Spider-Man: No Way Home, arguably the most eagerly anticipated MCU movie of the year, is finally here, and it’s great. Sure it’s messier than Peter Parker’s bedroom, but No Way Home’s explosive bombast and ludicrous scale make it one of the most propellant blockbusters in recent memory.
If anything ties the MCU Spider-Man films together, it’s the idea of escalation. In the course of three films (and two Avengers crossovers), he’s gone from fighting high tech thugs to battling aliens in space and saving the multiverse from imminent collapse – not bad for a teenager from Queens. Still, it’s time for a change and for Peter to live up to the promise he made in Homecoming; it’s time he looks out for the friendly neighbourhood.
I’m not saying I’ve not enjoyed Pete’s journey so far, and I’d love to see him pop up when the Avengers assemble again (if they remember him), but for his solo films, I’d like some smaller-scale adventures. Why? Well, because I’m a firm believer that the best Spider-Man stories are the smaller, more intimate tales where Peter either has a connection to the villains he’s fighting or a reason to care beyond simply saving the world.
That doesn’t mean the films can’t indulge in some ludicrousness, we encourage that, but the stakes don’t always need to be literally world-ending; they can just be world ending for Peter Parker. Take one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever written, the seminal ‘If This Be My Destiny…!’ Probably best remembered as introducing the Spider-Man trope of ‘Peter doesn’t think he can lift a heavy thing but then does lift a heavy thing’, the story – written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko – is the archetypical Spidey storyline.
Spanning just three issues, ‘If This Be My Destiny…!’ begins with Aunt May being hospitalised after taking one of her many funny turns. As turns go though, this one is particularly unfunny, and the hospital warns Peter that his Aunt doesn’t have much time left.
Does whatever a spider can: Best action movies
Desperate to save her life, Peter battles Doctor Octopus to secure a rare isotope that’s her only hope at survival. After a close-run battle with Ock, involving a sinking base (and the aforementioned lifting of a heavy thing), Spider-Man triumphs, saving his Aunt. As the old adage goes, though, when Spider-Man wins, Peter loses and in his desperation to save May, Parker upsets his then love interest Betty Brant.
This is what I want to see in future Spider-Man films; bonkers scenarios involving colourful characters that might not be apocalyptic in scale but threaten to disrupt Peter’s life in a major way. Of the last seven live-action Spider-Man films, only Sam Raimi’s 2002 film has ever really got this aspect of the character – with even the franchise’s high point, Spider-Man 2, threatening to destroy New York with an out of control fusion reactor.
Taking it back to No Way Home, as much as we loved the ambition of the alternate dimensions, variants, and returning Spider-Man villains, there’s another version of this film where we see Peter working to clear his name of murder that’s just as exciting. Basically, we’ve seen Holland’s Parker save the universe once already; next time, let’s see him save the neighbourhood.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theatres now.