) (PG-13)

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Superhero Action: After trying to get others to forget his just-revealed identity, a web-slinging superhero must contend with the arrival of good and bad figures from alternate universes.

Until recently, high school student Peter Parker (TOM HOLLAND) has kept his alter-ego -- the superhero webslinger Spider-man -- secret from most of the world. That is, except for his girlfriend, MJ (ZENDAYA), best friend, Ned (JACOB BATALON), his Aunt May (MARISA TOMEI), and her boyfriend, former Iron Man assistant Happy Hogan (JON FAVREAU).

But now that online provocateur J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. SIMMONS) has outed him, Peter must contend with the fallout, including half of the world thinking he murdered his last adversary. It's so bad and affects his family and friends to such a degree that he goes to his former Avengers teammate, Dr. Stephen Strange (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH), for help. In short, he wants the master of the mystic arts to conjure up a spell that will make the world forget that he's Spider-Man.

But his sudden amendments to that spell cause it to spiral out of control, opening wormholes into alternate universes. All of which means he must not only contend with other versions of himself showing up, but also a bevy of villains -- Electro (JAMIE FOXX), Doctor Octopus (ALFRED MOLINA), Green Goblin (WILLEM DAFOE), Sandman (THOMAS HADEN CHURCH), and Lizard (RHYS IFANS) -- who want him dead.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

Many a superhero comic book and related movie has a famous saying associated with it. There's "You're Making Me Angry. You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry" from The Incredible Hulk and "Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" and "Up, up and away" involving Superman. And don't forget "Tune in next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel."

Okay, the latter was the cliffhanger lure for the old Adam West TV version of "Batman," but you get the point. Perhaps the most poignant and to the point, however, involves Peter Parker and the advice given to him (attributed alternately to Uncle Ben or Aunt May) that "With great power comes great responsibility."

While that's specifically referring to the Amazing Spider-man's, well, um, amazing arachnid-based abilities and not losing sight or the meaning of such a gift, it can be applied to the rest of us in a variety of ways. And that includes if you happen to be the filmmaker with the power of bringing the latest Spidey flick to the masses, one's great responsibility is to satisfy viewers and deliver the financial goods in terms of box office returns.

In that regard, director Jon Watts -- who previously helmed the first two instalments of the rebooted Spider-Man franchise, 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and 2019's "Spider-Man: Far From Home" -- has taken the famous saying to heart while helming the third entry in the series, "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

The film takes up where the last offering left off, namely that Peter Parker (Tom Holland returning, like the rest of the cast) has been outed by online provocateur J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) as Spider-Man, thus turning the high school student's life upside down, just like that of his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), and best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon). It gets so bad that M.I.T. turns down enrollment applications for all three, which makes Peter feel responsible and has him visit his old Avengers buddy, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), for some magical mystery tour help.

The goal is for Strange to make everyone forget this new revelation, but as Peter adds more and more exemptions to the name list, Strange's spell gets out of control and creates a portal opening to the multiverse. And through that steps friend and foe, including characters that appeared in both the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield past versions of the title character.

That might sound like a great idea from returning scribes Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, and it is as it provides for some serious fan service as well as fun, funny, and emotionally touching bits. The only real issue is that we've already seen all of that before, namely in 2018's fantastic animated flick, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Had that film never existed -- and maybe it doesn't in another alternate universe out there somewhere -- this would be seen as a total, creative hoot. Yes, it is that at times (with moments I won't discuss to avoid spoilers and the fun that comes with certain moments), but it nevertheless pales a bit in comparison to its wildly imaginative predecessor.

Beyond that, the action is handled decently, the special effects are good, and the film is entertaining from start to finish, even with some serious moments of grief, anger, and so on thrown in for good measure. Overall, fans of the series -- be that the new entries, old ones, or both, will probably find the flick to their liking. All of which means the responsibility of using one's powers to deliver the goods has been met. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed December 13, 2021 / Posted December 17, 2021

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