Remembering Peter Parker in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’

The new Spider-Man film uses fan service in its finest form

Between No Way Home’s flashy action sequences, heartfelt moments stand out.

I used to go to this day camp in the summer. It had a tube slide, but I never slid down—I climbed up. I would climb and climb, pretending I was Spider-Man. When my mom came and picked me up at the end of each day, I told her I was Spider-Man and I believed it was true.

I had low expectations going into Spider-Man: No Way Home, the latest in a long line of Spider-Man films.

Be warned: there are spoilers ahead.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies. They’re bursting with bombast, but they lack the breathing room allowed by the quiet introspection of Sam Raimi’s films starring Tobey Maguire.

Fortunately, I was wrong to be apprehensive. No Way Home deftly combines the visual spectacle expected of Marvel films with the heartfelt moments present throughout Raimi’s trilogy. The film perfectly balances humour and grief, never berating the audience with one or the other.

Although the plot is precluded amongst an overstuffed cast of characters, this misstep can easily be forgiven because of the film’s thematic brilliance. It is a joyous ode to Peter Parker.

I suppose I should say Peter Parkers—there are three.

The inclusion of three Peters was engaging, and the film was a standout because of its the introduction of the multiverse within the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) films.As MCU Peter struggles to figure out who he is, two other versions of him from other universes—and franchises—pop out from portals to join the action.

It’s engrossing, and it sets up my big takeaway from this movie: the power of memory.

Spider-Man is linked to my memories and to my conception of who I was as a child. When I see Maguire appear onscreen, I don’t just see 40-year-old Peter Parker—I see myself climbing up the tube slide.

The inclusion of Maguire from Raimi’s trilogy and Andrew Garfield from the more recent Sony adaptation isn’t gratuitous fan service—it implicates the audience in the act of remembering.

Watching Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin struggle once again with a torn identity is both beautiful and terrifying. It suggests that we can be forgotten not only by others but by ourselves, but we can be redeemed if we remember.

When Garfield’s Spider-Man catches MJ and starts crying, the audience is forced to remember Peter’s loss of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That’s why No Way Home is so good—amidst flashy fight scenes, quiet moments remain.

Remembering is religious. It’s a personal meditation that can take place at a moment’s notice, but its impact can span a lifetime. Like the memory of Gwen or Aunt May, No Way Home embodies our intrinsic yearning to return to a time when we knew we were loved. It takes us, if only for a fleeting two hours, home.

When I saw this film, I sat beside a little boy with his dad. They were eating popcorn together, and the boy was dressed up as Spider-Man. I know when that kid watches this movie again, he won’t just see Holland and Zendaya on the screen. He won’t see Norman fighting to remember who he is. The boy will see himself with his dad on a Saturday night, back when he was still Spider-Man.

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