‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ flies high, Tom Holland delivers award-winning performance

Photo credit: Julia Monteiro Martins

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.

The box office shattering completion of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” might be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest accomplishment yet. With high stakes and rampant fan speculation, Marvel rose to the challenge and fulfilled even the most optimistic expectations.

This is not only Holland’s strongest performance to date but the best live action portrayal of Spider-Man.

Holland picks his spots perfectly, knowing when to let a co-star get their moment and when to flex his muscles as the lead. The “Uncharted” actor is incredible in the closing minutes of the film as Peter rebuilds his life. The darker moments of Peter’s arc after Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is killed are performances Tobey Maguire couldn’t do and Andrew Garfield never had the chance.

The supporting cast of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” delivers top-notch individual performances. Zendaya’s Michelle Jones-Watson developed into an excellent MJ to Holland’s Peter, and her performance is equally magnetic. While his arc settling on becoming a wizard is…weird, Jacob Batalon’s Ned Leeds adds much needed levity.

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Benedict Cumberbatch puts in a strong effort to endear himself to audiences before 2022’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” places Doctor Strange as the MCU’s focal point. Tomei and “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau’s relationship carries parts of the early movie, and Favreau is one of the MCU’s best supporting actors.

While early entries into Marvel’s Phase Four have largely played close to the vest and focused on character building, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” takes enough swings for them all. Within minutes Charlie Cox’s beloved Daredevil returns, this time leaving no room for a “Wandavision” style fakeout.

By using the unique history of three franchises, longtime Marvel Producer and Director Jon Watts brilliantly reach payoff points that took Marvel a decade to reach in “Avenger: Endgame” in one film.

Bringing back several iconic villains, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” includes incredible MCU villain performances. Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn is a ticking time bomb and his chemistry with Holland is exceptional.

Alfred Molina’s Doc Oc and Jamie Foxx’s Electro are both strong return performances, with Foxx’s charisma benefiting from the MCU quality increase. Molina is disappointing outside the climactic battle scene, as Sam Raimi’s trilogy left too little of an undeveloped character for Molina to grow here.

Following the failure of “Eternals,” the MCU improved on their fight scene choreography. With “Hawkeye” on Disney+ a step up, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” improved in both quality and decreased CGI use.

Dafoe and Holland are brutal in their fight scenes, genuinely seeming like they’re trying to kill each other. The final battle and the Doctor Strange fight find the MCU returning to prior excellence in visual quality.

Of Marvel’s worst kept secrets, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s appearances returning as Peter Parker was their worst.

Their return is perfectly timed to give Maguire and Garfield just enough time with their old foes and new friends. The “Peter 1, 2 and 3” bit is iconic and the humor goes fast while also leaving room for intimate moments. Garfield correcting his past mistakes and saving Zendaya’s MJ the way he couldn’t save his own love, Gwen Stacey, is among his greatest moments.

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On the other side, it’s time to talk Tobey.

Maguire put up the worst performance in the movie, and Rhys Ifans is an angry lizard with no personality. He looked exactly like someone who hasn’t acted in eight years outside voice acting in “The Boss Baby.”

Andrew Garfield was lapping him and as perfect as Garfield’s performance was, even he couldn’t catch Holland. Garfield had to salvage several obviously made-for-Tobey moments, primarily the Ned and Harry Osborn comparison’s.

There are a few slip ups here and there. Remember the post-credit scene in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”? Marvel needs to start doing stuff like that again.

It’s a safe bet the pump fake for Tom Hardy’s “Venom” was forced upon Marvel as part of their tenuous deal with Sony, but the Doctor Strange teaser trailer was a mess.

Holland and Watts perfectly capture everything audiences hold dear about Spider-Man and should be entrusted with the character. For fans that have grown up with Peter Parker, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a celebration for years of investment and hopefully a promise for good times to come.