Spider-Man: No Way Home | Hawkeye, Episode 6
Amazing arachnids and awesome archers.
MOVIE REVIEW /// Spider-Man: No Way Home
Movie summary: 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. (IMDb)
I was supposed to see Spider-Man: No Way Home last Thursday, but had my vaccine booster shot that day, which then proceeded to thoroughly kick my arse that night and all of Friday, making that a no-go. Fortunately, there are still enough hardcore Marvel/Spider-Man fans around that the audience in the screening I attended still made plenty of noise, clapping, cheering and laughing at every high point.
And there are a lot of high points too. One of the highest involving a brutal fight between Tom Holland's Spider-Man and Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin that leads to the death of a recurring character - apart from a few 'oohs' at the viciousness of the fight and some sniffling at the death, it was actually almost completely silent for that entire sequence.
The loudest responses were reserved for moments that I won't spoil here - even though I'm sure almost everyone who cares has seen No Way Home by now - but it took those audience responses to make me realise how much I'd missed them. I know there will be some film 'purists' who think that you should sit in stony silence throughout a movie, but I really enjoy the atmospheres you get on opening nights/weekends of Marvel movies, even if I don't enjoy the movie quite as much as others.
That's right, I'm not quite on board with calling this the best Spider-Man movie ever (hello Into the Spider-Verse!) or some saying it's the best MCU movie ever (middle of the pack for me!) despite enjoying it thoroughly. It just feels like too much of a mess and some of the characters trip that bugbear of mine by doing what the plot needs them to do rather than what an actual person would do.
These aren't major issues (check the score and the 'Very Good' next to it at the bottom of this review), but it does lend proceedings an air of artificiality, almost like the characters are action figures being positioned for the next crowd-pleasing moment rather than because the narrative demands it. I don't entirely agree with Scorsese's criticism of superhero movies as theme park rides, but I would say No Way Home feels like it deserves that description.
A slight diversion here: one thing that annoys me about film criticism is how poor critics are at using terms such as 'fan service' when they really mean 'crowd-pleasing', but the former is certainly a negative while there's very little wrong with the latter. Fan service is when something happens that is in service of the fans wants and not in service to the plot or character, crowd-pleasing is simply doing something that fits from a character and/or story viewpoint, but will please anyone watching.
The massive, massive majority of MCU movies I would say fall into the crowd-pleasing category as 95%+ of the more popular moments fit into the story and make sense in-universe - even if they get the audience roaring in reality, much to the disappointment of more snooty watchers. No Way Home manages to walk that tightrope well most of the time too, but it's one of the very few MCU movies where there moments that made me think "really?" as it contorted itself out of shape to fit in certain bits for the audience to enjoy.
I really don't want to be too negative about the movie because it really is a very good movie and I did enjoy it a lot - in fact, I'd really like to see it again pretty soon. The performances are generally great across the board, with Holland, Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx as standouts, and certain not-mentioned-in-this-review characters that are great fun to watch and see interact.
It's also worth pointing out that this is probably both the funniest and darkest Spider-Man movie I've ever seen too. Narratively, it might struggle, but switching tones from serious to funny and back again works every single time the movie does it, which is credit to director Jon Watts talent in making that work. And those more dramatic moments really, really work.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is my favourite of the MCU Spidey movies, despite the flaws and I hope the series continues to improve whoever's in the role (Zendaya's MJ is effectively written out of the series by the end and Tom Holland has expressed reluctance over continuing). I also hope that other MCU movies take some lessons from Dafoe's deliciously evil turn here - sometimes it's okay to have a villain who is just a maliciously evil bastard who wants nothing more than to hurt the hero as their goal.
Spider-Man: No Way Home has a lot going for it, but is too much of a mess to challenge for the title of 'best Spider-Man movie' or even the upper reaches of the MCU. To be fair, it shouldn't really work at all, so it's still an impressive job from Jon Watts here and makes the upcoming Fantastic Four film a brighter prospect. It'll be interesting to see where Tom Holland's take on Spidey goes from here - if he even wants to keep doing it.
[8/10 - Very Good]
TV REVIEW /// Hawkeye, Episode 6, "So This Is Christmas?"
Episode summary: Clint and Kate's partnership is tested as they face the consequences of exposing the conspiracy. (IMDb)
I have to hold up my hands and admit that I underrated the first two episodes of Hawkeye and would absolutely score them higher thanks to how well everything came together in "So This Is Christmas?", with everything getting wrapped up that needed to be in the six episodes available. There'll be some disappointed that they didn't get everything they wanted, but they'd turn up no matter what.
In many ways, this episode and the show as a whole really do reflect the MCU's version of Clint Barton as Hawkeye perfectly: there's nothing particular great or special about any of what has been seen in this season, but it's been a reliably enjoyable addition to the roster. The other Disney+ shows might have more 'epic' moments or shocking twists/revelations, but they also have lower lows than anything in Hawkeye.
Instead, we've been handed a more grounded, human superhero experience here and I think that 'lesser' scope meant a greater focus on the characters rather than plot or events. Even the addition of Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin didn't slow things down, seamlessly adding another layer, another character and I'm sure a major ongoing threat to give the non-superhuman heroes a Kang of their own as a recurring threat - hell, given Kingpin's strength and resilience shown here, he could easily provide a threat for Spider-Man too, with D'Onofrio keen to face the web-slinger at some point.
Aside from Clint and Kate though, who I'll get to in a bit, the star that outshone even Kingpin was Florence Pugh's Yelena, who has such great chemistry with everyone she interacts with that it's ridiculous. I really hope we get to see more of her and Kate's friendly antagonism, and also that we get to see Yelena and Clint fighting alongside each other at least once.
But the true praise in this episode and Hawkeye as a whole has to go to Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld, who are excellent both on their own and especially in the scenes they share. It was important to get their interactions right as the whole season hinged on it, and it's safe to say they nailed it. I loved the pair of them and really hope that we get to see more of them as a pairing in the future, but that might depend more on Renner than anything else, with Kate possibly appearing sooner than many might think...
"So This Is Christmas?" finishes off Hawkeye in a way that fits the series as a whole: really solid stuff without any true standout moments, but no glaring weaknesses to speak of either. The show wraps up everything it needed to satisfactorily, with Clint and Kate working well together as they take on the numerous threats thrown their way. This might possibly be the standard for 'street-level' Marvel for some time to come.