S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. I want to tell you my secret now. I seen. Soylent Green is people.
S2: No, I am far.
S1: What’s in the box?
S2: You know, you’re blowing up. Damn you all day.
S3: Hello, and welcome to Slate’s spoiler specials. I’m Allegra Frank, a senior editor here at Slate. I cover music, gaming, animation and movies, which is what we are here to talk about today and today. I am joined by my fellow senior editor, Sam Adams. Hi Sam. Happy New Year!
S1: Hello. Happy New Year to you too.
S3: This is our first spoiler specials of 2020 too, and feels appropriate. We are talking about the biggest movie of 2021.
S1: Yeah, might end up being one of the biggest movies of 2022. Boy, going strong.
S3: Yeah, absolutely. That movie, in case you can’t guess, is Spider-Man No Way Home. So Sam, tell me, Did you like Spider-Man No Way Home?
S1: I did. I mean, going in, I was. I’m very sort of skeptical of Slash fed up with what I’ve come to think of, sort of like IP Flex Cinema, which is all these movies like Space Jam two, where the point of it just basically seems to be to show off how many sort of properties the overriding corporate entity that is making the movie has access to this. Look at all the stuff we own. It’s like playing with your action figures and this, you know, seem to be like, Hey, look at all the different like studios and franchises that we got together and all these characters that we have that we can cram into this one movie. But the way they were doing it, just the stuff that was leaking out about bringing together all the various, you know, spiders from the various iterations of this franchise seemed kind of true to the way things work in comics, in a way that actually seemed kind of interesting and exciting to me. So I was almost against my better judgment, kind of excited for it, and I think the movie does pay that off in some pretty satisfying ways. I also think it’s like sort of a hideous eyesore and difficult to just watch at like virtually every moment because of how sort of unsightly and overworked the filmmaking itself is. But on balance, if it matters what I say about a movie that’s made $1.3 billion, I liked it.
S3: Yeah, this is one of those movies that being that it is part of the comic book world and it does sort of it’s completely based on the references in the fandom that perpetuates these things to such such a big box office receipts. It is like, what are we going to say that’s going to stop people from seeing it? I don’t want that to make our criticism irrelevant, though. But that is, of course, the uphill battle that critics often fights where it’s like, How do I say something and not like, have it either? Take it immediately as fact because I’m agreeing with the fans or take it immediately is false because I disagree with the fans. I know a lot of people have gotten backlash for not liking the movie, so I guess it is safe that you do like it well enough. So you are safe from the fans who hate the haters. As am I? I loved the movie because I am a Spider-Man fan and this was made for me. These are made for the people like me who kind of will just follow Spider-Man wherever you go, wherever he goes. I really did enjoy this movie. I cried multiple times. You know, I I enjoyed seeing the apex of Spider-Man in that, you know, all these all these Spider-Man is will get into United for the first time, which was very cool. And it’s just like purely fan service for two and a half hours. And I wasn’t I wasn’t unhappy with that. I quite enjoyed it. I was sold. So let’s get into it. Maybe we should start off with the fact that this is the third Spider-Man movie in the Spider-Man MCU trilogy, which is going to be a, I don’t know, six topology there. It’s going to be three more after this and where we leave off or where we have left off from. The previous film, which was 2019’s Spider-Man Far From Home, was that Mysterio, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, had somehow filmed a video before his death outing. Spider-Man as Peter Parker Our beloved Young, a high school boy played by Tom Holland, which seems like it would be really bad because now people think, Oh, Spider-Man is a murderer and maybe a bad guy, but it actually ends up being kind of a strange place to pick up from. What did you think with the whole? Spider-Man has been unmasked turn and how that played out in the beginning of the movie.
S1: I mean, I thought it was sort of an interesting place to leave things. One of the sort of conceptual master strokes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if I may, is they basically totally throughout the entire idea of secret identities, which is so core to superhero mythology? I mean, apart from I mean, you get a little, you know, Bruce Banner is non Hulk and whatever. But that moment at the end of the very first Iron Man movie where you know you think where Tony Stark’s giving a press conference and you think he’s going to sort of dance around this or disseminate and he just says, You know what, I am Iron Man really just kind of set the tone for the whole thing. And so you did away with the whole idea of civilian lives, of what these people do when they’re not, you know, saving the world. And that made the whole thing run much more smoothly and made the movies easier to kind of fit one into the next. But you lost, you know, a huge underpinning to the idea of these heroes, the part where they like, interact with, like regular people and exist in the real world. And I think that the whole MCU is kind of suffered for that. Spider-Man is a character that really doesn’t exist without Peter Parker. I’ve really come to think of him as the most important Marvel hero and maybe sort of second only to Superman in the whole history of the medium is just a really important and kind of just not even iconic, but just a really landmark character, one who really moved the idea of how superheroes work and what they could be fought and changed it profoundly. And so the idea of, you know, kind of crossing those streams in this series, which is something that sort of happened in the middle of the Sam Raimi trilogy as well, where you have especially in the second movie where, you know, Peter is very much trying to deal with like, who is Peter Parker, who is Spider-Man? Can these two things work at the same time, I’m having them jammed together by Jake Gyllenhaal and having Spidey be kind of outed and having to deal, you know, more forcibly with living these two lives at the same time seemed like something interesting with this particular take on the franchise was going to sort of dive into in its own way.
S3: Yeah, I think the popularity of Peter Parker as an individual is so core as well to Spider-Man success because, you know, it’s not just like Iron Man didn’t do these numbers. Avengers did these numbers on the strength of all of the characters coming together, but Spider-Man does Avengers numbers on his own. There’s been nine Spider-Man movies at this point. Am I right? No.
S1: Eight eight core ones. And then obviously, he’s been in, you know, there’s a Venom spinoffs in Spider-Man. It’s been in a bunch of other movies that don’t have his name in the title and stuff, right?
