by John Larkin
It has always been a rarity to witness a film released to such universal praise from both critics and filmgoers that it becomes a cultural phenomenon. In my lifetime I can recall being a kid in 1994 and THE LION KING being quite an event. A few years later TITANIC dominated the cultural landscape - I specifically remember going to see it in theaters because it was so jam-packed that me and my family were forced to sit in the first row. I'll also never forget the otherworldly roar of non-stop laughter while the second AUSTIN POWERS film THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME played on movie screens in the summer of 1999. Experiences like those elevate what it means to see a film - art and entertainment make a leap from being just a product to becoming an emotional and communal event, like being at a high stakes sports playoff game. And while I like to bask in those memories from time to time, I also yearn for a nostalgia that I never actually experienced - like having seen STAR WARS when it opened in 1977 or THE EXORCIST in 1973. There is something so fascinating about a work of art that can effect so many different people in such a powerful way.
Such is the case with the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME - a film that consistently delivers on every level wether it's being funny, romantic, dramatic, action packed, mysterious or serving up an easter egg or fan service moment.
I attended the first IMAX showing at my local multiplex and there was a buzz in the air I haven't sensed anything like in years, if ever. There has been a tremendous amount of hype for this film for nearly two years now and going in as, not a hardcore fan but more a casual one, I'll admit there are emotional depths that I just don't have for certain aspects of the comic book world. That quickly changed almost instantaneously once the film began. When you're surrounded by a couple hundred people that love the MCU so passionately that energy becomes infectious and it becomes near effortless to channel the same joy around you.
While I think the entire film is fantastic - playing out like a great symphony - it's the third act that really wowed me and it's where the audience's joy for the material literally exploded out into the theater. Michael Giacchino's emotional score brought me to tears more than once and Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spiderman delivers an exceptional performance with his character facing trials much more difficult and complex than ever before. Holland's Spider-Man makes a choice in the third act that catapults his Peter Parker into a new level of maturity that both stunned and really moved me. Ending his story here would be extremely fitting but not surprisingly, the next installment is already in the works.
My experience seeing SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME in theaters on opening night will forever be imprinted on my memory and will stand as one of the best in theater experiences of my life. I've started watching a slew of "audience reaction" videos to all the big moments, being shared from movie theaters across the globe and I can say with full confidence that we are in the midst of a new cinematic phenomenon. It's something that every film lover should rejoice in as we are still crawling out from the damage the pandemic has done to the movie theater going experience.
It's deeply ironic now, looking back at Martin Scorsese's now infamous comments on Marvel Films not being "true cinema", considering that it's non-other a Marvel film that has both demanded and uplifted the communal experience of going to the theater to experience the thrill of watching a film.
Maybe Marty should go check this one out, he may be surprised with what he finds.