Second only to Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Spider-Man: No Way Home was a breath of fresh air for comic fans and new fans of Spider-Man alike. Comic fans had many problems with the MCU’s version of Peter Parker. The first being the amount of traits the MCU had stolen directly from Miles Morales: Ned Leeds as another version of Ganke Lee, Spider-Man dating a descendant of the Vulture, Spider-Man going to a specialized STEM school, and Spider-Man having an Avenger as his mentor and father figure.
Speaking of this mentor, the financial support Tony Stark provided removed the relatability of Peter Parker as a character who, in the comics, didn’t have the backing of a billionaire when he started his superhero work. MCU Peter Parker’s relationship to Tony Stark affected much of his character to a point where his impoverished background was essentially erased from the first two films of his trilogy. MCU Peter Parker could afford to take trips to Europe and owned extremely advanced tech rather than sewing his suits, all while inheriting military grade weapons and Stark’s chauffeur.
MCU Peter Parker no longer had an Uncle Ben who teaches him responsibility and empathy, who pushes him to be more than he is. No, instead he had the morally questionable Tony Stark who blackmailed a teenager into fighting for him and then turned around and demands Peter be a good person. And given Peter’s poor relationship with Tony Stark following the events of Civil War in the comics, it is laughable to think of Tony as a trusted father figure. However, even without the context of the comics, one can easily see how Stark’s presence in the MCU has tainted Parker’s storylines.
Until No Way Home, Peter’s villains were directly created by Tony, often with no real connection to Parker. This contrasts starkly with both Garfield and Maguire’s Spider-Men who each had varying forms of personal relationships with their villains before they turned to villainy. The point of Spider-Man’s villains is often the tragedy of their circumstances. The MCU’s Vulture and Mysterio are monstrous egomaniacs created by Stark’s mistakes. Their defeat is necessary rather than a tragedy, and MCU Spider-Man movies suffered for it.
No Way Home provides a solution to all the problems outlined above. Spider-Man loses his friends and returns to a life of anonymity due to Strange’s spell. His connection to obscene wealth is removed as well, leaving him the relatable character he has always been, the kid from Queens who had to sew his own costumes. He loses Aunt May and learns the same lesson that was absent from the MCU’s iteration of Spider-Man, in turn making Aunt May the MCU’s version of Uncle Ben. The Peter Parker in No Way Home is Peter Parker, not Miles Morales or Tony Stark Jr. He is Spider-Man.
In addition, the interactions between the different Spider-Men show this film is a love letter to the character of Spider-Man. Raimi’s Spider-Man has often been uplifted while the Amazing Spider-Man was disparaged. Maguire’s Spider-Man in No Way Home makes clear that the Amazing Spider-Man is in no way inferior and amazing in his own right. The references to other Spider-Man films (Ned finding out about the other Spider-Men’s Harrys, Garfield’s Spider-Man catching MJ) are also truly heart-warming and made the film a true comfort watch for long-time fans of Spidey.
Finally, Spider-Man’s goal in this film is to find a cure for the different villains of Peter Parker, villains who all have complicated reasons for why they turned to villainy. While this allows for multiple references to some truly incredible villains from past Spider-Man films and some great performances from Alfred Molina and William Dafoe, this plot point is also incredible. It truly pinpoints what is means to be Spider-Man and why Spider-Man does what he does. Spider-Man exists to help people, first and foremost, because with great power comes great responsibility.
Featured image: beingmyself on Flickr.