• Daniel Morawitz

Spider-Man: No Way Home - Review

I've never usually been this cynical about Marvel movies. I've always been aware that it's escapism meant to entertain. And escapist cinema has its merit, especially superhero movies can offer a lot of excitement. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films come to mind, because they offered great formal freshness, marked by a stylistic signature and an authentic simplicity that studios tend to avoid these days. No longer is a character allowed to just whack some villains in his microcosm, no, instead multiple characters from different franchises must bounce through the frame together and drive-up box-office results through their conglomerate appeal. That's the only way Hollywood can survive these days.

All of which leads me to the latest Spider-Man film, directed by Jon Watts, probably the blandest director in all Spider-Man history. I don't want to denigrate Watts as a creative person here, but I just must honestly say that I find the way he directs Spider-Man movies, the way he presents them stylistically and aesthetically, to be a tired performance that can never hold a candle to the Raimi films. I find this extremely unfortunate because the ingredients for an epic and dynamic overall work are present, especially here, with all the villains, one could have generated an opulent work.

The whole thing is destroyed by a formal lethargy: In the editing, where you flip haphazardly through a dull and characterless scenery back and forth, in the cinematography, the Oscar-winning Avatar DP Mauro Fiore does not manage to develop a vivid visual language, this is once more intensely underlined by the well-known MCU desaturated colourlessness (seriously, why are the colours in the MCU movies so ugly? ) and in the staging Watts' who does not dare to set stylistic accents.

Every now and then there are slightly more elaborate one-takes and quick push-ins on Peter, but where are the snappy scene transitions? Why does the entire film consist only of shot-reverse shots? Why do all the sets look so flat and fake? Once again, this franchise shows me that texture and aesthetic experimentation have no place, even though the ethos of the source material clearly speaks against this thesis.

Then, of course, there's a dramaturgical level that's difficult for me to describe here without diving into spoilers. What has always worked in these films is the chemistry among the cast. The dialogue has a certain improvisational quality to it, which consequently serves up some quite amusing gags. Basically, it is precisely this lightness in the group constellation that is the greatest strength, which, however, demises the emotion especially during the dramatic climaxes. This has always been the case with the MCU and will probably always remain so because God forbid the characters and their feelings are taken seriously and treated sincerely, people are supposed to enjoy themselves here!

In No Way Home, they at least tried to break up that formula and deliver "fireworks of emotion". Maybe it's my grumpy cinephile heart, but at no point did any real emotion come to me except for the occasional glance at the clock and the sporadic, yet consistent, sigh, and the question of why the infantile and generic pathos just feels so incredibly contrived. Perhaps because the film represents everything that is wrong with this current corporate film landscape?

Be that as it may, I came out of the new mega-blockbuster once again heartbroken. This time it hurt especially, because characters from my childhood were dug out of their grave, staged years ago by passionate filmmakers, who now just stand bored in front of a green screen to collect a big check. The difference in cinematic quality is immense - every now and then Elfman's Doc-Ock leitmotif is heard, serving to remind us Raimi fans what we could have watched instead.

Rating: 2/5

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