The iconic web-head has been spinning webs and fighting crime on the big-screen for decades at this point yet through the release of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, it’s as if the entire world has fallen in love with this character all over again. Spider-Man’s emotional resonance has always defined the character, it’s why we love him so much. No matter the person under the mask, there was always that connection to the audience that made him such an easy hero to root for. Sure he can shoot webs and swing around but at the end of the day, Spider-Man’s greatest power is resilience. The power to find light in even the darkest of moments. Tragedy is treated as a crucial turning point in every Spider-Man’s origin. The power of grief, healing and doing the right thing has never been portrayed as effectively as it is in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ where grief is undeniably solidified as a crucial element in Spidey’s ethos.
major spoilers for ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, and every other ‘Spider-Man’ movie are featured in this essay.
The concept of Spider-Man losing a loved one is something that is featured in every single Spider-Man movie with the exception of the first two Tom Holland movies. Tobey’s Peter loses someone important in each movie in his trilogy. In the first movie it’s his uncle, then his mentor in the second and finally his best friend in the third entry. Andrew’s Peter loses his Uncle Ben and watches Captain Stacy die in his first movie and eventually loses his lover Gwen and to a certain extent himself at the end of the second movie. Even Miles Morales loses his Uncle Aaron in ‘Spider-Verse’. It is something every iteration has gone through. With Holland’s iteration, ‘No Way Home’ proved to be quite the revelation as it’s revealed that his trilogy acts as a three-part origin story. His big tragedy occurs in ‘No Way Home’ when he is already Spider-Man rather than earlier. While Tony Stark’s death hurt, it was never intended to be on the same level as Uncle Ben’s death. The death that truly shakes this Peter to the core is that of his Aunt May who showed him the meaning of true responsibility. Even as she is fatally wounded from a hit by the Goblin Glider, she still believed in the mission to cure these villains. Even when it resulted in her death, she still told Peter that this was the right thing to do because it is his responsibility. He is the only one who can help them. As he struggles to process what is happening, the building starts to collapse, he gets shot at and watches Happy get arrested, forcing himself to leave the scene. The entire city echoes waves of blame onto Peter Parker as he watches from afar, devastated at what his life has diluted to. This is the turning point Holland’s Spider-Man has been waiting for.
As he sits alone, completely broken, having given up any hope of turning this situation around, Ned and MJ find him and try to console him, ready to reintroduce some hope into Peter’s life. In enter Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parkers knowing all too well what this scene feels like. This is easily my favourite scene in the entire movie, bringing in these past iterations to console and lead Holland’s Peter Parker through this absolute grief, it’s the perfect Spider-Man moment. These are the only people who will ever understand what he is going through. It was the perfect way to incorporate Garfield and Maguire especially when you consider how their respective grief took them each in a different direction. They want to help him avoid that darkness and to hold on to that dimming light, to not let her death be in vain. The movie takes two decades of storytelling and intertwines it to the present in such a clever way, it almost feels destined, planned all the way back in 2002. It’s fanservice at the highest level but it also services the story beautifully. It’s done in such a way where I couldn’t have possibly imagined any other way they could’ve intertwined these three heroes together.
The most rewarding aspect of this scene is that we’ve seen what Tobey and Andrew’s Peter have been through, we’ve seen their stories, we grew up with them. ‘No Way Home’ not only highlights their journeys as Spider-Man but it celebrates how different they are, there is such a palpable sense of love for these characters in this movie. What’s beautiful about it is that through their bond, they help each other out. Maguire undeniably acts as the wise, older brother guiding his two younger brothers, he doesn’t really have an emotional arc to finish. Garfield’s Peter however finds himself still lost in the trauma placed on him at the end of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’. He warns Peter 1 about the darkness that can come from his situation while he himself is still figuring out how to live with himself post Gwen’s death. There is something so beautiful about how fated the three of them meeting feels. It feels destined and to say that about fanservice, it’s just not at all common. Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man saving MJ from falling to her death and then instantly getting emotional is perhaps the greatest scene in the MCU and I’m not even joking. Hearing the entire audience feel for Andrew’s character never fails to make me emotional. I love that they sat with that heavily emotional look on Andrew Garfield’s face seeing that traumatic moment play over again in his head but this time with a different outcome. He not only saves Holland’s Peter from going down the same path as him but at the same time he achieves the closure he has been searching for all those years. It’s really brilliant because all three represent a stage in grief, Maguire represents acceptance and growth, Garfield represents the very act of healing and closure and Holland is only about to start the process.
Throughout most pieces of ‘Spider-Man’ media, grief and loss are almost always present. Having basically grown up with this character like most people, it can be very easy to just look at him and think that his greatest power originates from that spider bite. Revisiting the Maguire and Garfield movies and then watching ‘No Way Home’ made me realize that Peter Parker’s greatest power is finding that light in the midst of that gut-wrenching darkness. That’s Spider-Man to me, someone who, even in the darkest of moments, still gets back up and fights, not only in the honour of those he has lost but in the name of hope. That is what it means to own up to that great responsibility and ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ absolutely nails that concept and in doing so, it truly understands this wonderful character.
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ will be available to purchase digitally on March 22nd and on physical media on April 4th in the UK.