“With great power comes great responsibility.”
These six words are words that every iteration of Spider-Man must learn at some point during his time as a superhero. From Tobey Maguire in the early 2000s, to Andrew Garfield in the early 2010s and to our current Spider-Man Tom Holland, there are a plethora of life lessons to learn. Unfortunately, when you have the powers Peter Parker has your life lessons are a lot harder to learn, and generally involve losing the people around you who you love.
Spider-Man: No Way Home has been an immediate and smashing success across international box offices. The blockbuster which stars all three actors who have played Spider-Man in recent years – Holland, Garfield, and Maguire – has earned more than $1.5 billion at the global box office to become the eighth highest-grossing film of all time.
The movie did a phenomenal job not only wrapping up Holland’s MCU trilogy, but also gave satisfying scenes to both Maguire and Garfield’s Peters that succeed in wrapping up their respective story arcs. Below, we’ll explore how Spider-Man: No Way Home wrapped up three generations of Spider-Men.
Peter 1/Tom Holland’s Spider-Man
The most important thing Spider-Man: No Way Home succeeds in, in my opinion, is taking Peter 1 (Holland) out from under the mantle of Tony Stark. There is, of course, references to Stark throughout the movie – Happy Hogan is present, after all, and as a result Peter 1 uses a portable Stark lab to begin the process of curing the multiversal villains that have come through. However, this is the first movie in the MCU Spidey trilogy where the villains have nothing to do with Tony Stark. In Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home both Adrian Toomes and Quinten Beck attribute their rise to villainy due to Tony Stark. In addition, by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home nobody knows who Peter Parker is or that he is Spider-Man, which means the depth of his relationship with Stark is likely also forgotten.
Leaving Tony Stark in the past and moving forward as his own individual will give Peter 1 more room to spread his own metaphorical wings and become the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that audiences have been waiting to see from him. Rather than the majority of his focus being on helping the Avengers, Peter 1 now has the opportunity to help where he wants to help most: his home, New York City. As Spider-Man: No Way Home concluded Peter 1’s time in high school, we will also hopefully see his time as a broke college student living in a small and tarnished NYC apartment in a future trilogy. Unfortunately for Peter, he will have to do this alone as his beloved MJ and best friend Ned no longer know who he is, and the rest of his family is seemingly gone (with the exception of Uncle Ben, who we have yet to meet in the MCU or receive confirmation that he is dead).
The MCU Spider-Man trilogy took Peter Parker from a young boy with selfish desires dreaming of being an Avenger no matter what it takes, to a teenager handling the responsibilities that come along with being a hero and how that impacts his personal life, to a young man realizing the costs of doing the right thing for the greater good and the selflessness that is required when you’re a hero.
Peter 2/Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man
One of the most fulfilling scenes from Spider-Man: No Way Home was the laboratory scene where the Peter Parkers worked on cures for the multiversal villains who are really making Peter 1’s life a lot worse, if that was even possible. Not only did we get a subtle nod to the infamous meme, we also got a beautiful scene in which Maguire’s Peter (Peter 2) has an emotional conversation with Garfield’s Peter (Peter 3) about not giving up on love. In the conversation, Peter 2 reveals that he and his MJ were able to ultimately fix their relationship after putting work into it and that the two of them have a happy family together.
Spider-Man: No Way Home also pushes Peter 2 into an older, mentor-like position with the other Peters, particularly Peter 1. Peter 2 is ultimately who prevents Peter 1 from killing Norman Osborn/Green Goblin out of revenge for his recently murdered Aunt May. In Maguire’s trilogy, Peter 2 kills Norman with his own glider, which leads to his best and only true friend turning against him and seeking revenge for his father. Clearly still riddled with guilt from this, Peter 2 will not allow Peter 1 to kill the Green Goblin, kneeling before him and stopping the glider before it can impale Norman. Peter 1, who has already killed one person in Spider-Man: Far From Home through no real fault of his own, is saved from a life of guilt and not being able to hold back his anger thanks to the quick-thinking of Peter 2.
Additionally, Peter 2 is able to get some closure with Norman and Otto Octavius at the end of the movie. He is able to save Norman from dying and ensure he gets the cure that keeps the Goblin personality away, which he completes despite the fact Norman stabs him. Otto and Peter 2 also have a heartfelt moment where Otto, free of the mind control of his mechanical arms, finally recognizes Peter 2 and in an emotional moment tells him “Peter my boy … you’re all grown up.”
Peter 3/Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man
In one of the most emotionally stirring moments of the movie, Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man receives the opportunity to right one of his wrongs and do for Zendaya’s MJ what he couldn’t do for Emma Stone’s Gwen. As MJ plummets off of construction equipment at the Statue of Liberty, Holland’s Spider-Man is pushed out of the way by Green Goblin’s glider. Things look bad for MJ, until the Peter 3 catches her mid-air, using his webs to lower the both of them to safety. He wasn’t the only one crying, certainly … it sounded to me like everyone around me was reduced to tears by seeing Peter 3 get his moment.
Not only does Peter 3 receive the opportunity to save another Spider-Man’s love when he couldn’t save his own, he is also given the chance to save Dr. Kurt Conners and Max Dillon, both of which he was unable to do in his own movies. All he ever wanted was to help the pair who found themselves horribly mutated, and at the end of the movie thankfully both of the protagonists have been cured of their ailments. Max and Peter also share a conversation, where Peter once again assures Max that he isn’t a nobody.
In his original movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, we see that Peter 3 clearly has issues with being bullied (by a much more traditional jock-like Flash). In addition to the bullying, it is also clear that Peter 3 has difficulty creating and maintaining meaningful relationships – the only friendship we see outside of Gwen Stacy is Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, though clearly neither of these end in an ideal fashion for Peter 3. Peter 3 has an interesting backstory as well, with his parents opting to leave him with Aunt May and Uncle Ben as a child for his protection, which obviously left Peter 3 with some abandonment issues and an overall negative outlook on family life.
Spider-Man: No Way Home seeks to remedy this crushing loneliness Peter 3 has endured throughout his life by giving him two brother-like figures, the other versions of himself. Peter 3 is caring and emotional toward the other Peters, particularly Peter 1. Peter 3 spends the duration of his time in the movie helping Peter 1, cracking Peter 2’s back (swinging-related back pains are a real issue for Spider-Men, apparently), and ultimately telling the other Spider-Men he loves them (which was a line improvised by the wonderfully talented Garfield). Overall, Peter 3 received the chance to save another Peter’s love, to save the antagonists from his movies that he couldn’t in the past, and to not feel so alone in the big multiverse.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is coming to digital soon, and you can find our other coverage for the movie here.