Game Corner [Spidey Month]: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360)


Easily Marvel Comic’s most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ll be dedicating every Friday of August to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!


Released: 7 September 2010
Developer: Beenox
Also Available For: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, and PlayStation 3

The Background:
Eager to capitalise on his success with the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics editor and head writer Stan Lee conceived of Peter Parker/Spider-Man alongside Steve Ditko and the troubled teenage superhero first appeared in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. A near-instant hit, Spider-Man quickly made the leap to cartoons, films, action figures, and a number of videogames as well as seeing numerous other incarnations in the pages of Marvel Comics. In 2010, developers Beenox brought together four distinct versions of Spider-Man, each with their own aesthetic design and playstyle, for Activision’s next Spider-Man game. The developers sought to have the bosses of the game be just as distinct, as well as including some first-person sequences to break up the action and employing the talents of many notable Spider-Man voice actors to pay homage to the character’s long history. Although the game received mostly positive reviews, in addition to some downloadable content (DLC), it was eventually de-listed after Activision lost the Spider-Man license.

The Plot:
During a fight between Spider-Man and Quentin Beck/Mysterio, the mythical Tablet of Order and Chaos is shattered into fragments, causing chaos throughout the multiverse and falling into the hands of some of Spidey’s most notorious foes. To retrieve the pieces of the Tablet, Cassandra Webb/Madame Web unites four versions of Spider-Man from across the multiverse: the classic “Amazing” Spider-Man, the grim and stoic Spider-Man Noir, Miguel O’Hara of the futuristic 2099, and the black-suited teenaged “Ultimate” Spider-Man.

Gameplay:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a linear, mission-based third-person action title that has players battle a number of Spider-Man’s most iconic foes as four distinctively different versions of Spider-Man, each with their own unique appearance, levels, and personality. While some Spider-Men have slightly different abilities, combat styles, and gameplay, there are many fundamental gameplay mechanics which the four Spider-Men share: they all jump with A (and tapping A again in mid-air will perform a double jump), can land a fast strike with X and a strong attack with Y (and holding down either button performs a charge attack and an air launcher, respectively), and web or grab objects and enemies with B and you can mix and match these attack commands to string together a few basic combos. Naturally, you can web-sling by holding the Right Trigger; release the trigger and hold it again to perform successive web-slings or tap RT to perform a super handy web-zip to quickly dash to perches and platforms. Tapping the Right Bumper sees you fire off a quick web shot (which I found to be largely useless), you can press up on the directional pad to enable the spider-sense (which acts almost exactly like the “Detective Mode” from the Batman: Arkham videogames (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) and allows you to see through walls and obstacles to highlight enemies and collectibles), and you can also hold the Left Trigger to enter an “Evasive Stance” that lets you dodge and roll away from enemy attacks.

While the Amazing Spider-Man takes the direct approach, his Noir counterpart sticks to the shadows.

Each Spider-Man has a few different options available to them that make their gameplay a little different; the Amazing variant is a pretty standard Spider-Man with no additional abilities whose gameplay consists of a mixture of combat, web-slinging, and wall-crawling with some very light puzzle-solving thrown in for good measure. His Noir counterpart may not have any additional abilities but he plays considerably different from his mulitversal allies; for one thing, Spider-Man Noir’s world is rendered entirely in the moody black-and-white of the 1930s and, for another, he’s far more reliant on stealth. Again, like the Batman: Arkham games, Spider-Man Noir has to stick to the shadows and avoid spotlights and being spotted by gangsters, who will fill him full of lead if they spot him and briefly hunt him down unless you flee to the shadows. This means you have to stay up high, out of the way, and in the darkness, sneaking up on enemies or taking them down from a variety of positions with the B button. Spider-Man Noir does also get to engage enemies in direct combat but only in specifically designed sections; most of your time will be spent webbing up gangsters from the shadows, which is pretty fun but nowhere near as challenging or varied as in the Batman: Arkham games as Spider-Man Noir doesn’t have any gadgets or options to distract or toy with his prey.

Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 have special abilities that are unique to them.

Both Spider-Man 2099 and Ultimate Spider-Man make use of the Left Bumper; since he’s wearing the bestial black suit, Ultimate Spider-Man can build up a “Rage” meter by attacking enemies and, when it’s full, pressing LB sees him fly into a rage and attack enemies faster and with more powerful tendril attacks. In this regard, Ultimate Spider-Man seems to be more geared towards combat but, in practise, I found his gameplay mostly the same to his Amazing counterpart but with the added bonus of a useful attack buff. Spider-Man 2099 can utilise LB to activate his “Accelerated Vision”, which briefly slows down time and allows him to better dodge and react to incoming attacks and obstacles, and this meter will automatically refills over time. Spider-Man 2099 also has to endure a number of freefall sections that see you holding A to dive faster towards a target and use B to grab them and X to punch them all while avoiding debris and other obstacles.

Annoying first-person segments and rescue missions mix up the gameplay.

Other than that, the four Spider-Men share the remaining gameplay mechanics: this means you’ll be mashing B on certain walls and objects to rip them down or toss them at enemies and bosses, rescuing and protecting civilians and scientists by fending off enemies, swinging over to them, picking them up with B, and carrying them to a safety point; and taking part in some awkward first-person punching sequences. These appear during the majority of the game’s boss battles and see you using the two analogue sticks to punch or dodge, which is an interesting mechanic to add in but ultimately seems like something that could have been restricted to just the Amazing Spider-Man to help him stand out from the others. Other challenges include web-slinging away from danger (sometimes towards the camera, which can be very disorientating), web-zipping to enemies perched above, destroying certain objects, or activating or deactivating generators. Each level generally repeats these sections at least three times; if you have to rescue three civilians in the early part of a level, you can bet that you’ll be rescuing five a little later on, for example.

