IronWatcher’s review published on Letterboxd:
Watched in the cinema (68th visit in 2021)
While Thor, Iron Man or Hulk save the entire world or even universes, Spider-Man was always a little smaller on the road. His nickname "the friendly neighborhood spider" fit perfectly. Spidey fought for safety on the block or in the city. Big conflicts were never really his thing, until he became part of the Avengers and later became Tony Stark's so to say successor. The promotion of "Spider-Man: No Way Home" now makes it look as if the third solo film with Tom Holland as Spider-Man will again be an adventure in which entire worlds are at stake. Multiverse is the keyword. But surprise, despite the establishment of these different worlds, the film turns out to be surprisingly intimate. Here, it's mainly about Peter Parker, his life, his environment and a threat we already had a taste of at the end of "Spider-Man: Far From Home": Thanks to Mysterio, Spidey is not only considered a murderer, no, his real name is also known to the whole world.
What follows is not what I expected. The hunt for the young superhero is dealt with relatively quickly. The story is much more interested in the aftermath and also in those who have also catapulted themselves into extinction by their proximity to Spidey. Dramaturgically, this isn't something that's really clever, but it works. It's the engine to get the plot moving, and it includes Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who in the broadest sense takes over the mentor role from Robert Downey Jr. in "Spider-Man: Homecoming", and yet is partly responsible for the multiverse serving up plenty of trouble for Peter Parker, in the form of villains we know from the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films.
The villains in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" are a definite strength. While not all of them can really be called characters, Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe as Dr. Otto Octavius and Norman Osbourne aka Green Goblin prove once again here why they were so damn good back under the direction of Sam Raimi, who incidentally directed the upcoming "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." It's all little gestures and moments that show that despite everything, they're still people. In contrast, Jamie Foxx as Electro seems relatively pale and the somewhat tough middle part of the film should also not go unmentioned.
But not only the villains get a good stage in "Spider-Man: No Way Home". Spider-Man's circle of acquaintances is also integrated into the story much more prominently and effectively than before. As mentioned before, even though the multiverse plays a big role, the main story told here is a very intimate and personal one, despite the great spectacle. A story that couldn't be more tragic and yet never really loses that lightness that simply belongs to the friendly spider from the neighborhood.
By the end of the film, it's these small elements and scenes, compared to the big spectacle, that really stuck in my memory. None of it is free of calculation and precise pre-planning (it's still an MCU movie), but that's not important. What's important is that it works, that we as an audience always perceive Peter Parker, even when he's swinging through the canyons of New York in a mask. "No Way Home" finally turns Spider-Man into Peter Parker. That's a great happiness, even if it brings great doom.