Spider-Man: No Way Home

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 4/12/22;
Sony Pictures/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $803.82 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99, Blu-ray, $45.99 UH BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action/violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire.

The story of Spider-Man: No Way Home hinges on a plot device that could have been one of the greatest surprises in cinematic history. Instead, it was one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood that previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would reprise their roles alongside current Spider-Man Tom Holland to fight a variety of villains from all the “Spider-Man” movies since the first film in 2002.

It wasn’t as if Sony’s marketing department didn’t try to keep it quiet. Images of the multiple Spider-Men were omitted from trailers, and Garfield resorted to blatantly lying in interviews in which he said he wasn’t involved, despite all the widespread rumors to the contrary, and in some cases photographic evidence.

Of course, the momentary shock value for such a reveal can only add so much to the viewing experience, and the film’s immense box office fortunes don’t seem to have suffered in the least. And knowing of the eventual Spidey super team-up doesn’t detract at all from the emotional resonance that elevates Spider-Man: No Way Home into more than just a fantastic superhero action movie.

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The film is the 27th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and picks up immediately following the events of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is publicly identified as being the masked webslinger.

As his life spirals out of control due to people knowing that he’s Spider-Man, Peter asks his Avengers cohort Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to reset everyone’s memories so they don’t remember his secret anymore. But the spell becomes unstable and breaks down the barriers between different realities, drawing in villains such as Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Sandman from the Sam Raimi-directed movies, and Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Lizard from the “Amazing Spider-Man” films.

Rather than send them back to their universes only to die fighting their versions of Spider-Man, Peter endeavors to cure them first, a decision that backfires and results in profound tragedy.

However, the spell also brought Maguire’s and Garfield’s Spideys from those universes, giving Holland’s Spider-Man the allies he needs to stop the team of villains from doing more damage. It feels a lot like one of those “Doctor Who” anniversary specials in which previous versions of the Doctor joined the current one for a grand adventure.

The film works as a celebration of Spider-Man and his legacy in film, tying together the entire franchise in a way that not only continues the development of Holland’s Spider-Man, but also enriches the story arcs of Maguire’s and, especially, Garfield’s.

Spider-Man: No Way Home looks amazing, with several instantly iconic sequences, and seamless visual effects that really make it seem as if Molina and Dafoe were just plucked out of the earlier movies and placed into this one.

Another standout is the musical score by Michael Giacchino, who not only continues to develop the progression of his themes from the first two MCU Spidey movies, but gets to reuse his Dr. Strange themes as well. As if those weren’t enough, he also incorporates some of Danny Elfman’s themes from the Maguire films, and the late James Horner’s wonderful theme from The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s leitmotif on overdrive.

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The Blu-ray includes a solid hour-and-a-half of bonus materials, including seven behind-the-scenes featurettes. The six-minute “A Spectacular Spider-Journey With Tom Holland” tracks the journey of its star since he joined the MCU, while the seven-minute “Graduation Day” looks at the evolution of all the recurring characters. The five-minute “Enter Strange” examines the wizard’s role in the story, while the six-and-a-half-minute “Action Choreography Across the Multiverse” looks at the film’s stunt work. The eight-minute “Realities Collide, Spiders Unite” looks at how the film’s legendary team-up came to be, while the seven-minute “Weaving Jon Watt’s Web” focuses on the director’s experiences making the three MCU “Spider-Man” films.

The best extras are two panel discussions with the cast. The nine-minute “The Sinister Summit” features the villains of the film — Dafoe, Molina and Foxx. But the main event is the seven-and-a-half-minute “A Meeting of the Spiders” with Holland, Garfield and Maguire discussing their camaraderie.

A nearly five-minute featurette informs viewers of many of the references to previous Spider-Man films and comics that have been layered into the film.

Another fun inclusion are three in-universe story videos about Spider-Man from TheDailyBugle.net, running a total of about four minutes.

