Entertainment

'Spider-Man: No Way Home' Works Better Than It Has Any Right To

But there are still some hiccups in this overstuffed Spidey adventure.

Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Over the past 20 years-even as we’ve cycled through multiple Batmans and X-Men-it feels somehow more baffling that three different men have played Peter Parker. Just five short years after Tobey Maguire finished his run, Andrew Garfield took over as Sony attempted to reboot the character for an only slightly new generation. (This time: He skateboards!) Then, two years after Garfield’s last swing, Tom Holland came in.

Spider-Man has a unique sway over the cultural imagination: Casting a new Peter is akin to a coronation for a young (white) movie star. The debate rages as to who did the job best and which movie is the most successful. (It’s Spider-Man 2, duh.) Despite Sony and Marvel’s attempt to deflect spoilers, at this point it’s no secret that Spider-Man: No Way Home, the latest adventure for Holland, trades on the memory of the previous Spider-iterations, a risky gamble that could easily be lame or confusing or both.

Spider-Man: No Way Home works better than it has any right to, but it also asks for emotional beats that fall short and seems to lose the thread on what made Holland’s iteration of this character charming. Does it matter? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. Spider-Man: No Way Home is a goliath that feels destined to eat the world, a potent combination of the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe and nostalgia for what came before.

No Way Home, directed once again by Jon Watts, picks up exactly where the post-credits scene for Holland’s previous outing, Far From Home, left off. Jake Gyllenhaal’s villain Mysterio has leaked Peter’s name to The Daily Bugle‘s J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), now an Alex Jones type. The ensuing controversy puts Peter and his pals-his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon)-at the center of a media frenzy, which is stressful but manageable until it gets in the way of being accepted to their dream college, MIT. After they all get rejection letters, Peter tries to help them by asking Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for a spell that will make the world forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But that scheme goes awry when Peter realizes he doesn’t want everyone to forget he’s Spider-Man, especially not the girl he’s kissing. The botched magic then opens up a portal to the multiverse, allowing everyone who has ever known that any Peter Parker is Spider-Man to enter the one occupied by Holland’s Peter.It’s here where writing about the movie gets tricky. From the promos, you probably already know this means that Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2 is there, as is Jamie Foxx’s Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman from Spider-Man 3, and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin from director Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man. These actors-especially Dafoe, Molina, and Foxx-have great fun slipping into, or in Foxx’s case revising, their performances from earlier movies, and the script, in these moments, is a delightfully winky mash-up of inside jokes for Spider-obsessives.

The Holland era of Parker has been defined by an overwhelming sense of goofy fun. If Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy utilized his background in horror to make the bad guys pop off the screen, and the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man go-round refashioned Peter Parker as a young-adult hero in the age of Twilight fanaticism, Watts rooted Holland’s characterization in high school antics. No Way Home takes Holland largely out of that context but is still best when it’s playing in the realm of comedy. This is true even after the movie’s Big Life-Changing Moment, which, like much of the actual plot, requires a couple of logical leaps to accept. (In fact, you’ll work yourself into a frenzy trying to untangle the questions of why much of what happens in No Way Home happens, so it’s better just to say that the answer is “magic” and leave it at that. Its concept of the multiverse also suffers immensely in comparison to how it was pulled off in Sony’s animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.) Holland struggles to connect in scenes of sorrow and anger, largely because he’s not given any time or material to explore those feelings.

Where No Way Home is at its most giddily enjoyable is where it takes its biggest leap. I’m not supposed to say who this involves, but you can probably guess. The appearances are almost miraculously well-integrated, and the performances are seamless. And while it sometimes feels like you’re watching something that’s less a piece of cinema and more a sketch writ to the size of a giant screen, these scenes also capture something essential about why we keep coming back to this naive kid who gets bitten by a radioactive spider time and time again. He’s rash and out of his depth and defined by his heartbreaks but also his wit. In No Way Home, he gets multiple opportunities to show that off.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

Why the Shocking Twist in 'Bodies Bodies Bodies' Is So Killer

The A24 horror-comedy has a lot to say about how logged on we are today.