S3: Avengers movies. He was in Civil War. He was in there Spider-Verse. You know, like there are tons of Spider-Man movies more than any other superhero today in the Marvel Universe. So completely. The popularity of Peter is so intrinsic to the popularity of Spider-Man, because in, you know, a movie like this, they really focus on, OK, Peter is now vulnerable. Peter himself is vulnerable, and it opens up sort of just completely unrelated from the challenges being Spider-Man. It’s more about the challenges of being Peter Parker now with everyone knowing who he really is and what it’s like to be a teen applying to college when everyone has opinions about your superhero. It’s interesting because what I found to be such a complicated problem of, you know, what does it mean that everyone hates Peter Parker now and knows who he is was sort of dropped fairly quickly? The core problem in Spider-Man No Way Home has almost, I would say, nothing to do with everyone knowing who Peter Parker is. In fact, it ends with quite the opposite being true. Instead, the problem ends up being that in a way that Peter Parker and his friends don’t get into college. That sort of ends up being the impetus for what happens. So because everyone knows who Peter is and who is best friends, ah, which is MJ Zendaya, who is his GF? And then Ned, who is played by Jacob Batalon and is his best friend, his BFF in a best friend way. They all are applying to MIT, which whatever. I guess Peter is really smart. I don’t know why he assumed he would get in. I thought it was a little weird. They all were so sure they were going to get into one of the most difficult schools to get into in the world, but that’s fine. But they are rejected solely on the basis of them being attached to Peter Parker and that being a bad look for a school like at MIT. So this inspires Peter to try and right the wrong that he did. Of being Spider-Man, and that switches gears for us and launches us into the main events. What did you think of that being excused so quickly and then shifting gears into the more Marvel Lee side of things as we do see another Marvel superhero soon after?
S1: Right? It’s interesting because as you point out, I mean, the movie starts off. I mean, quite literally where the previous movie left off, where Peter is, you know, basically right by Penn Station, where this, you know, video screen is broadcasting Jay Jonas Jamison adding him to the world. And he’s immediately sort of surrounded by this crowd of people not only outing him, but like framing him for that sort of destruction that Mysterio actually did himself and blaming Spider-Man for killing him when he was actually killed by his own drones and whatever, yadda yadda. So there’s a moment where he’s surrounded by the crowd and they’re all kind of yelling stuff at him and he has to get out of it. But I think they kind of decided they didn’t want to do the Spider-Man public menace trope in this. So they yeah, they just throw that away, and it becomes much more about how being Spider-Man is just kind of like a hassle for his friends. It’s much more about like being a celebrity, like he’s at home without May trying to tell her. And there’s like paparazzi, helicopters outside and stuff like that. So it’s really it’s more about like the burden of, you know, celebrity than like the safety of the people around him, which is sort of the classic secret identity thing like, you know, they can’t know because it’s not safe for them. The villains will come after them to get to me. This is more is kind of like it’s really kind of like messes up your life to be friends with a famous person, right?
S3: Which is pretty much what causes all this mess to happen. Just outside of inspiring Peter to go visit Doctor Strange Stephen Strange, who he asks to help him erase the the memory of who Peter Parker is from everyone he knows. And then he messes up the spell because he’s like, Well, not everyone. I want the people I like to remember, and then this would be inconvenient. And instead, the opposite happens where everyone who knows Peter Parker ends up in the same world. So the burden of celebrity indeed becomes quite an issue, which we’ll dive into after this break. And we are back from our short break, so burden of celebrity, what happens is not just as a character in the movie, but also a character in Marvel. This crops up because what happens is that the spell that Doctor Strange casts somehow backfires in such a way that every villain, every person who knew who Peter Parker was, which really ends up being villains from the previous Spider-Man films in which they did not reveal who Peter Parker was, that very few people knew who Peter Parker was, that he was Spider-Man in those films, except his villains. They are all sent in to Tom Holland’s universe. I suppose we should start calling them by Tom Holland, by his actor name that will become important to distinguish very soon.
S1: Yeah. Otherwise you have to keep track of like, who’s Spidey? To which when Spidey two, in which one Spidey one in three and eight is actually text in the movie. When all three is Spider-Man are fighting together at the end that they’re calling each other like two and three and nobody can keep track of, which is which I identify with yet another very identifiable characteristic of Peter Parker that he can’t keep track of who’s who in this movie? But yeah, so the deal is, is that Dr. Strange is casting this spell, which is already sort of reluctant to do it. And it sort of seems this whole part seems pretty kind of finessed and out of character. But maybe the idea is that because Dr. Strange was, you know, bleeped out for five years like Peter and that Wang’s character has become Sorcerer Supreme in his absence. Stephen Strange is just kind of hanging out in like his med school sweats and is maybe a little bit bored with not having cast any big spells in a while. So maybe that’s why Peter is able to talk him into it or something. But so he’s casting this big forgetting spell. And then Peter realizes, Hey, wait, no, I don’t want MJ to forget who I am that I’m Spider-Man and I don’t want to forget and my whatever it he keeps just kind of in this, you know, very sort of ginned up like MCU banter. Easy Way just keeps interrupting strange. All these guys and this moment, oh, what about this other thing? And throw it in there? Not surprisingly, that blows up the whole spell, and it starts pulling in people from these other parts of the metaverse. Why it particularly pulls in the villains when it’s just supposed to be targeting. Like anybody who knows, Peter Parker is Spider-Man, which includes, you know, various other MJ is and Gwen Stacy’s and things. It’s not really explained, and it’s just kind of it’s like that line from The Simpsons, where if there’s anything you don’t understand, a wizard did it. In this case, a literal wizard actually did it. Yeah. So it just kind of turns out that, you know, most of the villains, but not the James Franco one. We don’t feel like dealing with him. Get pulled into this universe one after another. And that gives people like Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina and Jamie Fox an opportunity to kind of reprise their roles from those movies, which is which is really kind of the reason this thing exists is to tie all these universes together, give these actors from various sort of dead ended versions of the franchise an opportunity to kind of come back into this. Currently, you know, very successful version of the universe.
