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4 Things Parents Should Know about Spider-Man: No Way Home

4 Things Parents Should Know about <em>Spider-Man: No Way Home</em>

Peter is a talented teenage boy who wants what most boys his age want: friends, a girlfriend and anonymity.

At night, he fights crime under the protection of a red and blue suit. The public knows him as “Spider-Man.” But in the daytime, he’s a regular high school student who is striving for good grades while he hangs with his girlfriend, MJ, and his best friend, Ned.

Peter’s two worlds never collide.

Until now. That’s because Spider-Man’s nemesis Mysterio blows his cover by telling the news media the truth – “Spider-Man’s name is Peter Parker!” Even worse: The news media falsely reports that Spider-Man is to be blamed for a wave of murders and mayhem.

Overnight, Peter, MJ and Ned are blackballed. Because of that, colleges reject their applications.

But Peter has a plan. He’ll get his superhero friend Doctor Strange to cast a spell to erase everyone’s memory of him. The world will forget Peter is Spider-Man!

Unfortunately, though, the spell goes awry, and multiple villains from other universes are released into our world.

Can Spider-Man/Peter Parker save the day once again?

The new movie Spider-Man: No Way Home (PG-13) tells this latest saga about our favorite spider hero. It stars Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Zendaya as MJ, Jacob Batalon as Ned and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.

Here are four things you should know:

1. It Begins Where Far From Home Ended

Like Superman and Batman, Peter Parker/Spider-Man has always practiced his heroics anonymously. Thus, many of Peter’s friends – even some of his best friends – don’t know his identity. This all changed during a mid-credit scene in the 2019 movie Spider-Man: Far From Home, when Quentin Beck/Mysterio told the truth about Peter. Exacerbating the situation, claimed that Spider-Man is not a hero, but instead a villain who is secretly responsible for a recent crime wave.

The opening of Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up with that scene, showing Spider-Man’s reaction the moment after his true identity was made known to his New York City fans – many of whom now believe he is a bad guy. The media even labels him “Public Enemy No. 1.”

No Way Home takes place about eight months after the events of Endgame in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

This is the eighth live-action stand-alone Spider-Man movie from the last two decades. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield starred as Spider-Man in those earlier films.

2. It’s All About Second Chances, Regret and Infotainment

Sure, Spider-Man is tempted by vengeance from time to time, but he is largely driven by selflessness and an innate desire to save lives. “Your weakness, Peter, is morality,” a bad guy tells him in No Way Home.

Peter takes his altruism to the next level in No Way Home, believing he can turn the movie’s five villains (Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman, Lizard and Electro) into good guys. When Doctor Strange warns Peter about the dangers of such an experiment, Peter rebels and takes matters into his own hands. 

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” he says. It’s a message at the core of Scripture, even if Peter’s strategy involves not a change of heart but instead a unique chemical potion created specifically for each villain. Supposedly, that potion will change their hearts. (In a reflection of the real world, some villains tell Peter they’d rather have evil powers than be good: “These are not curses. They’re gifts.”) 

The film spotlights tragedy and regret. After Peter blames himself for the death of a companion, two new friends share their own stories of the trials of life. (“It took me a long time to learn to get through that darkness,” one says.) Soon, Peter is tempted by feelings of revenge.

The movie raises a series of post-credit discussion questions: How do you move past tragedy? How do you forgive those you hate? Does everyone deserve a second chance? Peter’s desire for anonymity raises another thought-provoking question: Would you rather be famous or have friends? (Doctor Strange’s solution to Peter’s problems comes with a tradeoff: None of Peter’s friends will remember him.)   

Finally, No Way Home subtly critiques our infotainment-driven society – a society of fear and smear that often leads to cancel culture. J. Jonah Jameson of the fictitious is outrageous, but so are the many TV talking heads in the real world who, too often, are driven by ratings, not facts and fairness. In No Way Home, The Daily Bugle falsely claims that Parker is a murderous villain. Heck, they even have (doctored) video proof. Yet it’s all fake.

3. It’s (Rightly) Rated PG-13

No Way Home is rated PG-13 for sequences of action/violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.

The violence mostly stays in the realm of previous Spider-Man films: Spidy punches and kicks villains until they submit. The bad guys destroy things. We see lots of explosions. The villains aren’t all that scary-looking: One is composed of sand and another of electricity. One looks like an adult lizard. 

But a few scenes include content that could trouble young children: A character dies, and blood is seen. Spider-Man, in a fit of rage, repeatedly punches a villain in the face, apparently with the intent to kill. There’s discussion of a villain having come back to life as a ghost. Of course, No Way Home includes Doctor Strange, which means we see magic and hear plenty of discussion about spells. 

No Way Home includes a moderate amount of language (details below), including an interesting change in the dialogue of Doctor Strange from the trailer, which had him saying “crap,” twice, when the film replaces both with “s--t.” 

The film’s suggestive content takes place in the opening moments, when Aunt May walks in on MJ and Peter, who is wearing only underwear after changing out of his suit. (May falsely believes they had been having sex, and we briefly hear a discussion about sex, too. Actually, Peter had been out fighting crime.)  

4. It’s Packed with Surprises and Cameos

No Way Home has the types of jaw-dropping surprises and cameos that lead to spontaneous applause in a movie theater. (That’s what happened in mine.) They’re the types of surprises that aren’t included in movie trailers but can be easily found if you (accidentally) dig too deep on Google. Don’t worry: I won’t spoil them. For Spider-Man fans, they’re on the same level as Darth Vader’s “I am your father” moment.   

Like its two predecessors, No Way Home shines because it explores Peter’s high school life – and the hilarious fallout of a now-public superhero attending a public school. Crowds and reporters gather around the entrance, hoping to get a glimpse of him. Some students like him. Others, though, don’t. (After all, the media says he’s a villain.) A few of Peter’s classmates even assemble a hallway trophy case to display mementos from their famous colleague. 

The film also answers a question many have raised over the years: How does Spider-Man get from place to place – in wide-open country – when there are no buildings? It’s easy: He swings from electric transmission towers.  

If you’re curious, No Way Home also includes mid-credit and post-credit scenes. 

At nearly two hours and 30 minutes, No Way Home isn’t a short film. But in an era when superhero movies are seemingly as prominent as clouds in the sky, No Way Home stands near the top. It’s one of the best superhero movies of the past two decades. 

Language details: S--t (5), OMG (7), a-- (5), h-ll (5), d--n (3), GD (1), screw (1), an unfinished “what the” (1).

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Amy Sussman/Staff

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.