This image is from the official trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing.

Before watching “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I was extremely worried it would be bloated and not make sense. I am a big fan of everything Spider-Man, and I was afraid the movie would try to ride off of its MCU status instead of being good on its own. I was happy to discover that it did not do this, instead actually taking some major risks with its characters that ultimately pay off in a very emotional movie.

The movie starts off right where “Spider-Man: Far From Home” left off, with Peter’s (Tom Holland, “Chaos Walking”) identity revealed to the world. I am going to try to avoid spoilers as much as possible and just stick to what was shown in the trailers, and just a fair warning, watching this movie with as few spoilers as possible is the best way to watch it. The film is full of remarkable dramatic reveals — all of which are best left unsaid to those who want to watch it unspoiled. 

Willam Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”) is a national treasure. He plays one of many returning villains in the movie, but his Green Goblin is the ultimate villain out of them all. Willam Dafoe elevates the role in everything he does, fully immersing himself in the character in a way that I just loved. The Green Goblin is not just a crazy killer; he actually challenges Peter Parker ethically. Throughout the movie, Peter struggles to get everything he wants, attempting to return to a normal teenage life while still being Spider-Man. The Green Goblin wants to convince Peter that he is unable to use his powers to save everyone; he can’t live a normal life and will have to sacrifice his morals in order to win.

Tom Holland’s Peter Parker stood out amongst other superhero movies for its lack of a true origin story. Audiences generally already know how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man; they did not need to see it again. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the origin movie that the MCU never gave him. In this movie, we see Peter mature and make difficult decisions, fully coming into his role as Spider-Man and living up to the classic words of “with great power comes great responsibility.” This movie makes many bold choices with the character of Peter Parker, forcing him to choose between his personal life and saving as many people as possible, with Holland giving an extremely compelling performance that adds to the complexity of Peter’s decisions. The film rises above the heightened action scenes, giving some incredibly emotional interactions and confirming my personal undying love of Spider-Man as a character.

That all being said, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” does have all of the usual MCU-specific problems: A lot of the humor is very quippy (passable, but with occasionally cringey lines), the fights are full of quick cuts between CGI-ed characters and it still solidly fits within the MCU format of the first act being set-up, the second act being the hero struggling to beat the villain and the third act being a big action set-piece. Many people are getting tired of the repetitiveness of Marvel movies, and this movie definitely didn’t get rid of the highly over-produced aspects of the MCU. 

This movie is not perfect. I know some people complained about plot holes it created in the MCU canon, but I found the explanations to make enough sense that I could just go with the flow. The ending itself has confusing bits, but it seems like that is done on purpose to create anticipation for future movies.

In all, “No Way Home” is still an engaging movie, which makes it that much more impressive. It drew me in despite the formulaic nature of most MCU movies, with the ties into the rest of the films never really distracting from the heart of the movie. It has actual emotional depth that will definitely make it stand out in the coming years of constant MCU content. I think overall the movie is one of the best representations of superheroes on the big screen, showing how they can really address moral questions, while still giving a blockbuster experience.

Daily Arts Writer Zach Loveall can be reached at zloveall@umich.edu.

Correction: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, not Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, as was originally credited.