S3: Right? It indeed is the the whole premise. It takes a little bit of time to get into that in the film itself, because I think of these sort of fake outs in a way of, is it going to be about everyone knowing who Spider-Man is now? Is it going to be about, you know, no one remembering who’s Spider-Man is now and then it becomes, well, everyone knows who Spider-Man is, including the audience and the whole breadth of Spider-Man out there. So yes, we’re we are reacquainted us as fans with all these old villains sounds, you know, not only the James Franco Green Goblin, but also the Dane DeHaan. Green Goblin is not in here, and I’m just like, I don’t know why. Maybe because Willem Dafoe is so connected to that character, and they didn’t want to also have three green goblins running around. But I was like, Why is Dane DeHaan got to sit out? He didn’t do anything. This is this is unfair to him.
S1: Maybe he’s busy making like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, too or something? Yes, the
S3: sequel for many years on his own dime, because no one is asking for that. Just me. But yes, so we just have Willem Dafoe and part of what inspires Spider-Man to, you know, actually chase down these villains and not fight them, but actually cure them. That’s what Peter Parker is set on doing. He decides that, you know, these guys deserve a second chance. Of course, Tom Holland does not have anything against these particular villains. They’re not his villains. So I guess that sort of helps. But after a conversation with Aunt May, Marissa’s home guy who is like a I don’t know if she weirdly is like a hippie kind of crunchy granola volunteer at Soup Kitchen and believes in the good of everyone, which is very. Suites, not very New York vibe, but good for her, and she convinces Peter to be kind to these fellows, and so he and his pals go around and try to retrieve these villains and bring them in to Jon Favreau’s apartment, Happy’s apartment and start administering antidotes, which is an interesting swerve because it seems as though you know there are fight scenes in that he is bringing them all here, but it’s like we’re not used to villains being seen as redeemable, having redemption arcs that are not of their own volition. I mean, it’s just Tom Holland’s Peter believing that there’s good in everyone and the problems that were caused in their own universes would be solved should they not have been so bad and have these own these powers of their own. So what did you think of that?
S1: Well, I mean, part of the deal with and this is just sort of almost like such a cliche. It like it makes me feel bad to just like, say it out loud. But, you know, part of the deal with all these, you know, previous Spider-Man movies is that, you know, the villains are all sort of dark, twisted versions of what who Peter is or you know who he could have been because they’re basically all sort of unhappy or arrogant or misguided science nerds of one form or another. And so, you know, Peter has to sort of battle them and often, in some cases, kind of bring them back to himself be, you know, Spider-Man two is him kind of, you know, rescuing Otto Octavius from the sort of evil influence of his robotic arms, which have kind of taken over his brain and, you know, giving him a moment to return to himself and sacrifice himself to save the world and the city? You know, so what’s going on in this movie is he’s sort of attempting to do that without killing them, because that deal with strange aspell is sort of plucked them out somehow from before the moment of their deaths in their various universes. So it’s not just parallel universes, but some kind of time travel or this is all sort of finessed in in various ways. But, you know, it’s about Peter kind of looking at his future, which, you know, when the other two Spider-Man and pulled into the world, he’s looking at that as well. You know, just what it’s like to be, you know, Spider-Man or Peter, you know, in your 30s and in your 40s and different paths that he could go down. So he’s trying to kind of craft a better future for a better and sort of more unified future for himself and for them. And it seems like, you know, that’s going to be the noble and happy way to go, and he’s going to help them all suppress their powers and be in control, be controlled by their better selves. And then, of course, as he has a habit of doing. Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin kind of mess that up a little bit
S3: as he has a habit of doing. Indeed. Willem Dafoe is great, honestly. Like the thing is, with all these villains, like I would say, most of them are forgettable, except for the original Spider-Man universe is like, obviously amazing. Spider-Man is the least Amazing Spider-Man. Well, we’ll get into that, actually, but the universe is very bad. Like, as of Spider-Man Die Hard, I hate those movies, so it’s mostly exciting to see Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina do their things, and Willem Dafoe is definitely treated as the the main villain here. He’s the one that breaks bad. It’s hard to cure him, even though he inspired this mission by making friends with Aunt May. He had no intention of being cured. He likes being bad, and so he ends up foiling the plot here and creating a lot of a lot of wreckage in the very fancy apartment that they’re all squirreled away in. It’s very upsetting to watch because Happy didn’t do anything, and they’re ruining his nice apartment. And then so he, he and the other villains break out of Spidey’s confines of Tom Holland’s confines and ends up getting into a huge fight with Peter and, you know, takes control of the other. The other villains who have yet to be cured. And they all escape. And in the tussle, Green Goblin ends up basically killing at me. He hurts her. It’s fatal. And she dies, but not before she says a classic line. You want to quote that line for us?
S1: Oh, I would be happy to with with her dying breath. She tells him that with great power comes great responsibility, which is a line that goes all the way back to, you know, the very first appearance of Spider-Man. An amazing fantasy. 15.
S3: Wow. OK.