The game’s not especially difficult but can be long and tedious at times.

When not in combat or an action situation, each Spider-Man’s health will slowly regenerate, though you can also replenish it with Gold Spider Emblems scattered throughout each level. Occasionally, you’ll find water, acid, or electrified pits that will cause an instant respawn; other times, if you fall or fail a web-sling, you can recover with RT to save yourself. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has three difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, and Hard), though the game isn’t massively difficult on Normal. Hard mode obviously results in more durable and aggressive enemies, and mixes up their placement and how many hits will defeat a boss, but there are many checkpoints and respawn points sprinkled through the game’s levels, which can get quite long and tedious as you progress. Additionally, like many Spider-Man videogames, mechanics such as wall-crawling and web-slinging can get a bit janky in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions thanks to the controls bugging out when on walls and ceilings and the camera proving unreliable and jerky at times.

Graphics and Sound:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimension’s levels are entirely linear; there’s no free roaming or overworld to be found here, which is fine as that can be a little daunting, and instead you’ll explore a variety of levels that can be both large and intimidating and narrow and claustrophobic. When in wider, more open areas, your options for exploration are largely limited by walls (both visible and invisible) and gameplay objectives that constantly push you forwards. Still, there are at least a wide variety of locations on offer; you’ll scale Osborn Tower in the city, a disused desert mine, a ruin-filled jungle, and a hydroelectric dam amongst others. Primarily, the game leans towards a vibrant, quasi-cel-shaded style, especially for the Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Men, though not to the extent where it looks like ugly 2D characters monstrously rendered in 3D as in other games.

The game is full of visual variety in its levels, graphics, and characters.

Where the game really shines, though, are in the Noir and 2099 levels; the Noir levels are rendered entirely in monochrome, with sporadic use of colour only appearing when using the spider-sense. The heavy shadows and stark contrast of white on black immediately makes these sections stand out not just from the rest of the game but also its closest competitors, the Batman: Arkham titles, and reminds more of MadWorld (PlatinumGames, 2009) and Frank Miller’s Sin City comics and films (ibid, 1991 to 2002; ibid and Rodriguez, 2005; 2014). Similarly, the 2099 levels are an explosion of futuristic neon and technology; indeed, I found the 2009 levels to be a bit of a sensory overload and a bit difficult to digest, making it tricky to know where I was supposed to go since every level was so bustling with lights, metal, and colours. Still, it’s a great way to make each Spider-Man’s locations even more visually distinct from each other, though there was maybe a missed opportunity to mix things up a bit later in the game to have, say, Spider-Man Noir in the 2099 world.

The graphics hold up really well but it’s the voice work that really makes the game shine.

While the game’s music isn’t much more than the standard superhero fare of rousing horns and tunes, the voice acting is absolutely top notch! Each Spider-Man is voiced by a notable and popular Spidey voice actor from his many cartoons, which saw not only Dan Gilvezan’s return to the character after a twenty-five year absence but also the return of Christopher Daniel Bares, who voiced the Spider-Man I grew up with in the nineties cartoon. Neil Patrick Harris is easily the best of the four, though; he always makes for a fun and fitting Spider-Man and his delivery really sells the character’s many quips and witticisms. Stan Lee narrates the start and end of each chapter and Nolan North even reprises his role as Wade W. Wilson/Deadpool, who steals the show in his oil rig-turned-reality show by constantly berating and taunting Ultimate Spider-Man and breaking the fourth wall at every opportunity. The in-game graphics are brilliant; levels and enemies are as visually distinct as the four Spider-Man and the game runs very fast and smooth (when the camera isn’t freaking out on you). The cutscenes are equally impressive, if a bit inconsistent as they’re comprised of the in-game graphics, higher quality cinematics, and partially animated sequences, but they tell the story well enough and are always fun to watch.

Enemies and Bosses:
There are a number of goons to pit your spider-powers against in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions but, for the most part, once you’ve faced the first wave of enemies in the first level, you’ll encounter the same troupes again and again but in new skins. You’ll find regular enemies who come at you with their fists and melee weapons (baseball bats and swords and such), gun-toting enemies who either chip away at your health or blast you full of holes when playing as Spider-Man Noir, shield-carrying enemies who you must zip towards and hop over with A to attack from behind, and larger enemies who will put up a block that you need to break with your air launcher attack. Other enemies include smaller versions or duplicates of the level’s main foe that can generally be taken out in one or two hits but swarm all over you, larger enemies that toss out grenades or seeking rockets, and all manner of zombies and genetically-engineered monstrosities. One aspect I really enjoyed was that enemies can actually attack and harm each other, which is incredibly helpful when swarmed by foes, and you can also throw objects such as barrels and flaming debris at enemies to help whittle them (or, at least, their health) down.

The Amazing Spider-Man battles Kraven, the Sandman, and the Juggernaut for the Tablet pieces.

