After months of cagey denials and misdirects, Spider-Man: No Way Home does, in fact, feature three Spider-Mans. Yep, in addition to the quintet of villains from earlier Spider-Man films, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield suit up alongside the newest iteration of the wall-crawler. Seeing Tom Holland and his predecessors in costume together feels primed for endless in-theater cheers—like a live-action version of the Spider-Mans pointing meme. It not only works really well within the context of the film, but as the culmination of 20 years of Spider-Man films, bringing closure to three generations of Spider-Man.
The Amazing Peter Parker Chemistry
Unlike the villains, we don’t encounter Garfield and Maguire’s Spider-Mans as we left them. They’re older and more weathered, providing a much-needed perspective to their younger counterpart as he reaches his lowest point since the radioactive spider bite. (Which the film confirms is also part of MCU Spidey’s origin story.) But after getting over the excitement of seeing the three together on-screen, it’s genuinely impressive how natural their appearances fit into the story.
There’s a world in which this all feels really gimmicky. And I, for one, was really worried Maguire and Garfield would feel shoehorned into the film. But when they’re all together, comparing Spidey powers and swapping crime-fighting stories, it’s easy to see why each of the actors makes such a great Peter Parker.
Spider-Man is a hero with so much heart he’s probably shed the most on-screen tears of any superhero—Marvel or DC. His eagerness and empathy are what make him so beloved. And No Way Home maximizes this in the best possible ways. Even from different universes, and at different stages of their lives, they’re each quintessentially Peter Parker. And in ushering Holland’s into his next stage, we get to swing back and check in with two old friends, bringing redemption and a chance to say goodbye.
Redemption for Andrew Garfield
It is bittersweet seeing Garfield sling webs once more. His franchise crumbling prematurely gave Marvel the opening to stick the character—and Tom Holland—in the MCU. However, its abrupt ending left the era a bit of a festering wound in the overarching Spider-Man legacy. So it feels fitting that while Garfield’s Peter possesses the same witty, frenetic energy we remember, it’s now darker and more jaded. But finally in No Way Home, he gets a proper send-off. Including facing his most devastating loss… and this time getting it right.
Green Goblin prevents Holland’s Spider-Man from saving MJ as she falls from scaffolding at the Statue of Liberty, purposely mirroring Gwen’s fall in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But Garfield’s Peter swings into action and catches her in time. Visibly emotional, he asks if she’s okay. And wow is it an incredibly moving, cathartic scene. Gwen’s death is one of the defining moments of Garfield’s tenure. But that 30 seconds offers him that chance of redemption, if not for Gwen, for someone else. He returns to his universe having bonded with his alt-universe brothers with web-shooters. And you get the sense that going forward the suit will feel a little lighter on his back.
Tobey Maguire Has Been There
Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man has still got it—webs that shoot out of his wrists, that is. Throughout the Sam Raimi trilogy, Peter struggled to balance his superhero and private lives—which took a tremendous toll. By No Way Home, he’s gotten through to the other side. So he comes to this alternative universe steady and able to step in as a mentor figure for the MCU hero when he needs it most.
He’s empathetic to Holland’s Peter wanting to take revenge on the person who killed his guardian, but he’s been there and knows the cost. So when it looks like he’s actually going to deliver the fatal blow with the saucer, Maguire’s Peter steps in. Sure, the Green Goblin stabs him in the back and that’s definitely not ideal. But it’s not fatal—I mean imagine if they tried to pull that stunt! The scene allows Holland’s Peter to make the decision Aunt May would’ve wanted and gives Green Goblin the cure. It’s beautiful revisiting Maguire’s Peter Parker in this era and learning that he and his MJ have a semblance of a happy ending, after all.
Tom Holland Comes of Age
Over the course of three solo films, and three other MCU appearances, we saw Tom Holland’s Peter Parker as a plucky young kid with powers, an Avenger, and a superhero who is also desperate to be a normal teen for just a minute. With the Homecoming trilogy complete, Peter Parker’s finally come of age. No Way Home is an emotional, devastating journey that catapults him into the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Sans the Stark technology and Avengers pedigree we’ve previously seen.
When Mysterio posthumously reveals Peter’s superhero alter ego, he’s devastated for himself. But more so for those around him facing repercussions for their proximity. And trying to fix it costs him the most important person in his life—a brutal rite of passage for the on-screen Spider-Mans. But in finding himself in the darkest place we’ve seen him, he finds the only two people who could understand his particular burden.
Where Maguire and Garfield’s Spider-Mans are solo operators, we’ve never really seen Holland’s Peter act alone. From Tony Stark plucking him up to the big leagues in Captain America: Civil War to having Ned (and MJ) on his team since Homecoming, he’s always had people in his corner. Realizing that he needs Strange to perform the spell to protect the multiverse—for now—means he’s going to be alone for the first time.
It’s what makes the ending so bittersweet. He no longer has his guy in the chair, girlfriend, or his superhero squad. But unlike never before, he understands what “with great power there must also come—great responsibility” means. The MCU’s Peter has reached his next era and we’re excited to see where he goes next.