S1: Yeah. The first, you know, Spider-Man movie. Cliff Robertson’s Uncle Ben said that to him, there seems to be no Uncle Ben in this particular universe. And they waited, you know, three movies to finally unleash this line that everybody knows. Into this world. Yeah, but it’s sort of, you know, an idea that it’s like, underpin this character all along and it sort of. And that’s a real quick clue about what this movie is doing to is this is bringing together all the various versions of the story. You know, finally bringing in this iconic line that you know, they haven’t gotten around to you for two and a half movies, but giving it to it may instead of Uncle Ben,
S3: it’s the modern day single mom sitch. You don’t need an Uncle Ben anymore. There was never an Uncle Ben. It may is the Uncle Ben that Peter this Peter needs. I will say this is the first of the three times that I cried watching this movie. Oh, I was sobbing. It was. It was embarrassing. We were at a press screening. I don’t know if we were at the same press screening, but we saw this at a press screening. And I don’t care that all these other journalists were around me. I was crying because this is the moment when Peter Parker Tom Holland’s Spider-Man actually, to me, to my mind, becomes the Spider-Man we know or starts his real journey. Because yes, like in the other movies, in the comics, this is the inciting incident for Peter Parker to really, you know, want to stop bad guys and be a hero to avenge his Uncle Ben’s death. And Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is interesting because he essentially was I mean, he had the whole spider situation. He has some powers, I suppose, but mostly he was plucked from relative obscurity by Iron Man, who took him on as his mentor. And as we know, Iron Man is like a billionaire who just kind of invents cool weapons. And so this this random kid. I mean, we see it in the first in Homecoming, you know, he’s kind of just in a limo and he’s like, This is so cool. I’m hanging out Tony Stark and he’s giving me all these weapons. And I, you know, I’m I’m like, Iron Boy, but I’m Spider-Man, this is awesome. And he’s so reliant on this stark industries tech and those connections he has. And that’s why he, you know, he became an Avenger because Iron Man was like, I need you, kid like nothing that the other Peter Parkers were relying upon happened to Tom Holland, so losing his aunt may like it. Obviously, it’s extremely sad. I cried. We all cried, blah blah blah. But it’s like, now you finally have the inspiration to be the hero that you’ve
S1: been, right? I mean, there are people then and we don’t need to. Or perhaps we will get into, you know, arguing favorite, you know, Spidey’s and Peter’s. And but there are obviously there are people who really feel like Tom Holland is is the best Peter Parker. They are wrong, but
S3: but they are wrong.
S1: I want to say that I understand why, because this Peter is I mean, this is a character who was introduced kind of literally like swinging into frame in Captain America Civil War, like just weeping with joy because it’s like just the coolest, like, most awesome thing to be a superhero. And fighting these characters comes in with no baggage, no sturm und drang, no, you know, being burdened by the awesome weight of his power, just like this is this is like the coolest thing I like went to space. And for an alien, it’s awesome. And that’s like, really, you know, because he’s a he’s a teenager and he’s just like a happy kid who got this really awesome thing. Happen to you. And he loves it. And it has taken, you know, this line to get around to the point where the character is like, Oh crap, like this is actually this. This comes to this whole helping of all this other stuff that I really like don’t want to deal with. And it’s finally, you know, that burden is finally settling on him here. And so you know where they like, go with the character after this, if they do, you know another three Spidey movies with him, or however many Marvel movies, it’s just, you know, it’s like all these things kind of meeting up at this point,
S3: as you said, it’s another burden on him, and it’s no longer the burden of celebrity, especially where we end up. He finally has these more intimate local issues, and I think that’s also hinted at from the beginning with like his main concern being his friends getting into college like it does suggest this is a local boy, and he was thrust into something, but ultimately he is Peter Parker. And yes, we I think I agree we will see in the future movies him start to deal with these more small town neighborhood problems. But let’s get into the real, the real excite exciting part of this, the real reason for this to exist, which is that, of course, we have their villains. But then after this happens, we have those villains, Spider-Men, as we are reintroduced to an older version of Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man and older Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, they were not d aged. As someone suggested he thought that they would be, which I was like, that would be disgusting. They are now just older and wiser from their own universe as they arrive to help out their fellow Peter Parker and. Retrieve their villains. I loved it, I this was the second time I cried when Andrew Garfield just kind of walks through a portal into Ned’s grandmother’s house, where Ned and MJ are trying to hold down the fort and help Peter where they can from afar by holding onto the stone that Dr. Strange needs to return things to normal life. So he walks in, I start crying because, oh my god, I didn’t think he was going to be in this. I don’t know. He was very good at it. He’s a he’s a good actor. I was like, I don’t know. I know Tobey Maguire is going to be in this, but maybe Andrew Garfield won’t. No one has nostalgia for those Spiderman. I’m very I’m very gullible.
S1: So he’s he’s been a good year, completely like bald faced lying about not being in this movie. And if they’re doing it, I don’t know anything about it. And you know, and I think Tobey Maguire news was definite earlier, and maybe he was a little more, you know, on the bubble or something. But but yeah, he was, you know, fairly convincing, even as I was, like, fairly certain that he was full of shit the whole time. And of course, here he is.
S3: And Andrew Garfield is like, he’s busy. You know, like, I could understand there being scheduling conflicts. He was in two other movies in 2021, you know, he had a lot going on. But OK, I’m glad it wasn’t just me who was a little bit shocked. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know if I was shocked or at least with sort of buying into his promotional campaign of not being in this movie. So, yes, he arrives. It’s very funny. It’s sweet. We find out what they’ve been up to the other Spider-Man in the years since we’ve seen them. You know, obviously an amazing Spider-Man. Two spoilers for that one, I guess. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker loses Gwen Stacy Emma Stone in a fight where he tries to save her from falling off a bridge and ends up. He doesn’t do it fast enough. He ends up, you know, snapping her neck while he catches her with the web, which comes from the comic books. So we all know Gwen Stacy dies if you’re a comic book fan, but it was very upsetting, and that’s where things left off. So he’s still reeling from, you know, the trauma of basically killing his girlfriend.
S1: Yeah, no, I think that and that’s where I think like the concept behind this movie really pays off because there is a lot of, I don’t know, there are roughly a million references in the dialogue to second chances. Very, very clearly stated theme of this movie. And you know, the idea of pulling, you know, both these Peter Parkers into this universe, but particularly Andrew Garfield’s because Tobey Maguire’s ended, you know, the Sam Raimi trilogy and like a fairly good place. But, you know, Andrew Garfield was sort of left really at a low point in that movie. Amazing Spider-Man two, really, I mean, was very explicitly setting up a third movie introducing Paul Giamatti as Rhino in the Sinister Six and blah blah blah. But then it kind of tanked, and the Marvel Universe took off, and Sony decided they would rather try and kind of start with a newer, younger Spider-Man. Who could they could integrate into this much more successful thing, and various contracts were signed in negotiations made. And but he was just he was left in kind of a bad place, and he is the version of the character that most needed, that most has kind of unfinished business to take care of, and this movie ultimately really gives him a chance to do that. And that was something that I found despite my skepticism about this being just kind of a big, you know, gathering of IP and action figures. That was something that I really did find genuinely moving.
