Willem Dafoe

REVIEW: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

After the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is dealing with the repercussions of the world finding out his secret identity. When things starting affecting his loved ones, Peter turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help but when a spell goes awry, dangerous villains start to appear with one goal – take down Spider-Man.

Don’t worry, this will be a spoiler-free review!

In previous Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man outings, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has felt very young and naïve. He’s previously made mistakes but it’s seemed like it took him a long time to learn from. For me, No Way Home finally sees Peter mature and become Spider-Man in a way we haven’t really seen much before in the MCU. It’s impressive that with a film chockfull of characters, Peter Parker stays the focus and driving force behind everything and Tom Holland does an excellent job in the role.

MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) as team FoS (Friends of Spider-Man) are both great, adding both humour and suitable drama to various situations. Having the two of them knowing about Peter’s not-so-secret identity and helping him on his missions just feel right. All three of them have different skill sets but are super smart and seeing them work together and deeply care for one another is great.

It is a joy to see past Spider-Man villains on screen again. Alfred Molina once again delivers pathos to Doc Ock, but it’s Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin that is the real standout. How he portrays both sides of the character, Norman Osborn and the Goblin, and can switch instantly between the two is still incredibly creepy.

It’s easy to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home prays on nostalgia and fan service with all these characters we’ve seen in previous iterations of Spider-Man making an appearance but No Way Home uses these characters so well that it doesn’t feel cheap. Sure, some of the villains aren’t as well developed as others but generally speaking it feels like these characters are there for a purpose and have a narrative arc that compliments what we’ve seen them before. There’s a purpose to the vast majority of these villains and no one feels like a brief cameo.

The first act is a little shaky but once the spell goes awry and a bunch of villains start showing up everything seems to click into place and Spider-Man: No Way Home is such a fun experience. The action is exciting, there’s some real emotional moments between various characters and so much of the cast has great chemistry that I’d love to see some of these actor combinations on screen again some time.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is probably not a perfect movie, but I can’t deny how much I enjoyed it and how I got swept away by it all. Having too many villains has been detrimental so many films before but here they know how to use them to great effect and keep Peter Parker at the centre of it all. 5/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man (2002)

As Spider-Man: No Way Home is being released next month and there’s talk of it including multiple universes and characters we’ve seen from past Spider-Man franchises (I watched the first trailer when it was released in August and have done by best to avoid everything Spider-Man-related ever since) I thought it was about time to revisit some of the previous iterations of Spider-Man. I’ve reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home but I’m pretty sure I’ve never reviewed the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. Plus, I’ve not even seen many of those films in their entirety for years, or in some cases, since the cinema.

As these films are older and are rewatches there may be some vague spoilers in these reviews.

So to kick it off we go back to the beginning and to the Summer of 2002. I was 10 years old when Spider-Man came out and I distinctly remember seeing it in the cinema with my dad, my (much older) sister and her then-boyfriend. I know I enjoyed it then and on rewatch nearly 20 years later I still really enjoy it.

What director Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man is really help lay the blueprint of how brilliant a superhero movie could be. There are a lot of elements at play in this film with the different characters and relationships and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) doesn’t even get into his Spider-Man suit until practically half way through the film. But that doesn’t bother me because the things going on in Peter’s life are just as compelling as any Spidey-related adventure.

Spider-Man sets up the relationship/potential love triangle between Peter, his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) and the girl he’s been in love with forever Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) so well. You get why Peter and Harry are friends even though they come from completely different worlds and you get why Mary Jane would be attracted to both Peter and Harry. All three of them have believable relationships with one another.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is one of those instances of perfect casting. Ever since I saw him in Speed 2: Cruise Control Dafoe has been able to freak me out with just his eyes – he can put so much intensity/craziness in his eyes it’s almost concerning. How the Green Goblin toys with Peter is so good. He believes he knows what makes Spider-Man tick and once he figures out who Spider-Man is he’s even more certain of it. The scenes where it’s just Norman Osborn talking to the Green Goblin, either via the mask or a mirror are just captivating. They’re unsettling and show so much of the two sides of this character. Because really, while Norman Osborn may have pushed his son and his staff, he was also someone who wanted to succeed in their business ventures and wasn’t necessarily an inherently cruel person until he became the Green Goblin.

Some of the CGI may now look a bit dated but on the whole the action set pieces really hold up. The attack on the parade is fun with how Spider-Man bounces on the giant balloons and how he goes between fighting Green Goblin to rescuing bystanders shows what kind of a hero he is. The hand-to-hand fights with Green Goblin are pretty brutal and Peter Parker sure goes through a lot in this film. All the fight and action sequences are well shot and choregraphed and you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another.

I have to mention J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson – an actor who made the role his own that there was no way he could be played by anyone else in any of the other Spider-Man franchises. J. Jonah Jameson is loud and brash but he’s also quick-witted and all the scenes at the Daily Bugle are funny because of him and his various underlings. What really stood out to me (because I’d completely forgotten about it) is that that when he’s being threatened by the Green Goblin who wants to know who takes Spider-Man’s picture, James lies. He says he doesn’t know and they’re sent in the mail. He might be a mean and rude boss but it shows he does care about Peter Parker and the rest of his staff. He has a moral backbone and won’t sell out his staff. It’s little moments like that in Spider-Man that make a lot of the character work stand out.

Spider-Man is a very entertaining superhero film and is truly one of the great origin stories. It’s filled with drama and action and so many believable characters. Seeing Spider-Man swing through New York still looks fantastic and when that Spider-Man theme by Danny Elfman kicks in it’s hard not to get goosebumps. 5/5.

REVIEW: Odd Thomas (2013)

odd thomas movie posterSmall town cook Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) isn’t exactly normal. He can see dead people and sense when something bad is about to happen. When he encounters a mysterious man (Shuler Hensley) with links to dark forces, Odd must do something before the whole town is under attack.

Odd Thomas is a supernatural, horror film but it also fun and full of surprises. While it’s got a lot of death and evil creatures, Odd Thomas is more of a mystery really as Odd tries to figure out what’s going to happen to the town and when. All the strands of the mystery are there; some are more obvious than others but it doesn’t take anything away from the twists and turns.

The CGI in Odd Thomas isn’t the greatest but it is used sparingly and as the focus is more on the characters than big action-set pieces, the dodgy CGI doesn’t pull you out of the film too much.

One of the highlights of Odd Thomas is the characters. They are all likeable and believable and they actually communicate with each other. The fact that Chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) knows about Odd’s supernatural gift means that Odd actually has help in catching bad guys and has someone to cover for him from the rest of the police department. Odd’s girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) also knows about Odd and supports and helps him when she can as well as being the voice of reason when he’s being reckless. So often in films about a guy with special abilities who must save the world, he keeps everything a secret from the people he’s closest too, causing unnecessary problems and conflict – Odd Thomas manages to avoid this cliché.

Odd Thomas is a fast-paced, mystery/horror film with likeable characters. It packs an emotional punch and is well-worth a watch. 4/5.