Each level is structured around locating, pursuing, and/or confronting one of Spider-Man’s villains and retrieving a piece of the Tablet from them; thus, each level concludes in a boss battle but you’ll actually battle each boss a number of times throughout each level. The first boss the Amazing Spider-Man comes up against is Sergei Kravinoff/Kraven the Hunter, who leads you on a merry jaunt through the jungle, shoots at you through his sniper rifle, and initially battles you inside of a caged arena. Here, you’ll need to dodge and evade his jumping strikes and counterattack in response, web-zip to the convenient columns to avoid the floor spikes, and finish him off with some first-person punching. In the second battle, he’s much stronger and faster thanks to the Tablet fragment but the strategy remains the same; take advantage of the spawning columns to avoid his attacks and strike as and when you can but don’t linger in one area for too long or he’ll knock your ass down. Later, you’ll have to pursue Flint Marko/The Sandman through an abandoned mine, using your web pull to drench his raging sand tornado and battle his gigantic form within the mine itself. Here, you must trick him into slamming his fists into water carts to muddy them up and make them vulnerable, then toss barrels at his face to defeat him. Afterwards, he draws you within his chaotic sandstorm and his personality begins to unravel; you must web-zip around the floating debris avoiding his giant fists and tossing water barrels at his face so you can deal some real damage and put him down once and for all. Finally, you’ll battle and purse Cain Marko/The Juggernaut in a construction site, through the city, and in the wreckage of Osborn Tower; initially, you simply have to avoid his charge attack to cause him to ram into specific towers and beat on him when he’s lodged in the ground, but his later empowered form sees him add a whole bunch of annoying ground pounds and smashes to his repertoire. Still, as long as you dodge away and stay away from his powerful grapple moves, it’s not too difficult to avoid his attacks and projectiles and put a big beating on him when prompted.  

Spider-Man Noir’s bosses can be a bit tricky, confusing, and mundane, respectively.

In the train yard, Spider-Man Noir follows Joseph Lorenzini/Hammerhead and it’s in the first fight against him that you might hit a considerable difficulty wall; Hammerhead uses a huge Gatling gun to keep you at bay whenever his lights (or the spotlights in the arena) spot even the slightest part of you. After taking cover behind walls, you must wait for Hammerhead to rotate away and run around behind him, staying wide and in the shadows, and press B when prompted to put a beating on him but the game doesn’t make this very clear and Hammerhead spots you way too easily. In the second fight, you have to avoid his machine gun fire and toss barrels at him to force him to blow up a piece of machinery with his rocket launcher, then zip up to the higher platform as he fires wildly into the fog to do big damage with a takedown, and then avoid his head-on charge to finish him off. Later, Spider-Man Noir pursues Adrian Toomes/The Vulture through the grimy streets and confronts him in a large warehouse; the Vulture is another annoying and confusing boss as he darts around slicing at you and tossing knives and you’re encouraged to use the spotlights to blind him and deal big damage but it’s unnecessarily random and difficult to get him into position to actually utilise this mechanic. When powered by the Tablet fragment, the Vulture’s claws and bite need to be avoided in first-person and then you go through the previous battle again but this time he also tosses Molotov cocktails at you (which you can cause him to drop to damage him instead). Finally, Spider-Man Noir tracks Norman Osborn/The Goblin to a warped fairground and has a number of first-person encounters with him before finally facing him inside the circus tent. The Goblin isn’t really all that, though; simply web towards him and jump over him to attack the glowing weak spot on his back, then zip up to higher ground when the lights go out to hit a takedown, before fending off his goons (or causing the Goblin to attack them himself) and avoiding the swipes from his column and pummel him when he’s stuck in the ground.

Ultimate Spider-Man’s bosses were probably the most fun and varied for me.

Ultimate Spider-Man’s first foe is Max Dillon/Electro, who he battles and pursues through a hydroelectric power plant to a huge dam; the first fight is quite annoying as Electro blasts at you with a huge laser and protects himself with an electrical field but the second bout is initially quite confusing as Electro teleports across generators and shields himself from your attacks. Soon, he drops to the floor and sends electrical blasts your way, but these leave him exhausted and vulnerable to your attacks. After fending off his electrical minions and draining his health, he’ll use the Tablet fragment to grow to gigantic properties and become invulnerable, similar to the Sandman fight. To defeat this giant Electro, you need to use your webbing on his hands to cause him to damage the dam behind him while avoiding his laser beams. When the fight switches to the other side of the dam, you’ll need to survive against the enemies he spawns and avoid his fists on an increasingly-small platform until prompted to web his head so the breached dam can finish him. While on the oil rig, Spider-Man is forced to take part in Deadpool’s warped reality show; this inevitably leads to a showdown between them that sees Deadpool teleporting around, slicing at you with his swords, and shooting at you all while his devoted fanboys rush in to join the fight. When he’s standing with a B prompt above his head, don’t web-zip over to him or else he’ll just teleport away; instead, rush over and approach from the ground to best him. After outrunning a tidal wave, you’ll battle him inside a caged arena, where he uses the Tablet to duplicate himself and rains explosive punching bags between rounds. However, simply evade these, and his attacks, and target each of his duplicates in turn and he’ll soon go down, but the final battle against Carnage is particularly striking since the creature has ransacked the Triskelion and corrupted its inhabitants into bloodthirsty monsters! In the first fight against Carnage, it leaps about the remains and wreckage of Quinjets and Helicarriers swiping and skewering you with spikes, but is perfectly susceptible to your attacks and can be dealt big damage by web-zipping it into the conveniently-placed furnaces nearby. In the second phase, Carnage encases itself in a bulbous, tentacled shield that some mechs will destroy with flamethrowers; this leads to a first-person sequence and Carnage blasting spikes, maniacally hopping around the place, and it draining your health to replenish its own if it gets hold of you!

Spider-Man 2099’s bosses tend to be very samey, tedious, and chaotic.