S3: I agree it was. It was really sweet and impactful to see this character, you know, get that chance that he never got. I mean, for yes, for business reasons, a lot of it were business related, but it was nice that they actually kind of focused on giving him that redemption arc in a way or that sense of closure. And we’ll get into exactly how Andrew Garfield gets that closure, as well as what Tobey Maguire was up to in a second after this break. We are back, so we just talked a little bit about Andrew Garfield and his lovely plot arc that he gets in this film. But let’s talk about Tobey Maguire because I would say he is the most beloved Spider-Man. You mentioned before that a lot of people think Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man and how that’s an incorrect opinion, which I completely concur. He is probably the worst Spider-Man, and I say this lovingly. I love him as my son. But who is the best Spider-Man and why is it Tobey Maguire? You know, I
S1: mean, I think that he is what it really comes down to is, who is the best Peter Parker? Because in most cases, I mean, all these movies are made, you know, to some extent or another in the CG era, as often literally not that person inside the suit. You know, the rest of the time, it doesn’t matter so much. These are all movies about Peter Parker, who also happens to be Spider-Man. And I just think there is a reluctance to the way Tobey Maguire plays the character that I think is very just core to who Spider-Man is and the whole kind of interplay between Peter and and Spider
S3: Peter and Spider.
S1: Yes, I mean, you know, he’s not like, he’s not someone who’s kind of crushed under the weight of this great burden, although that is sometimes because I think he’s someone who, you know, just fundamentally doesn’t want to do this. Like just it’s I just he just wants to be like a regular person and like, be able to, you know, make curtain time for his girlfriend’s play and whatever. And all this other stuff just kind of gets in the way. And I just think there’s a real kind of earthiness to Tobey Maguire that I think fits the character better. He is not someone who is only himself when he’s Spider-Man.
S3: Yes, OK. I think that’s a completely perfect evaluation and argument for Tobey Maguire as the strongest Spider-Man. I mean, it also helps. Like this whole thing is a nostalgia funnel. And he, you know, up until now, is the longest running Spider-Man. Well, I guess Tom Holland had more movies, but he was the one who started off the Spider-Man live action film franchise. For us, those films, Spider-Man one and two are incredibly well reputed. I would probably say most people agree Spider-Man two is the best Spider-Man movie of all of them.
S1: I certainly wouldn’t. I mean, and Tobey Maguire is also someone that we just haven’t seen on screen in seven years, like he basically hasn’t made a movie since Pawn Sacrifice in 2014. I don’t think that this story has really come out. Why that’s the case, then maybe he just felt like taking a break, but he is someone who is really just genuinely been absent from the screen until this movie and is just kind of good to see him back as anything, let alone as Peter Parker.
S3: It’s absolutely that. Like, it’s not just that he hasn’t been Spider-Man and, you know, a billion years that I don’t want to, I guess, going on 15 years now. But also, we just haven’t seen him in a while. And Spider-Man fans have a lot of fondness for him as an actor and this character. So having him similarly walk out of a portal is is lovely to see. We don’t get as much of an update on what he’s been up to as he do with Andrew Garfield instead. The most we get, which was frustrating to me, was, you know, they’re all talking about like, Oh, you got a you got a GF at home. And he says it’s complicated, which I guess is sort of funny. It’s always complicated with Mary Jane, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Jane. But I just wanted to know, are they together or are they not? Did their kids? Did they get married? What happens? What happens? That’s all we really want to know with this Peter.
S1: I mean, I think the idea I got away from and I remembering like, not remember really the exact line, but I mean, I think I got the sense that they’re together. But it’s just, you know, as the movie is clearly sort of established as like the nine million comic storylines where they get together, break up and get married and break up. And you know, it is a tough thing within the framework of a superhero story. But then also within this, you know, the life of this particular character, it’s like it’s a tough thing to keep a relationship together while you’re doing this. I mean, the whole, you know, MCU, I mean, the only real marriage you have is Hawkeye’s, and he is far and away like the most boring character in that entire universe. So it’s, you know, it’s a difficult thing to make interesting. But I think it’s just, you know, if these characters are about, you know, Tom Holland’s Peter kind of looking at his future. And, you know, one of the things I like about having Tobey Maguire in this movie and not having him aged the way that Alfred Molina is, you know, he looks. I think he looks pretty good, but he looks like he’s 46. I mean, we just you don’t see a 46 year old Spider-Man in any of the iterations, and it’s just not something we really think about. Like, you know, even if you have, you know, super healing powers and whatever. What does it mean to still be? Doing this thing when you’re in your mid-40s, and I think it’s like that’s just sort of an interesting wrinkle and like an interesting thing to complicated like, I mean, they just, you know, they keep rebooting the franchise so they don’t have to deal with it. But presumably, you know, if Tobey Maguire is Peter is still off living in some parallel universe and has been all this time. There’s an interesting story there and it is complicated, and it might not make for a very good movie or TV series, but it is at least interesting to kind of contemplate what it might be.