There are also two videos comparing the stunt previsualization with the final result, running three-and-a-half-minutes.

A section of promotional materials includes three short clips: Holland and co-star Jacob Batalon taking a lie detector about their experiences on the film, running two minutes; a minute clip of Holland’s press tour to Paris; and a minute of the filmmakers raving about the benefits of filming in the state of Georgia.

Rounding out the extras is a four-minute bloopers/gag reel.

In the 4K combo pack, all the bonus materials are on the Blu-ray disc. The 4K disc doesn’t include any extras.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/1/19;
Sony Pictures/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $389.86 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated’PG-13’ for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Stars Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, Martin Starr, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Peter Billingsley, Marisa Tomei.

Well, that could have been awkward.

Amid reports that Sony Pictures and Disney would not renew their landmark deal to share Spider-Man, the home video release of the latest film featuring the character looked to be in the unenviable position of reminding audiences just how valuable the partnership had been, both from a financial and a creative standpoint.

And since Spider-Man: Far From Home ends with a cliffhanger that recasts the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Spidey’s place within it, a fresh viewing of the film under the shadow of its sequel potentially not being connected to the MCU only puts a more glaring spotlight on the impasse, much to the disappointment of fans. The bonus materials accompanying the release don’t sidestep the issues, either, with direct discussions of Spidey’s impact on the MCU (particularly the four-minute “Stepping Up” featurette).

Fortunately, such prospects were avoided with the news of a new agreement to allow Marvel to make a proper sequel, completing a trilogy with Tom Holland as the title character at the very least, and paving the way for whatever Sony has planned for the character down the road.

And that’s very good news indeed, as Far From Home offers a spectacular adventure, from the perspective of both a Spider-Man story and the 23rd chapter of the MCU (serving as the epilogue of Phase 3).

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With the world adjusting to the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Holland) and his high school class take a summer trip to Europe, where Peter hopes to relax, take some time away from being Spider-Man, and explore a relationship with MJ (Zendaya). Unfortunately, he is recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) battle a threat from another dimension. As Peter struggles to balance his personal and superhero lives, he is confronted by the legacy of Tony Stark.

But as Peter questions what his place within that legacy is, he learns that things are not what they seem, forcing him to step up to become the hero he was destined to be.

The film looks great, blending scenic European locales with dazzling visual effects to create an eye-popping piece of entertainment.

Holland remains one of the most likeable stars of the MCU, handling with ease whatever challenges the movie throws at him. Gyllenhaal makes for an engaging Mysterio, an effective counterbalance to Peter’s crisis of confidence. Far From Home features a lot of surprises, both in terms of how the story unfolds and in references to earlier Marvel movies.

As with the previous film in this particular franchise, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villains are remnants of Stark’s actions in prior films, which has left some fans a bit miffed that the MCU Spider-Man seems more like an Iron Man Jr. cleaning up Stark’s messes. There is some truth to that, but within the context of the story of the films, it works really well.

The Blu-ray also includes what is billed as a new original short, but it’s essentially a three-and-a-half minute deleted scene of Peter preparing for his vacation, clips of which were used in some of the earliest Far From Home trailers.

Separately, the disc includes another six minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, plus a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

The four-and-a-half-minute “Stealthy Easter Eggs” featurette shows off some of the film’s hidden references, while the five-minute “Teachers’ Travel Tips” offers a comedic look at the chaperones played by Martin Starr and JB Smoove trying to ensure a smooth trip.

For behind-the-scenes footage, the disc offers nine featurettes that run about 40 minutes in total. These cover everything from the new suits, new locations and new cast members seen in the film, to the extensive stunts, a look at MCU guest stars, and how director Jon Watts put his spin on the material.

Another section of the extras offers eight minutes of comparisons between pre-vis storyboards and the final version of select scenes.

Finally, there’s a 12-minute video called “The Brother’s Trust,” an inspiring look at the charity work of Holland and his brothers.