Spider-Man 2099 first butts heads with the Hobgoblin during a freefall sequence that sees you pummelling him and smashing him through obstacles. When you hit the ground, Hobgoblin hovers out of reach and tosses pumpkin bombs at you that you must grab with your webs and throw back at him to down him for a beating. After being empowered by the Tablet, the Hobgoblin conjures gargoyles to distract you and adds a bombardment of bombs to his arsenal, but the strategy remains the same; he’s just faster and more aggressive and you have to finish him off with a mid-air, first-person pummelling. O’Hara’s second boss is Kron Stone/The Scorpion, who leaves explosive, acidic eggs and spawns smaller versions of himself; the Scorpion initially charges at you and tries to smash you with his tail, but if you evade these attacks he’s left vulnerable to a beating and you can easily toss his eggs at him when he takes the high ground to spit acid at you and use B to beat him down. When powered by the Tablet, things are mostly the same but there’s also a large pit in middle of the room that Scorpion pounces at you in and fills with acid; however, throwing eggs at him will cause him to take a dip and be left wide open for a beating. Finally, O’Hara has to fight through Doctor Serena Patel/Doctor Octopus’ elaborate facility, avoiding her mechanical arms in freefall and trashing her gigantic Mecharms before confronting her at the heart of the complex. Here, you need to web pull three generators to lower her shield while avoiding her lasers, then jump over her energy shockwaves to do damage on her. When she powers up, she scuttles around fully shielded and firing lasers across the ground, but you can easily trick her into offing her own minions and defeat her by tossing their explosive cores at her.

All four Spider-Man take it in turns to whittle down and defeat Mysterio in the finale.

Once all of the bosses are beaten, the levels cleared, and the Tablets recovered, all four Spider-Man are thrown into a dimension of pure chaos as Mysterio uses the completed Tablet to become a gigantic, all-powerful God. First, you have to web-zip across floating, fragment platforms as Spider-Man Noir; there are no enemies to fight but you must make sure to avoid the light or else Mysterio will fire projectiles your way, and then simply press B when prompted to web pull his head into a rock. Ultimate Spider-Man then has to fend off a whole bunch of illusionary goons and then destroy the floating orbs after they’ve conjured an illusionary version of a boss, which hurts Mysterio, before quickly web-zipping across the wreckage when Mysterio destroys your platform and then hitting another web pull. Spider-Man 2099 has the easiest time in this fight as you simply have to freefall past Mysterio’s projectiles and magic obstacles to grab and pummel him, but the Amazing Spider-Man has to endure a gruelling gauntlet against a whole bunch of monsters while avoiding Mysterio’s projectiles. Once the enemies are cleared away, you can use the web pull to send a rock flying at Mysterio and must then web-zip to another, smaller platform and repeat the process until he’s downed for one last smash of his helmet to defeat his aspirations for good.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the various levels in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, you may be disappointed to find that there aren’t any power-ups to find beyond the odd health-restoring Gold Spider Emblem. However, every level contains a number of challenges that make up the “Web of Destiny”; while most of these are unavoidable and story-based, many others are optional an easily missed unless you check the Web in each level. You may have to complete certain sections under a time limit, defeat certain enemies in certain ways, or perform certain moves a number of times in order to clear the challenges but the reward is some extra “Spider Essence”.

Collecting Spider Essence allows you to upgrade your abilities and unlock new costumes.

As you clear defeat enemies and bosses, clear levels, and complete these challenges, you’ll be awarded with Spider Essence, which essentially acts as a combination of currency and experience points and can be spent upgrading your health and regenerative capabilities, and unlocking new costumes and attacks, all of which make the game even easier and more chaotic as you plough through enemies with a longer health bar and additional strikes. You can also acquire additional Spider Essence by finding Silver Spider Tokens and Hidden Spiders in every level, which also count towards completing the Web of Destiny, so it pays to give each area a quick scan with your spider-sense for any collectibles.

Additional Features:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has forty-two Achievements on offer, with the vast majority of them popping as you play through the story and take down the game’s villains. There are also Achievements for completing the Web of Destiny, unlocking all the upgrades, and finding every Spider Token and Hidden Spider, which adds some replayability to the game. Other Achievements pop when you defeat up to five-hundred enemies, complete the game on each difficulty (which are stackable), maintain Ultimate Spider-Man’s Rage mode for a full minute, and perform a combo of up to two-hundred hits but there aren’t too many fun or quirky ones that ask you to go off the beaten track. Otherwise, that’s about it; you receive either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal and unlock character models and concept art after clearing levels and there were some additional costumes for those who pre-ordered the game back in the day but there’s not really anything else to come back to besides any Achievements you missed. It might have been nice to include a boss rush or a survival mode, or as mentioned earlier mix and match the Spider-Man in a free play mode, but the Web of Destiny will keep you pretty busy for a few hours, I’m sure.

The Summary:
I’ve wanted to play Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions for years; sadly, I missed out on it when it first released, and the game has become very expensive and hard to come by since then. Thankfully, I was able to snap it up and finally get to grips with it and it was actually a pretty good way to spend a few hours. It’s not especially long or difficult, at least not on Normal mode, and can probably be finished in a day if you play non-stop from morning the late evening but there’s a fair amount to come back to once you’re done. Fittingly, the four Spider-Men are the main highlight of the game; each one looks, sounds, and plays a little differently from the other and it’s fun to go nuts with Ultimate Spider-Man’s rage and then stealthily stalk gangster as Spider-Man Noir. Splitting the game into individual levels helps to keep things interesting and fun, but levels do tend to drag on and enemy and boss variety doesn’t really hold up under close scrutiny. Most of the bosses boil down to winning one of those annoying first-person sequences, pursuing them through the level, battling their first form (usually with hit-and-run tactics, using their own attacks against them, or taking advantage of them getting stuck) and then fighting their Tablet form, which is either a giant version of the boss or a faster, more powerful version. A janky camera and awkward wall-crawling and web-slinging can make the game frustrating but these are recurring concerns in Spider-Man videogames and, overall, I found the game to be pretty fun and entertaining for the voice acting and visual variety alone.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you played Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions? If so, what did you think to it? Which of the four Spider-Men was your favourite? What did you think to the way the game handled the four Spider-Men and the different playstyles? Which level and boss battle was your favourite (or most frustrating)? Are you a fan of Spider-Man teaming up with his multiversal incarnations?? Which Spider-Man videogame is your favourite? Whatever you think, sign up and leave a comment or let me know on my social media and check in next Friday for more from Spider-Man Month.