S3: That’s true. I think that’s absolutely the case here. I’m now thinking about how it’s a little bit sad that neither Andrew Garfield nor Tobey Maguire Peters are in stable relationships at their age. But you know, as you said, like they are reckoning with the fact that they’ve been these superheroes for. I mean, Tobey, like most of his life at this point and the complications that come with that as being a 46 year old superhero who’s been running around fighting villains and saving the world since he was in high school or college. Although I will say because we haven’t said this word yet, but what you’re describing here of seeing an older Spider-Man really reminds me of maybe actually the best Spider-Man movie. Into the Spider-Verse, which has an older Peter Parker as one of the main Spider-Man. Because there are many in that because it is about the multiverse, which is the main conceit of bringing in these other Spider-Man story wise. I mean, obviously the main reason they brought in the other Spider-Man into no way home is because they want to have the nostalgia, and it’s sweet thing. But Marvel’s moving into a multiverse situation. Indeed, the next Marvel movie is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, where they talk about all these other superheroes existing in parallel universes. And what does that mean and how do they interact? So the thing that no way home starts to tease out for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the multiverse concept, which is why all these Peter Parker exist in adjacent timelines. And so that’s the the reasoning for why they all can show up in Peter Parker’s timeline. And it’s like, Oh, they have their own lives. It’s because of the multiverse. They have their own universes and they have collided thanks to this crazy spell that Doctor Strange, guess they’re still
S1: in around living their lives, even though we have been making movies about us anymore.
S3: Right. They haven’t been going
S1: on doing our thing.
S3: Yeah, it’s nice to know they have not been erased from the canon. Unlike Eric Bana and Edward Norton, who are completely nonexistent, although, I mean, hey, the thing is like there are three Spider-Man, there are three hulks if they want to do something like this again. I don’t. I don’t have any fondness for the other two hulks, but that could be interesting seeing them together.
S1: Yeah, it seems interesting that he’s like the one character that they made a standalone movie about. Then then they were just like, Yeah, let’s not do that again.
S3: Yeah. And then they did it again.
S1: It gets like Thor gets four and Captain America gets three and Iron Man gets three. And Hulk, they made, you know, one Hulk movie twice. And the second time, they’re like, Yeah, no, we’ll just just put Mark Ruffalo in some scenes and lots of other repeats.
S3: You know, it’s very strange. I want to do a Hulk Spoiler special on just the Hulk universe because I have a lot of thoughts. We’ll just have a whole podcast. I say this as someone who has never seen those Hulk movies, but I have a lot of thoughts just from reading the flotsam.
S1: They’re both, in my opinion, very bad. I know the Ang Lee one has its fans, but I’m not among them.
S3: Good to know. I’m glad I haven’t wasted my time with them other than obsessing over their existence. So now that we know what’s up with the other Spider-Man, it’s time to actually see them in action. And this is when things get fun. OK? Things have been fun, but this is when it like gets to the meat of why you’re here. We get to see the Peter’s all fight together against these villains and help capture them and bring them home because it’s time to bring them home because we tried carrying them and we still want to, but we also need to get them out here. So the three Peter’s worked together to finish developing these cures and then get their villains, their individual villains, all corralled into one place so they can administer them and then get them the flu.
S1: Yeah. So all the all the villains are lured to the Statue of Liberty, which has been, you know, sort of a refurbished post blip in this universe to have a Captain America shield. And they all sort of slowly converge on this location and all the three Peters have there. I think they all have the cure for the villain from their respective movies, and this includes to this point Sandman and the Lizard played quote unquote by Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans, although they only did voiceover work for this movie and did not actually ever show up on set. Yeah, so it’s a big, basically like a comic book convention. Full of Spiderman and villains all fighting each other at the same time.
S3: I’m glad that they are at the Statue of Liberty doing this because otherwise it would have just been massive destruction and I I don’t like when that happens. It’s upsetting. And we already saw that when you know, Norman Osborn, Willem Dafoe was Green Goblin kind of attacked Happy’s apartment building, so I was glad that they were off elsewhere. Also, I do hope Thomas Haden Church was at least paid for his likeness, but I’m sure he was paid pennies.
S1: Yeah, they made. They made voice over money. At least I know that, but I think you see their actual body is kind of in one shot. But apparently that’s just kind of repurposed footage from their previous movies. And they were not their bodies were not actually filmed for this movie at any point.
S3: It’s so sad, but also it’s nice to not have to show up to work during a pandemic, unlike everyone else. So this this all commences on this Statue of Liberty, which now has a Captain America’s shield because everyone’s obsessed with Captain America now that he is dead. I guess it’s it’s like no one has any memorials to Tony Stark because he was a dick weed. But Steve Rogers is like a sweet man, a sweet old man. And now we have a Captain America’s shield on the Statue of Liberty in the Hawkeye show. There’s a musical about The Avengers, and it’s called Rogers. The musical, like everything’s about Steve Rogers, which is fine and
S1: he’s not even dead. He’s just like living off, living in a parallel universe with his lady getting old.
S3: Yes, he’s just a nice old man somewhere being happy with his girl, which you know what great he gets the happy ending. So we have a funny fight scene, I would say. I mean, it’s great, but it’s also sort of funny in that we have three Spider-Man, all in masks. This is what you’re referring to before, where it becomes textual that they’re all the same character and we can tell them apart when they are not wearing their spidey costumes or their masks. But during this fight, all the Spider-Man are, you know, wearing their costumes. Their costumes do look suddenly different, but it’s, you know, it’s hard to really discern who is who. When you’re just looking at them, so they do try and assign numbers to each other, and it’s comical.
S1: Well, yeah. And especially in this fight, I mean, this is what I was sort of talking about at the beginning. This is where like just like the ugliness of the filmmaking for this like really comes to a head for me. Yeah. So this is a fight sequence is largely, you know, maybe it probably almost exclusively CG kind of set at night. So they don’t have to draw in a lot of the details. And then just everything looks really kind of like faking and worked over and like all the colors are tweaked to the edge of oblivion in post. And it’s like, it’s just kind of like very hard for me to like, put my eyes on, especially the final confrontation, which of course, is between Tom Holland and the Green Goblin. And it happens like Captain America’s giant shield is like fallen into the sea, so they’re standing on it. It’s really kind of super saturated gold colors. I think that it’s just like it just hurts me physically to look at it. And that’s really where, you know, the action sequences. I mean, these are action movies more or less, and the fight sequences should be like, enjoyable, perhaps to look at. And I just very, very rarely find them doing so. I think like the character stuff that’s going on in this sequence, particularly with Spidey two, is, I think, really invigorating and moving. And then the actual, you know, web slinging and punch throwing and everything else is just just kind of feels like packing peanuts.