A24
A24
A24

This story contains spoilers about the ending of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies.Even if you’ve tried to game the TikTok algorithm to feed you videos from #fashiontok, #foodtok, or whatever else you might be interested in, when you open the app, you tend to be inundated with a whole lot of discourse. In many ways, it’s incredible how attuned young people are in knowing who they are and how comfortable they are having frank conversations. But in other ways, sometimes it can feel like quick-hit platforms have a tendency to deduce real issues or strip things of their meanings-whether that’s teens self-diagnosing themselves with mental illness, or people labelling musicians as “female or male manipulator artists” without ever listening to their music.

A24’s latest horror comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies (out now in theatres) about a group of 20-somethings partying during a hurricane that turns into a hunt for a killer is like a movie downloaded from the current millennial-Gen-Z cusp moment of the internet we’re in. When the trailer for the movie directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, based on a story from “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian, dropped earlier this year, it made that very clear. In just over a minute and a half, we hear the cast of cool girl breakouts yelling, “You’re always gaslighting me,” “you fucking trigger me,” “you’re so toxic,” and “you’re silencing me.” Even the movie’s tagline is, “This is not a safe space.”

Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much logged onto millennial/Gen Z social media-isms throughout, from lines hilariously pieced together by the Twitter zeitgeist to scenes featuring TikTok dances. The movie operates on a delectable kind of slasher-movie paranoia, making the audience just as unsure as the slumber party gone wrong with who is killing them off left and right. But given how much of a playful satire it is of contemporary youth culture, it ends up being a twist that feels all but inevitable, and couldn’t be more razor-blade sharp.

A24
A24
A24

Once the torrential downpour stops and the sun comes up, it seems as if Maria Bakalova‘s Bee is about to be our Bodies Bodies Bodies final girl, now that she’s realized how much her relationship with Sophia (Amandla Stenberg) is based on lies. As a test to see how easily Sophie can lie-and therefore deny killing all of her friends from midnight until dawn-Bee asks her if she cheated on her with Myha’la Herrold’s Jordan. It’s a fact that Bee already knows to be true, considering she came across a pair of panties in Sophie’s car that matched a bra she noticed in Jordan’s bag. When Sophie denies it, Bee tries to take her phone (which Jordan admitted would have texts about their recent hook-up on it), and the two start fighting outside in the remnants of the storm. Bee eventually pulls a phone out of the mud, and it looks like the WiFi and cell phone service that was gone all night is finally back. Thinking she’ll pull up the evidence she needs-and confirmation to get the hell out of there-she’s surprised when Sophie says, “That’s not my phone,” and even more surprised to see what’s on it.

It turns out that it belongs to David, Pete Davidson’s coked-out rich kid character whose parents’ house they’re partying at and was the first one to die in the movie. They know it’s David’s phone because it opens to a TikTok, soundtracked by the lockdown classic TikTok song “Bored In The House” by Curtis Roach and Tyga, that shows him waving around his dad’s decorative but very real sword (!) to try to open a champagne bottle (!), idiotically waving it towards himself, only to slice right into his own neck. As it turns out, nobody killed David-not an intruder, not Jordan, not Sophie, not Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) she knew nothing about (except for the fact that he was a Libra moon), and not their friend Max (Conner O’Malley) who left early the night before. David accidentally killed himself, and hysteria is what killed everybody else. You could say that it’s almost predictable that it turns out to be a clout-chasing TikTok that led to the movie’s murderous spiral of events. Although, that would undercut what Reijn and DeLappe are trying to say with the darkly funny movie with an especially dark, funny twist. Like TikTok or Twitter, the movie is a constant feed of discourse, buzzwords, and blanket statements that snarkily laugh at and with its ensemble. There are many moments in particular that drive this home-like Alice trying to be sympathetic in talking about mental health, only to make the conversation about her, and David ridiculing his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) for getting all of her thoughts from Twitter after she says he “gaslights” her. On top of that, David picks up the sword and tries to go viral to begin with because his masculinity felt threatened by Greg, who did the trick in the first place.

While it would be downright terrifying if a party with people who are supposedly your best friends turned into a slasher flick, in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the horror isn’t a vengeful or heartless killer. Everybody may become a psychopath of sorts when they feel physically threatened or legitimately toxic name-calling and backstabbing ensues, but Bodies Bodies Bodies and its devilish twist is about the humour and horror in the devoid way we can use social media today more than anything else. Like Sophie and Bee’s terrified realization at the end, it makes you want to log off for awhile… right after you post a 100K-worthy tweet about it.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

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