Talking Movies: Spider-Man: No Way Home

Talking Movies

Released: 17 December 2021
Director: Jon Watts
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $200 million
Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx, and Benedict Cumberbatch

The Plot:
After having his secret identity publicly outed, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) finds himself branded a murderer and hounded at every turn. In a bid to return his life to something resembling normality, he requests that Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) cast a spell to make everyone forget his identity. However, when the spell is corrupted, the walls between realities are fractured and Peter is beset by foes from across the multiverse seeking to avenge themselves against Spider-Man, no matter what world he’s from!

The Background:
Following the massive success of the original Spider-Man trilogy (Raimi, 2000 to 2007) and the largely mediocre reception of the poorly-timed reboot films, Marvel Studios were finally able to achieve the impossible when they reached an agreement to include a new version of the iconic web-slinger in their interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Tom Holland took on the role of a young, fresh-faced take on the character and debuted in spectacular fashion in Captain America: Civil War (Russo and Russo, 2016) before spinning off (no pun intended) into the incredibly successful Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017). Spider-Man: Far From Home’s (ibid, 2019) impressive $1.132 million box office proved that the MCU could sustain the success it had amassed even after the cataclysmic events of Avengers: Endgame (Russo and Russo, 2019) but development of a third outing for the character was initially stalled when financial disputes threatened to see the character once again pulled from Marvel’s control. After these issues were resolved, and following a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, production finally got underway in late-2020 and, almost immediately, rumours began circulating regarding the possible return of actors from the previous Spider-Man franchises. These were only exacerbated when Benedict Cumberbatch was confirmed to reprise his role as Dr. Strange, a character who was already scheduled to have his own multiversal adventure, and when the long-awaited trailer was finally released following a leak, confirming that Alfred Molina would be returning as Doctor Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus thanks to digital de-aging. Finally, after months of speculation and wild fan rumours, the film’s final trailers confirmed that this story would tackle Spider-Man’s varied cinematic multiverse and the film received an official release date. As of this writing, Spider-Man: No Way Home has been met by unanimous praise; critics lauded the performances and heart of the film, in addition to atmosphere and chemistry between the actors, and has currently made over $600 million at the box office..

The Review:
I feel it’s only fair to emphasise here that I simply cannot find the language to talk about this film without using spoilers. If the title and various warnings aren’t enough for you, then this text should be: here be spoilers, and I’m not planning on holding back as I feel the movie deserves to be discussed in detail and the only way to do that is to talk about spoilers. Also, I was initially torn when it came to this film; the build up to it saw some really toxic opinions and members of the fandom rear their ugly heads, and the marketing has been a bit all over the place. Sony showed a surprising amount of restraint with their trailers, and maybe held them off a little too long, but it definitely built up a great deal of hype and intrigue surrounding it and it felt good to be excited and curious about a movie for a change. Having said that, though…be better, people, come on. If you have a favourite Spider-Man, that’s great, but don’t rag on people for having a different opinion. Spider-Man is really lucky as he has had so many adaptations and so much representation, so many live-action portrayals, and all of them have been extremely accurate to the source material and exciting outings in their own right, so maybe just be thankful that the web-head gets so much love and is so popular rather than being ungrateful or attacking others for their opinions?

Jameson’s smear campaign spells personal trouble for Spider-Man and his friends.

Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up immediately where Spider-Man: Far From Home left off, with blustering, loud-mouthing online personality J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) gleefully broadcasting edited footage sent to him by Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) that not only implicates Peter as a murderer but also outs his secret identity to the entire world. Naturally, this sends New York City into a bit of an uproar and, pretty much immediately, both Spider-Man and his new girlfriend Michelle Jones-Watson/M. J. (Zendaya) are swamped by a mob that is split between worshipping and condemning Spider-Man, paparazzi looking to get a sound bite, and cops seeking to question Peter’s involvement in Beck’s death. Despite his best efforts to escape the chaos, and to break the news to his beloved Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his begrudging friend and handler, Harold “Happy” Hogan (Jon Favreau), Peter and his friends and family are soon apprehended by the Department of Damage Control (DODC), which has now extended its scope into being a federal agency responsible for such matters. Although M. J. and May remain tight-lipped on the matter, Peter’s bungling but loyal friend Ned Leeds (Batalon) and Peter himself don’t exactly help his case, and Peter is left overwhelmed by the barrage of accusations and the public’s awareness of his true identity. Any legal ramifications concerning these matters are quickly swept under the table, however; although Happy and May recently ended their fling (much to Happy’s dismay), the Parkers are given sanctuary at Happy’s secure apartment and an especially good blind lawyer is able to ensure that the charges against Peter are dropped. However, public opinion remains divided; since the world considers Mysterio a hero, many people condemn Spider-Man (which isn’t helped by Jameson’s continuing smear campaign against Peter) and Peter is treated with both awe, fear, and adulation by his fellow pupils. Thankfully, he has M. J. and Ned there to support him through it; despite the revelation uprooting their lives and thrusting them into the spotlight as well, they remain his loyal and understanding companions, which is always sweet to see. While Peter appreciates this, and could probably have adjusted to the major changes in his life with their support, his guilt and shame are magnified when neither her, Ned, or M. J. are able to successfully get into college.