S3: Yeah, this is how I feel about, like I would say, pretty much every Marvel movie, and it is nuts. Like what you’re saying, these are action movies, and I find that no Marvel movie, except maybe like Shang-Chi or Black Panther has done a good job of actually shooting the action. Like, they don’t have good action directors. I don’t know. I don’t know. It is always muddy and not great to look at, but there are wonderful character moments, as you said, specifically with, I guess, Spidey too. Yeah. Andrew Garfield, who, as we mentioned before, finally gets his redemption moment in that MJ Peter’s girlfriend, played by Zendaya. She falls off the Statue of Liberty and Tom Holland tries to save her, and he sort of misses an Andrew Garfield swoops in and is able to save her. And of course, this is an anxiety point because he tried to save his own girlfriend and failed, but he succeeds in saving Zendaya’s MJ. She is, you know, unscathed doesn’t break her neck or anything, and he cries holding her because finally he he got to do the thing he failed to do. And now it’s not the love of his life, but he saved his, his brother, Tom Holland’s love. And that’s such a meaningful moment for him.
S1: And the way they stated here is really smart, I think, because the sort of classic in both the original comic storyline. And an Amazing Spider-Man two, the reason that Gwen dies is because she’s falling and Peter is in the middle of a fight, and he just kind of he’s like, OK, it’s like shoot some webs down there that’ll break her fall and break her neck instead. And what he does in this version is, rather than just kind of doing it from a distance, he jumps after her and he he catches up to MJ, grabs her and then he uses the web to stop himself and her along with him. But he’s not just kind of tossing it off, like doing at a distance, he’s actually putting himself in danger and using his body to break the fall for her. I think I did less crying during this movie than you, but I thought that was the moment where I really welled up because that just felt like that’s the realization of everything that this movie is about. That’s like the reason to bring these characters together. That’s the reason to bring Andrew Garfield Spider-Man back is to, you know, pay off this thing that they were never was obviously never meant to be paid off this way. But it actually is, you know, it’s a justification for retelling these same stories over and over again for having another actor say with great power comes great responsibility to, you know, rework that, you know, really momentous. I mean, it was a huge that the death of Gwen Stacy was a huge storyline at the time in the 70s to to rework that story and actually give this Peter kind of a chance to learn from it, I think is really, you know, ideally, you know, one of the things that comics are about. It was a
S3: beautiful moment, and it really does speak to the power of comic book storylines, as you said, and why we are so compelled to follow them and particularly Peter’s for so many years and through so many iterations now. But I wish this whole movie was about just these guys doing their thing and hanging out. But after this big fight on the Statue of Liberty and, you know, after MJ is saved, they’re able to cure their villains and send them back home. And Peter wants to kill Willem Dafoe Green Goblin because, you know, they killed the other ones. But he’s about to kill Green Goblin because he’s so angry that he, the Green Goblin killed and May. But the other two Peters, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are like, You know, you’re better than that. We don’t. We don’t kill. You know, we’ve been there. We, you know, we lost our our beloved uncles. So we know what you’re feeling, and it’s just not worth it. So instead, they they cure Green Goblin as well and send him back to where he came from. So ultimately, he is able to cure all the villains. And now Peter knows, you know, that the thing is, the other villains could come back. Who knows? In other universes, there are other Peters we just haven’t seen, and we start to see that these other people are starting to come in and Peter. Tom Holland knows, OK, I got to stop this once and for all. I can’t be fighting all these other, you know, Spidey villains forever. So he goes back to Stephen Strange and says, Do the thing I asked you to do beforehand and make sure no one remembers who I am.
S1: This is another part where you feel like the screenplay. The writing is a little bit tortured here because the idea is okay. Not just that, like all the villains are coming in, but the actual like fabric of the multiverse is fraying and the whole thing is going to be destroyed because of the spell. So in order to rehearse that, they have to not only, you know, erase from the memory, you know, everyone who knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but they just everyone who knows who Peter Parker is. Period has to be a erased. So he does it. Not just erasing is the existence of Spider-Man. He’s addressing his existence as Peter as well. Like, nobody can remember who he is and like why that needs to happen. Other than that, they want to do something different with the character going forward is not really not only like clear, but doesn’t really seem to make sense to me, but it is how this movie ultimately pays off. That’s that Peter has to be completely alone in order to move forward. And so the, you know, the end of the movie is him going back to the Donut Place, Peter Pan where MJ works. And you know, Ned is there. They’ve both gotten into MIT. Of course now, and he just kind of says hi to them and MJ can’t figure out why this dude is looking at her in this weird way. And then he almost has something and he doesn’t. And the slate is kind of wiped clean, and that doesn’t really feel like the end of the story this movie has been telling to me. So I that felt like a weird note to me. I mean, what did what did you think of the sort of the wrap up?
S3: I felt the same way it felt. It felt frustrating. I agree when you said tortured, I think so too, because we see everyone get these satisfying endings. Well, particularly Andrew Garfield in the film is about, you know, redemption. And it’s frustrating that Peter, you know, after all of what he did, he has to go it alone, like completely alone. It feels unjust. The sari to have him be completely forgotten by even his loved ones, you know, especially now that he doesn’t even have his aunties, just has no one in his life. There’s that moment where he visits it. May he goes to visit her grave and happy is there and how she doesn’t know him. Like happy was the, you know, vestige of Iron Man, his surrogate father. It was the closest thing he had to a surrogate father left and even happy doesn’t know him because no one knows him. He has no one anymore in his life and he tries to think, you know, he tries to convince himself this was the right thing to do, and it doesn’t feel like it is. It feels like a very upsetting and needless way to end a story that has already been hard on him, right?
