Photo courtesy Marvel Studios

Tom Holland’s turn as Spider-Man has given us two movies of his own and another three where he at the very least makes an appearance. Holland’s bouncy, youthful energy was a perfect fit for a character just as concerned about the perils of high school as he is about saving New York City from various bad guys.

But Holland is only the latest cinematic iteration of Spider-Man and in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” Marvel decides to have a little bit of fun with this legacy and – with a little help from the multi-verse – Holland takes half a step back to share the screen with (almost) all that came before him.

Setting aside Holland and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the past two decades have featured five other blockbuster Spider-Man films with various Spider-Men (Spiders-Man?) and numerous villains that have become iconic in their own right. It’s the villains especially that pack the screen in “No Way Home” and it’s a movie nerd’s delight to see these actors return to these roles all these years later.

Setting all this in motion is the plot twist from Holland’s previous Spider-Man movie “Spider-Man: Far From Home” where Spider-Man’s secret identity as Peter Parker is revealed to the world.

Not only is this problematic for Peter, but it endangers those closest to him like his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

Peter decides to enlist the help of his old buddy Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to use a little magic to help the world forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. The spell goes wrong which causes bad dudes from other universes to start popping up and causing trouble for Peter and his friends.

In a lot of ways what director Jon Watts and the rest of the Marvel creative team pulls off here is a bit unprecedented in movie history as they seamlessly blend movies that traditionally try to pretend like the others don’t exist.

This is really just an example of Marvel doing what it does best as “No Way Home” actually feels more like an Avengers movie with all the fun of throwing a bunch of random characters we’ve come to know and love into a crazy situation and then delighting in getting to see them bounce off of each other.

It’s fun to see that after 20-plus movies that Marvel is still working hard to surprise us and take its cinematic universe in exciting new directions. If “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is any indication, literally anything is possible.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is rated PG-13 for sequences of action/violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.  

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