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Warning: this contains LOTS of Spider-Man: No Way Home spoilers.
Oh, an invite to the press screening to see the new Spider-Man, I think as I scroll through my email. I wouldn’t say it’s an excited thought. It’s an observation, intoned with the same amount of interest as someone reading a restaurant menu aloud.
With dead-eyed resolve, I RSVP to the press screening.
Just a sad little man going to his little superhero movie.
There was a time when I loved these sorts of movies. Breathed them. I saw Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in the theater seven times. Those were the days. Remember the days of unabashed youth, when movies stirred genuine excitement? Remember when you didn’t know everything that was going to happen in a movie? Remember joy?
I drive down to Mission Valley AMC cinemas in my 10-year-old Toyota Corolla. The paint on the car is peeling like a sunburned back. “It’s not a looker,” the mechanic had said last time I brought it in. “But it’s got a good heart.” It’s also got a good heater. By the time I roll into the underground parking lot, I’m sweating like a hog.
Walking through the mall, I see a young couple, leaning against a shuttered kiosk and making out. Two happy people with so much in their lives to look forward to. I hurry past them to see my little Spider-Man movie. I do a little half-jog to pick up the pace. I’m 37 years old.
I tell the usher that I’m here for the press screening of “Spider-Man: Halfway Home” because I don’t know what the movie is called [it’s called Spider-Man No Way Home], and the usher points me toward the theater.
I’m walking in that direction when I see MacGuffins, the little makeshift bar in the AMC lobby. “Ope!” I say aloud, and pivot. God bless MacGuffins. If I could be a regular at any bar, it’d be this janky booth in the middle of a movie theater lobby. The bartender can’t be older than 21, and it reminds me of when you try to throw a fancy party in college and someone volunteers to play bartender.
I order a whiskey coke. The guy asks what kind of whiskey I want and I say “The house whiskey.”
“So Jack Daniels?”
He eyeballs a healthy amount of whiskey in the plastic cup and charges me $14. Doing the lord’s work. He asks me what movie I’m seeing and I tell him. “Oh, even theater employees don’t get to see that until tomorrow,” he says, and it makes me feel special. I tip him extra for this little piece of intel.
Sip sip sip. It’s a good whiskey coke. One of the best I’ve had in a long time. A little treat for the cinephile.
Inside the theater, there are two security guards flanked at the exits because god knows why. I think they’re here to stop anyone from recording or tweeting spoilers. My suspicions are confirmed when the theater darkens and the Spider-Man actors deliver a pre-filmed message telling us all not to spoil what we’re about to see. What a world. Our capacity to appreciate art is now boiled down to whether it’ll surprise us or not. People won’t wear masks or get vaxxed to keep our neighbors safe, but they’ll pull together to keep major movie studios’ secrets.
The movie starts with a voiceover explaining things that happened in the last movie, which I didn’t see. Spider-Man killed Mysterio, from the sound of it. Is Spider-Man good or bad? It’s the age-old question.A white-haired, older woman sitting a few seats down from me wonders if someone “can turn it down.”
Daredevil makes a cameo as Peter’s lawyer at the beginning and people in the theater cheer. Daredevil catches a fast-moving brick thrown through the window and Peter asks Daredevil how he did that (Peter doesn’t know he’s Daredevil) and Daredevil says “I’m Daredevil.” Just kidding, he doesn’t say that, but I can’t remember what he really says.
Daredevil takes care of Peter’s legal issues—the specifics of which I can’t really remember, but problem solved, I guess.
But then MJ and Peter’s friend Ned can’t get into MIT because of their association with Spider-Man. So Peter goes to Dr. Strange and wants him to turn back time before people knew he was Spider-Man. Dr. Strange says something about not having the “time stone” but can probably do a spell or some shit. Then he makes everyone forget Peter is Spider-Man, but while he’s doing this spell, Peter’s all like “no, MJ should remember” and then “Ned should also remember. Oh and also May.” And it’s like ahhh and it’s really pissing Dr. Strange off and he can’t concentrate on his spell. There’s a big boom and Dr. Strange tells Peter to leave.
