Nostalgia and heart is what defines the third installment in the MCU Spiderman film.

The film starts with Peter’s identity revealed to the world, and what follows in a world of mobile phones, paparazzi and The Daily Bugle – both fame and ignominy. One fallout is the rejection by MIT of not just Peter’s college application but also of friends MJ (a charming Zendaya) and Ned (a winsome Batalon). It’s this that ultimately drives Peter to ask Dr Strange to turn the clock back to the time before his identity was revealed or, if not that, to make people forget who he was.

spider-man no way home
Benedict Cumberbatch

Superheroes nowadays can’t just have fun and beat the bad guys. There has to be a larger purpose to their gift. What Peter chooses at this point is set to have consequences that he doesn’t really think through – or the film even lets him face.

The creatures who step out of the parallel universes into ours are a lot more fun. Molina has the meatiest screen presence and gets his own delectable fight on a bridge, complete with dangling cars and swinging men and women. Dafoe largely snarls and gnarls, but when they do get together, the actors who personify two of the greatest Super-Men villains, remain vile but now are also much funnier.

spider manno way home dr octopus
Alfred Molina

The same is true of two other creatures who step in through a portal into our universe. The shrieks with which the cinema audience greets them say all about how much they have been missed despite the years in the middle. Holland, whose Spider-Man has always been just one of the many Avengers, holds up well when called to be one of a team.

The editing is wobbly and rushed in several scenes but is far from capable in denying the fun that everyone has been seeking for.

The dialogue is witty and funny, Holland, Zendaya and Batalon are believable as kids who find themselves often out of their depth, the battles are coherently staged, a mirror dimension of the world that Dr Strange builds in one such clash is just wow, Spider-Man is satisfyingly nerdy (“What’s cooler than magic? Math”), and the past is adroitly linked with the present.

Yes, No Way Home is all that you have been hearing and talking about. Yes, it gives you bangs to the power of three for your buck. Yes, it is gratifying to indulge in your favourite Spider-Men films of the recent past once more. And yes,Holland remains as likable and eager as ever.

But when the dust settles on this metaverse of multiple villains and many heroes, which Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange conjures out of some very furiously moving hands and not seemingly as engaged thoughts, it’s unclear what all that was about.

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