Peter turns to Dr. Strange for help, but muddles the spell and causes reality to fracture as a result.

Because of the media storm and controversy surrounding Peter, no college wants to risk being associated with any of them, and Peter is guilt-ridden at having cost his loved ones the chance of realising their dreams. Yet, even though this has happened, M. J. and Ned still take it on the chin and remain optimistic (or, at least, put on a brave face, in M. J.’s case) and neither of them blame Peter for this, but it does little to alleviate his guilt. Desperate for a solution, Peter seeks out the council of Dr. Strange (who, it is amusingly revealed, is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme thanks to being snapped away for five years; Wong (Benedict Wong) has assumed the position instead, which could potentially be explored to greater humourous effect in Strange’s upcoming movie). Although Wong cautions against it, Dr. Strange offers to cast a complicated and dangerous spell that will erase the knowledge of Peter’s secret identity from everyone in the world; however, Peter starts to panic mid-way through the spell and requests that May, M. J., Ned, and Happy be exempt from the erasure, which causes Strange to lose control of the spell and contain it within a jewel least it wreak havoc upon the world…and the multiverse. The relationship between Dr. Strange and Peter is notably different to what we saw between Peter and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr); Strange isn’t a mentor to Peter, he’s more like a work associate, and he’s willing to help the kid out because of his efforts at restoring half the population, but he’s easily frustrated by Peter’s naivety and ignorance, especially when it comes to the world of magic, and angered that Peter risked tampering with the fabric of reality before properly exploring all of the real-world options available to him or learning to adapt to the changes in his life.

Molina makes a triumphant return as the crazed Doc Ock, who’s intrigued by the presence of the MCU.

Determined to make up for this, Peter tracks down a college professor to plead M. J. and Ned’s case, only to suddenly be attacked by a face very familiar to us but completely alien to him as Dr. Octopus attacks the Queensboro Bridge in a confused rage, ranting at Peter and demanding to know what happened to his “machine”. Though confused by the villain’s sudden appearance, Spider-Man holds his own in impressive fashion thanks to the advanced technology and gadgets built into his Iron Spider costume, saving lives while fending off Doc Ock’s mechanical arms; his genius mind addled by the corrupting influence of his mechanical tentacles, Doc Ock is intrigued by the Iron Spider’s nanotechnology but startled to find a very different face behind the mask. His confusion soon turns to manic frustration when Peter is able to use the suit’s nanotech to take control of Doc Ock’s arms and render him helpless, and Octavius’s rage is only incensed further when he suddenly finds himself a prisoner in a dark catacomb beneath Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Although dismissive of the idea of magic and vehemently rejecting the idea that he needs help or to be fixed, Doc Ock is intrigued to see the evidence of a multiverse surrounding him; not only has he met the MCU version of Peter and M. J., but he shares his prison with Doctor Curt Connors/The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), a monstrous creature Dr. Strange was able to subdue offscreen and who is very clearly from another reality. Ock’s curiosity is only piqued further when he and Peter catch a fleeting glimpse of another Spider-foe Octavius knows all-too-well, Doctor Norman Osbourn/The Green Goblin (Dafoe), before being imprisoned.

Peter finds a number of monstrous, and maniacal, villains have crossed over into the MCU.

Angered at the incursions that have slipped into their world because of Peter’s ignorance, Dr. Strange demands that he and his friends “Scooby-Doo this shit!” and round up the visitors so they can be sent home; he grants Peter a magically-charged gadget that allows him to shoot a web that instantly teleports the villains to the prison, and Peter is forced to turn his suit inside-out after it gets ruined by paint thrown by a mob. Although he initially heads out to track down the Green Goblin, Peter instead finds Max Dillon/Electro (Foxx), who draws power from electricity lines to regain his physical form and alter the nature of his powers. Disorientated at having being violently ripped from his reality, Electro lashes out in anger, and Peter is only saved by the timely intervention of Flint Marko/The Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), who helps Peter subdue and capture Electro. However, upon realising that he’s trapped on another world, the Sandman also grows antagonistic and winds up confined as a result, and Peter learns from each of them the nature of their personalities, their worlds, and their fates: Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and Electro are all fated to die in battle with Spider-Man, and returning them home would seal that fate, and that’s something Peter cannot, in good conscience, allow.

The Green Goblin quickly re-establishes himself as Peter’s greatest threat.

This brings him into conflict with Dr. Strange, who is determined to activate the jewel and send the visitors back home regardless since he’s weighing the fate and stability of the entire multiverse rather than the lives of a few villains. When Peter tries to take the jewel from him, a bit of a scuffle ensues in which we see Peter is able to control his body even while forced into his astral force thanks to this spider-sense, and his knowledge of geometry also allows him to figure out the mirror dimensions, web up Strange, and leave him stranded there while he works to cure the villains. While he has good intentions, and his friends and family support his efforts, and he is even able to convince the villains to trust him to help keep them alive, Peter underestimates the depths of Norman’s psychosis. Rendered a meek, bewildered scientist who is lost and in pain, Norman willingly works alongside Peter to help fix Doc Ock, returning the tentacled menace to his more good-natured self, but Norman’s dark half, the Green Goblin, soon resurfaces to throw Peter’s entire plan out the window. I got a real kick out of seeing Norman and Otto being familiar with each other, and the Lizard and Electro also having a familiarity with each other, it really helped to flesh out their respective worlds and deliver exposition regarding the characters to those who might not be familiar with them. While it’s disappointing that the Sandman was rendered entirely in his sand form for 90% of the movie, and the Lizard was basically a non-factor (there’s even a moment where he is simply confined to a van and forgotten about until the film’s big climax needs to happen), both Doc Ock and the Green Goblin play significant roles in the story. The Goblin wraps the remains of his God-awful suit in a tatter cloak and Dafoe’s demented facial expressions get to shine trough as he operates entirely unmasked throughout the film; he’s also far more vicious and deadly than ever before, cackling in Peter’s face and taunting him at every turn. While all of these returning actors slipped back into their roles perfectly (and even got a chance at redemption, in Electro’s case), Dafoe steals the show ones again as a maniacal and vicious villain who simply wants to cause Peter pain, no matter which Peter it is!