Then as Peter is swinging around, Dr. Octopus comes and they fight, and after a little while Doc Oc is like, “You’re not Peter,” implying that he’s not the Peter played by Toby Maguire in 2004’s Spider-Man 2, and somehow Peter transports him back to Dr. Strange’s basement where they hold him in a magic prison. I can’t remember who, but someone tells Peter that they must’ve made cracks in the multiverse when they did the spell and now villains from other movies I mean multiverses can make cameos I mean fight Spider-Man.
They trap the Green Goblin, The Lizard, Sandman and Electro in Dr. Strange’s basement, and Peter learns that they all died in other movies I mean universes, and he gets sad. “I should stop this,” he says, basically.
But then Dr. Strange is like, “No, they had their chance,” and Spider-Man and Dr. Strange fight in a mirror world where Dr. Strange makes trains, like, twist around like DNA and it’s all crazy, but then Peter says aloud “I know geometry” and he shoots a web at a calculated spot and the web gets multiplied and ties Dr. Strange up.
I look at both security guards and they’re both really into this.
I leave to use the bathroom, so I miss the next few minutes. When I return, I pick a different row because who knows how many more times I’ll need to piss during the film, and I don’t want to further upset the white haired woman. Pretty sure each of these Marvel movies are three hours long.
Now with Dr. Strange out of the picture, Peter sets out on a quest to cure the villains of their evil. I don’t really know how this is supposed to work—maybe that was discussed when I used the bathroom.
He cures Doc Oc, who seems pretty stoked about it. It’s a different story with the others, especially Green Goblin, who’s a real asshole about it and kills Aunt May.
Peter’s super sad about May’s death and he runs away, so MJ and Ned use one of Dr. Strange’s rings to look for Spider-Man. They open a portal that shows Spider-Man, but when he runs through it, it’s Andrew Garfield. The people sitting behind me whoo really loud.
Ned and MJ try this trick again and this time it’s Toby Maguire—the original Spider-Man in my book. A little sound escapes my mouth, like a “yeeee” because I’m excited.
Then all the Spider-Men team up and do experiments. It sure is nice to see all these actors doing science together. That’s probably the underlying theme of these Spider-Man movies—the triumph of science. Along the way, they address the elephant in the room by wondering why Toby Maguire’s webs shoot out of his skin while the other two Spider-Men had to make web shooters. They ask if he can shoot webs out of other parts of his body, and we all know they’re all talking about his penis.
The three Spider-Men team up to fight the villains and it’s like whoosh, wha-pow, wha-chng and they beat the bad guys.
But then Dr. Strange’s spell is going out of control and he can’t fix the cracks between the multiverses, so Peter says something along the lines of, “This is all because they know I’m Spider-Man!” to which Dr. Strange concurs. They try the spell again and have everyone forget he’s Spider-Man, which honestly, would’ve saved us this whole movie if Peter hadn't been such a dick during the first attempt.
Dr. Strange does the spell, and the screen maybe goes white, and then fades back in as Peter walks into the coffee shop where MJ works. She doesn’t recognize him, but he sees that she and Ned got into MIT, so he’s happy about that.
The credits roll for a minute before cutting to a post-credit scene and it looks like we’re going to get Venom in the next one.
On my way out, I hear someone say, “Oh my god!” and another person say, “That was incredible!” These aren’t my reactions. I don’t feel anything. I wanted to feel the same as when I was 17. I wanted more than cameos. I wanted more than a spectacle with no stakes, something that Dr. Strange couldn’t just reset with a magic spell. I wanted a spark, a light, a sliver of hope, and all I got was my expectations met.
I look over at the MacGuffins booth, and it’s dark.
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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.
Besides the gonzo journalism I now appreciate and expect from you, this one is especially funny. Was it intentionally a take on “spoilers” by your review being a scene by scene retelling of the entire movie? Also, that movie sounds so bad and boring that you confirmed for me why I don’t like those stupid sequels of sequels and their dumbed down “surprises.” In fact, your condemnation of the film industry and it’s capitalizing on the lack of imagination or intellectual capacity of their audiences was also spot on. And zero comment on the horribly punny name of the bar at the theaters, because really what could you say? This review was clearly better than the movie.