After an interminable pandemic pause, the MCU bounced back recently with two Marvel movies released in rapid succession. But if new characters like Shang-Chi and the Eternals left fans wanting a reunion with the beloved old Marvel gang, then Spider-Man: No Way Home is the comfort food they’ve been craving for the last two years, and an absolute doozy of an entry in the Spider-Verse.

Opening with the cliffhanger conclusion of Far from Home – in which the duplicitous Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), aka Mysterio, frames Peter (Tom Holland) for the drone attack on London and reveals Spider-Man’s real identity to the entire world with a dying breath – No Way Home spends its first half hour following Peter’s attempts to clear his name as public enemy number one, avoid the circus that comes with being the most famous person in the world, and secure a spot at MIT.

Seeking help from Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a spell that would wipe everyone’s memory of him clean, Peter learns that this magic bullet would also include his friends, leading him to disrupt the spellcasting. Consequently, a door to the multiverse is opened, unleashing some old foes from the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy and the Amazing Spider-Man films – including Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), aka Green Goblin, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), aka Electro. (Fortunately, Topher Grace’s maligned Venom doesn’t put in an appearance.)

Commanded by Strange to “Scooby-Doo this crap”, Peter attempts to put things right with the help of MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). But as events escalate out of control, the price of success will come with a terrible personal cost for Peter Parker…

Introducing threads from past Spider-Man films into the MCU version is pure fan service, but it works. In fact, some of the characters are better utilised here than they were in their respective films, while others remind us just how good they were – Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is arguably the greatest villain in the cinematic Spider-Verse. And if you think you’ve seen them all in the trailer, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

As its portentous title hints, No Way Home not only concludes the ‘Home’ trilogy but also represents a watershed moment for Peter Parker. The previous two films saw him struggling to reconcile life as a high school teenager with that of a superhero – a naïve kid who frequently makes bad decisions with the best intentions. This one sees him grow up fast and understand the importance of that old adage, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Where many superhero films tend to sink under the weight of an abundance of villains, No Way Home deftly juggles its character roster with the confidence we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios – there’s a LOT going on, but it never threatens to become unwieldy. And once again, it’s anchored by the winning ensemble of Holland’s Peter, Zendaya’s MJ and Batalon’s Ned (whose mum gets a scene-stealing moment).

A veritable greatest hits package from the Sony and Marvel Spider-Verse, with old friends and foes reintroduced, ample Easter eggs, and a couple of end credits’ scenes that drove the preview audience wild, Spider-Man: No Way Home might well be the ultimate Spider-Man movie.

In cinemas: December 16
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Jon Watts

Spider-Man at JB Hi-Fi