S1: And at the moment with happy kind of drive things home. But it also, for me, was like immediately put the thought into my head. Well, OK, that means none of the Avengers know who he is, either. And clearly, they’re going to have to undo that because they’re not just going to, like, start all those relationships over from zero as well. So they it also kind of undermined the finality of that for me, just to think about him being put back in the context of the whole thing because one of the things they’ve been doing with this character sort of grooming him to be the next Tony Stark figure in this, you know, post Infinity Saga Phase four of the MCU for him to be sort of the central guy in the main continuing vigour. So they’re clearly not going to just wipe out all the work they’ve been doing with Tom Holland for six or eight or nine movies or whatever it is so that, you know, just bring happy into it at the end kind of ruined the poignancy of this on top of it not making that much sense to me in the first place.
S3: Totally. I completely agree. I don’t know anyone who really felt like this ending was particularly satisfying or good in any way. But I also was like, Can we talk about this more and how I don’t need this ending in my life? But that’s where we’re left, except for the post-credits scene. There’s two one of them. This is the trailer, and it’s stupid. So if you haven’t seen this movie already and you’re listening to this, I don’t totally know why. But if for some reason you haven’t and you’re going to go see it after the first post-credits scene, you can leave. The first post-credits scene involves one character who does know who Peter Parker is and wasn’t in this movie, which is venom, not Topher Grace’s Venom, which would make more sense, but venom of the new Venom movies Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy’s Venom is here. He was brought in, but he’s not actually in New York. He’s somewhere else. This was teased out in the end credits scene of Let There Be Carnage, where he is brought into Peter’s universe in the first place. But he’s told about what happens with The Avengers and everything, and he’s like, This is nuts. I don’t believe any of this stuff. And he is quickly sent back like he never actually interacts with Tom Holland’s Peter or any of the other Peter’s. It’s just kind of like a cute tag and another sign that Disney has made nice with Sony. What did what did you think of the post-credits, which I thought was pretty meaningless, and I wish we had something with Mary Jane instead?
S1: Right? I mean, that’s kind of the one part of this movie. A lot of the kind of multiverse. All finessing and stuff is fine and sort of gets by with like, OK, well, it’s like it’s playing well in character terms or whatever. This is the one part where I sort of wanted to start, I don’t know, yelling like Kathy Bates in misery that they were just, you know, cheating because, you know, they made, you know, big deal at the end of let them be let there be carnage about sort of zapping. Tom Holland, Eddie Brock, venom into this world. Then he gets a post-credits scene at the end of which he’s immediately zapped back out and he leaves behind like a little drop of black goo, you know, with the insinuation that there could be some other person who becomes venom in this role, but it just felt like, you know, like a big cheat. I mean, they use one post-credits scene to set up another post-credits scene that then dead ends. I mean, it really underlines like how much of this stuff is just kind of schmuck bait, I guess is the term for it. So, you know, it probably also means they don’t want to, you know, force any MCU director to have to deal with the apparently very kooky shenanigans that Tom Holland gets up to on the sets of the venoms. They want somebody a little more manageable to fit into their elegantly planned universe. But yeah, but it did feel like a real even to someone who is not, you know, holding out enormous hopes for Eddie Brock’s future in the MCU. It felt like a pretty big cheat.
S3: Completely agree. Like, you didn’t even need to have him in there if it’s not going to mean anything. It just felt like an unnecessary tag and wink, especially. I have never seen those Venom movies. I am not a big Venom fan because of, you know, Topher Grace was obnoxious and annoying in Spider-Man three and unnecessary. So I I was not happy to see Eddie Broadcom. Back in any way, but at least it would have made more sense had it been. You know, the the Eddie Brock that we do know knows Peter record.
S1: Yeah, or had anything to do with anything. And you know, in the fact that the second post-credits scene quote unquote in this movie is actually just literally a teaser for the Doctor Strange movie. It’s not even a scene, it’s just a bunch of, you know, shots from the movie telling you that there’s another movie coming after this one, really, really. And it makes you feel like they were just out of gas at the end of this thing. But, you know, but they know that the fans, like, expect, you know, to stay afterwards and get some little tidbit of something or others and Howard the duck cameo or whatever, and they didn’t have anything for them in this case. So they just kind of threw in a trailer, but tried to pretend that it wasn’t a trailer. And that is pretty weak tea by MCU standards.
S3: Very weak t, huh? But overall, I did enjoy this movie, as we said at the top. And those moments, this little character moments with everyone and especially the other Peters, Tom and or Tobey and Andrew were very sweet and fun to watch. And you know, I don’t I don’t like to talk about what deserves to make money and what you should spend your money on. But. And also, I saw this at a press screening, so I spent no money on it, but I would have spent money on it and I would have felt like it was worth watching. So knowing that this has made 1.3 billion dollars, I’m like, makes sense. It makes sense. I understand why, not just on a quality level like nostalgia and everything. And I found it satisfying as a fan and wanting to live my my dreams of seeing all my favorite Spiderman come together.
S1: Yeah, and it’s worth saying, I mean, I mean, we are, you know, these are, you know, these podcast us that it’s kind of talk about the, you know, the plot and the movies themselves. But it is staggering the amount of money this movie has made in the middle of the COVID pandemic. I mean, it is basically made non-COVID Marvel movies. The pandemic is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant to how this movie is done at the box office, which is kind of staggering, given that it seems to have killed almost every other movie that’s attempted to come out during this time. So I definitely don’t like begrudge it its success. I mean it at Marvel is clearly an unstoppable juggernaut. I feel some kind of way about the fact that this seems to be like the only thing that that number of people will will come out for. But, you know, it’s just yet another illustration of the massive, almost really impossible to overstate power of the Marvel series.
S3: So that’s our show. Please subscribe to the Slate Spoiler special podcast feed. And if you like the show, please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you get your podcasts. And if you have suggestions for movies or maybe even a TV show that we should spoil, or if you have any other positive only feedback you’d like to share. Please send it to spoilers at Slate.com. Our producers Jasmine Ellis, our managing producer, is Asha Saluja for Sam Adams. I’m Allegra Frank. Thanks for listening.