Spider-Man: No Way Home actually has a cinema advert from the cast asking people who see the film not to spoil it. Notably, the key spoiler isn’t the plot (the trailers explain the main premise: the world finds out Peter Parker is Spiderman, he gets Dr Strange to magic that problem away and it all goes wrong…leading to visitors from earlier versions of Spider-Man visiting the current one). The “spoilers” are the identities of the multiple cameos about which there has been a lot of speculation. The warning about spoilers gets some of its own absurdity (i.e. if it is possible to be spoiled, then that confirms the speculation, hence the warning itself is a spoiler) by having Jamie Foxx (Electro from the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spiderman films) also cautioning people about spoilers only to be reminded by Tom Holland et al. that he is one of the spoilers.
Anyway, spoilers after the fold.
Spiderman: No Way Home is a further extrapolation of the Marvel trend towards films that actually make more sense as a series of episodes of a TV show edited together. The chunks make sense (sort of) and I found them very entertaining but the overall whole of the film feels oddly disjointed. Like other MCU films, a lot of what it is doing is determined by commercial elements (the complexity of the ownership of the Spider-Man film rights, the acquisition by Disney of other Marvel film rights) and the overall MCU film strategy (the shift of Spider-Man & Dr Strange as the main continuity characters for MCU and the introduction of the multiverse). These aspects aren’t hidden.
The Sony Spider-Man films make money for Sony and integrating with the MCU makes commercial sense, so a film that brings the back catalogue together with the MCU also makes sense. And what can I say, it is kind of fun to have a film where two previous sets of films intersect with a current version in what is largely a silly romp. The non-MCU animated Into the Spiderverse film which focused on the Miles Morales Spider-Man did the multiverse thing better but the new film played the celebrity cameo card very well. It’s arguably a lazy way of creating audience excitement but the audience excitement when various actors appeared was very genuine in the cinema I was in (for a full list to be 100% spoiled, visit the Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man:_No_Way_Home ).
The other moving-pieces-around-on-the-board element of the film was the eventual resolution. The Tom Holland Spider-Man was introduced into a Marvel universe that for commercial reasons was Spider-Man free. So we’ve had four films (five including Endgame) where Spider-Man is essentially defined in terms of his connection to the MCU Tony Stark/Ironman. This third film essentially resets that situation, placing Peter Parker as an unknown quantity in a world in which Spider-Man is his own thing. This makes the earlier Tom Holland films now more of a prologue.
Speaking of film franchise complexity…Into the Spiderverse included Kathryn Hahn as Dr Octavius who, of course, was Agatha Harkness in Wandavision. Another, Spiderverse/MCU cross-over is Hailee Steinfeld, who played Gwen Stacey/Spider-Woman in the animated film but who has recently been playing Kate Bishop in the Hawkeye TV MCU spin-off.
Hawkeye, is a strange entry to the Disney+ MCU series. Like the others, there’s a strong comedic element to the show but the broad themes are about loss and mourning and surviving trauma. The whole thing almost doesn’t work as a consequence but a very beaten-down Jeremy Renner (who generally I’m not a fan of) does an excellent job playing a not-so-super hero who has had just one too many fights and one too many tragic losses. The rest of the cast is excellent also, including Florence Pugh as Black Widow’s sister Yelena.
The conflict is also much more “street-level”, with a plot centred around a criminal gang (portrayed surprisingly sympathetically) and Hawkeye attempting to both erase and atone for his “Ronin” persona that he adopted when his family were eliminated by Thanos.
This takes us around to the final episode and another surprise cameo. The bad guy behind the whole plot turns out to be Wilson Fisk, which makes sense as he is the literal kingpin of crime in Marvel’s New York City. However, Fisk as a character has a problem shared by a number of Marvel’s characters on screen: one actor has become almost synonymous with the role. For Hawkeye, they chose the sensible option and brought back Vincent D’Onoforio, whose intense version of the character dominated the Netflix/Marvel gritty Daredevil series.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, cameos in Spider-Man. I assume there’s a board in Disney HQ where they have all this mapped out with photos and red string.
Joining, both these things together was one of the earliest cameos in Spiderman: No Way Home. In trouble with the law for the apparent murder of Mysterio in the previous film (fueled by a hate campaign by a very Alex Jones-like J. Jonah Jameson played naturally by J. K. Simmons), Peter Parker’s lawyer is, of course, Matt Murdock aka Daredevil and played by Charlie Cox as the same character from the aforementioned Netflix/Marvel gritty Daredevil series.
Well yes, this is pandering to fans but it is also a lot of fun. If you have a great big playground of interconnected films then why not make use of a great big playground of interconnected films.