The Nitty-Gritty :
When I first heard that Tom Holland’s third solo movie was going to delve into the multiverse, I have to admit that I was disappointed and annoyed; I enjoyed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Ramsey, and Rothman, 2018) but even with that film I questioned the logic of confusing matters with multidimensional shenanigans. The MCU definitely seems to be gearing towards exploring the multiverse, but I expected this to be confined to Dr. Strange’s solo films and worried that bringing in faces from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb films would just be pandering and confusing. Not only that, but I’m of the firm belief that every role can be recast: Dafoe, Simmons, and Molina were all fantastic in their previous iterations but who’s to say that another actor wouldn’t be just as good, if not better? I expected this third Spider-Man movie would be the perfect excuse to finally bring the Sinister Six to life using the villains already established in the MCU: Adrian Toomes/The Vulture (Michael Keaton), Herman Schultz/The Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine), Mac Gargan/The Scorpion (Michael Mando), and even Mysterio (he was the master of illusions, after all) could all have returned and joined forces with two new villains (ideally an all-new Doc Ock) to collect a bounty on Spider-Man. Hell, I was more excited at the prospect of Charlie Cox returning as Matt Murdock/Daredevil or Spider-Man being forced to go on the run and teaming up with the Netflix Defenders than complicating things with multiverse hijinks, and I still maintain that it makes zero sense to have Eddie Brock/Venom (Tom Hardy) exist in a separate universe when it would have been far simpler to have him be based in San Francisco but still exist in the MCU (like how other MCU heroes and movies take place in different cities but those characters don’t have to be transported through time and space to interact).

Spider-Man butts heads with Dr. Strange regarding how to deal with the villains.

And yet….man, was it a thrill to see Alfred Molina return in the role! Bringing back these iconic actors in their most famous villain roles might be unapologetic fan service but it was fan service executed almost to perfection. I say “almost” as we were one villain short from an iteration of the Sinister Six; Eddie doesn’t show up into the mid-credits scene and he is teleported back where he came from without having any impact on the movie (though he does leave a part of himself behind…) and there was no secret sixth villain added to the roster. However, that’s not to say that the five villains we did get were disappointing…far from it! Since the MCU is different to where he came from, Electro is able to not only reconstitute his body, but also alters his powers; the addition of an Arc Reactor only pushes his powers even further, allowing him to resemble his traditional comic book appearance far closer than in his original iteration. The Sandman may be in sand form for the majority of the film, but he remains an emotionally conflicted character; at first, he helps Peter, and even tries to talk sense into some of the villains, but the idea of being kept from his home world and his daughter pushes him against the web-slinger out of pure self-preservation. This motivation is the driving force behind many of the villains, as they have either accepted their monstrous new powers or have no wish to be sent away to die. In the case of Doc Ock and the Lizard, this is due to technology or mutation clouding their judgement; when Peter repairs the inhibitor chip on Ock’s neck, he becomes much more agreeable and even helps Peter to hold off the villains in the finale, and when the Lizard ingests the cure and returns to his human form, he returns to his more docile personality.

Peter is devastated by loss and pushed to the edge by the Green Goblin.

The same is also true of the Green Goblin, however Norman’s psychosis is far more manipulative, calculating, and violent. He has no desire to return home to meet his end and absolutely brutalises Peter to keep him from trying to cure him; the Goblin quickly re-establishes himself as Peter’s most dangerous and notorious foe not only by swaying the other villains into turning on Peter, but delivering a massive beatdown on him that leaves him helpless to keep his Aunt May from harm. Although Peter manages to shield May from the Goblin’s pumpkin bomb, the glider blindsides her and leaves her with a fatal wound, and she tragically dies in his arms, leaving him heartbroken and with her final words of encouragement ringing in his ears: “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” May’s death devastates Peter, and drives him into a quest for revenge against the Goblin; no longer merely satisfied to cure or help the villains, he wishes nothing less than the Goblin’s death at his hands, and it’s a true moment of despair for the young Avenger. No Way Home really puts Peter through the wringer, pushing his morals and optimistic outlook to breaking point, and really burdens him with the guilt of having indirectly caused his mother-figure’s death by trying to help the villains rather than allowing them to return home and potentially die as fated.

Spider-Man gets some unexpected help to fend off the combined threat of these multiversal villains.

