The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film is a mammoth, orbit-breaking success. “Spiderman: No Way Home,” which premiered over the weekend, is both critically and financially, the type of comic-book film we haven’t seen in a long time.
It’s a fantastic film, honoring the legacy of the Spiderman franchise and its fans. It offers a positive message of quality entertainment and art, all made possible by the intrepid filmmaker Sam Raimi and ‘No Way Home’ director Jon Watts. This Spidey flick is a runaway success, and Hollywood should start asking why.
Gangbusters at the Box Office
The big question that the fan-hating media ask themselves is why this film is going gangbusters?
Critics are prone to tie “No Way Home’s” success to COVID and a dull year in the world of blockbuster cinema. But I contend the success is a reaction against everything that Hollywood has gotten wrong, director Sam Raimi is getting right. And the box office reflects it.
In its first night alone, “No Way Home” earned over $121 million, putting it in the top 10 sales of films this year. Then the film stormed through theaters over the weekend, earning $260 million, making it the second greatest opening weekend in movie history. The film has yet to come out to China and but already made $587 million globally. At this rate, it is in striking distance of dethroning “Avengers: End Game” as all-time movie king.
The joyous reaction from audience members is something amazing to watch. I’ve talked to comics fans and normies, both getting teary-eyed explaining watching this film. Reports are coming everywhere of packed houses. Even when I attended a late Tuesday night screening in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the place was packed with big burly bearded men weeping and older baby boomers giving standing applause. Even midwestern moms and their kids got in on the act.
Multiple Spidermans Return
It’s hard to write about this film with no background, so I only touch upon spoilers apparent in the trailers. “No Way Home” starts as an extension of the previous film, with the world now aware that Peter Parker is Spiderman. Spidey then tries to remedy this with the help of Doctor Strange, things go awry, and he must face the villains of Spiderman’s cinematic past. To help deal with this threat, the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield iterations of Spiderman come to his help, and we get a film featuring not just one but three Spidermen.
“No Way Home” is for anyone with even a passing nostalgia for Spiderman of any iteration. It honors a profound love and understanding of the Spiderman character and legacy.
The Legend of Sam Raimi
To get a sense of why this film is so important to fans, you must know the complicated cinematic history of those who worked on past Spiderman films.
Sam Raimi, the former horror director of “The Evil Dead” created two lauded success stories featuring the affable yet humble Tobey Maguire as the masked web-crawler in the early 2000s. These are wonderful and timeless films. Yet despite the first two Spiderman films being critical and box office successes, for the third and subsequent films, executives at Sony thought they could do Spidey better.
Notable at the time was their obsession with action figure sales and taking advantage of more recent radical ’90s characters. Raimi wanted Sandman. They demanded Venom; thus, there were many script changes, complicated re-shoots, and multiple difficult locations.
Even though the third Spiderman film was a box office success, fans and the early internet felt it was tainted. Raimi was blamed even though it was Raimi’s protestations to Sony executives that had been ignored. Raimi intended to do two more films, but with Maguire still recovering from a grievous back injury and yet more meddling from Sony, he got burned and left the franchise and comic book entirely for 13 years.
Meanwhile, what followed at Sony were two rather terrible Amazing Spiderman films featuring the okay Andrew Garfield in plots that were even too much melodrama for Spiderman fans. After the second film flopped, the franchise got rebooted twice in only four years.
A Turning Point for All Superhero Flicks
Thus entered Tom Holland with his take on the friendly neighborhood Spiderman in “Captain America: Civil War” and subsequent Avengers films. Holland would then get two films of his own, “Spiderman: Homecoming” and “Spiderman: Far From Home,” which did well in theaters but to me always felt more like MCU after-school teen specials than their own things.
For the third MCU Spiderman film, Disney and MCU bigwig Kevin Feige wanted to do something that would knock it out of the park. The phase four-ship had gotten off to a rocky start, and they needed to get this right.
Holland revealed that “No Way Home” relied on Raimi’s style.
“I think what Jon Watts did really well is [what] he would call the ‘Raimi Cam’,” said Holland. “And he would do these really quick, smash push-ins on characters, which is something Sam Raimi, I suppose, was quite famous for. So, Jon definitely paid respect to the previous two movies.”
Could this film be a turning point for mass-market American cinema? For the last ten years, mainstream Hollywood AAA productions have followed a formula of treating moviemaking like tricking a toddler into eating their vegetables.
Sure, you can have your comics-inspired superhero movie. But you must get your daily recommended serving of a lecture on the perils of capitalism and colonialism. Sure, you get your Spiderman movie, but did you know that slaves built the Washington Monument?
The MCU at first didn’t follow this trend, but over time politics dug deeper and deeper into the heart of the most famous film franchise on the planet. But that trick isn’t working anymore. It isn’t just COVID. Preachy audience-hating films like the “Eternals” and “Black Widow” are failing across the board. Comics are going woke and broke while Manga is in. People are sick of being lectured for being happy. Apparently Sam Raimi is too.
“No Way Home” is a celebration of the legacy of Spiderman. Director Jon Watts and his team are able to showcase the same vision that Raimi had 13 years prior.
In almost every scene and detail, there is an aura of love, honor, and respect for the Spiderman mythos and the fans who have supported this franchise for over 50 years. Even previously unlikeable activist types, like Zendaya’s Mary Jane, are now believable three-dimensional characters.
Of course, Tobey Maguire and Benedict Cumberbatch are fantastic. Tom Holland finally proves his worth as a lead. I have been quite vocal in my dislike for Garfield’s version of Spidey, but even he is genuinely great in this film. He puts every ounce of his being into the role, he with such emotional weight, that I couldn’t help but sob alongside him.
With dismal box office sales across Hollywood this year, perhaps this approach will convince producers to change tact from angry activists to loving stewards. By honoring the legacy of its franchise, Raimi gives us hope we can win the nerd culture war.