Desperate to find Peter and give their support, M. J. and Ned mess about with one of Dr. Strange’s sling-rings and discover the presence of two more familiar faces who slipped through the dimensional barriers and are determined to help and let me tell you…I have never seen a cinema explode into rapturous applause before but my screening blew the roof off when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire made their long-awaited, and long-rumoured, return to their famous roles. Both arrived due to Strange’s spell and have been trying to track down MCU-Peter, and both have arrived from later in their careers, finally giving us a coda to their stories: Webb-Peter reveals that he struggled to cope after failing to save Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and almost lost himself to his rage at one point, and that he has thrown himself into his duties as Spider-Man to cope. Raimi-Peter is noticeably older, but still in good shape, and, though haunted by his failures and losses, maintains that he and M. J. (Kirsten Dunst) found a way to carry on). The scenes with the three Peters are an obvious highlight and they share some fantastic line sand banter together; Webb-Peter is elated to have found “brothers” and they work together to synthesise cures for the villains based on their previous experiences and scientific acumen. They also share stories of their adventures and powers, with Webb-Peter and MCU-Peter both being astounded (and a little disturbed) by Raimi-Peter’s organic webbing, Raimi-Peter extending a much-needed pep talk to Webb-Peter, and both Webb- and Raimi-Peter being impressed by MCU-Peter’s space adventures. Seeing them work together, offering MCU-Peter support and understanding, is fantastic as Webb-Peter delivers an emotional soliloquy about his failures (and gets to make amends for it by catching M. J. in a truly emotional moment) and Raimi-Peter relates the messages passed on to him by his beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), and MCU-Peter is even able to help them get past being solo heroes and work together using his experiences of teamwork as an Avenger.

The multiversal breach rages out of control, leading to Peter making a selfless sacrifice…

With three Spider-Man working together, the Lizard, the Sandman, and Electro are all subdued and returned to their human forms, presumably alleviating them of their madness and violent tendencies, in a mind-blowing final confrontation around the Statue of Liberty (which is being refurbished to hold Captain America’s shield aloft). Despite the best efforts of his alternative counterparts, though, MCU-Peter is driven into a rage and attacks the Green Goblin mercilessly and even prepares to deliver a fatal blow with his own glider, only for Raimi-Peter to intervene (and get stabbed in the back for his efforts). Ultimately, MCU-Peter delivers a cure, rather than a kill, to his newest foe and Norman is left an emotional and remorseful wreck, though this pales in comparison to the threat unleashed by one of his pumpkin bombs as Strange’s spell is blown free and miscellaneous, vaguely-defined villains and intruders from all across the multiverse threaten to converge on the MCU. Dr. Strange struggles to contain the spell and, determined to make amends for his previous mistake, MCU-Peter decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and has Strange cast a new spell that will make everyone, everywhere, forget all about Peter Parker. He thanks his counterparts for their help and bids an emotional farewell to M. J. and Ned, promising to find them and rekindle their friendship/relationship after the spell is cast, but hesitates upon seeing how happy and better off M. J. and Ned are without him in their lives. Ultimately, Peter chooses to leave them be and fashions a new, 100% comic accurate costume for himself using his counterparts’ suits as inspiration and finally gets his big, triumphant final swing as he begins a new life safe in the knowledge that no one knows his true identity any more…and that he’s not alone in the vast, dangerous multiverse.

The Summary:
After viewing that first trailer and seeing Doc Ock show up once again, my mind was pretty much blown when it came to this movie; it raised so many questions, many of them being concerns that Tom’s third solo outing would get overwhelmed or bogged down by multiverse shenanigans and blatant fan service. Subsequent trailers helped shed a bit more light on the film, and I began to calm down a bit and predict that these returning characters wouldn’t be as integral to the narrative as many were making out. This turned out to be true, to a degree; the villains are definitely a big part of the film, but Spider-Man: No Way Home still does a fantastic job of focusing on Peter, his relationships, his growth, and his identity crisis. Could we have seen a grittier, more grounded film that dealt with him being on the run and learning to adapt to his tumultuous new public life? For sure, yes, and I would also argue that many of these villains could have been recast and reimagined as MCU characters and it would have worked just as well, but again there is such a thrill to be had at seeing these actors return to their iconic roles and, in many cases, reinvigorate their characters with the benefit of hindsight.

No Way Home successfully juggles its multiversal aspects to focus on Peter’s current crisis.

I loved that Peter’s focus was on others the entire time; his selflessness is a driving force of his character, and every decision he makes is to try and benefit either his friends or family or to save lives. This is motivated by his guilt, of course, as they would only be in danger because of him, and he remains a flawed character trying to make amends for his mistakes, which is the quintessential essence of Spider-Man for me. More than any other Spider-Man, MCU-Peter tries to help even the most villainous characters rather than condemn them to death, it was truly heart-breaking to see him o devastated by Aunt May’s death that he was willing to cross that line. Of course, the undisputable highlight is seeing Tom Holland share the screen with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield; while it’s painfully obvious that all three actors weren’t on set or in the studio at the same time for every shot (whether due to Covid or scheduling), it’s still a blast to see them interacting, hearing those iconic themes, and seeing them in action. Once I accepted that No Way Home was going to be a multiverse adventure, my hope was that the film would go all-out to deliver on its potential…and I’m happy to say that it went above and beyond! Action-packed, emotional, and amusing throughout, Spider-Man: No Way Home may very well be in the top-tier of Spider-Man adventures and I am very excited to see where Peter’s journey takes him now that his status quo has been so dramatically changed.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Have you seen Spider-Man: No Way Home? Did I completely spoil the film for you? Were you excited at the idea of iconic Spider-Man villains making their return or do you think that the multiverse stuff should stay in the Dr. Strange movies? What did you think to the way the film handled the public’s knowledge of Spider-Man’s identity and would you have preferred to see this explored a little more in-depth? Which of the returning villains was your favourite, and how excited were you to see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield return (and Charlie Cox finally be incorporated into the movies)? Were you disappointed that we came so close to the Sinister Six and that Venom didn’t have a role in the film? Where do you see the MCU-Spider-Man’s story going from here? Whatever your thoughts on Spider-Man: No Way Home, sign up to leave a comment below or leave a comment on my social media (but be mindful of spoiling it for others!)