spiderman2 - 1.jpg

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures’ “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Okay, okay, I have to do it. As a former publisher of Marvel Comics, fanboys expect me to review Marvel’s new “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Besides, the movie demands any critic’s attention: It opened in theaters Dec. 17 with $260 million in ticket sales, the second biggest box office debut in history.

That’s right, in history.

That means it surpassed “Avengers: Infinity War” ($257 million) only to be behind “Avengers: Endgame” ($357 million). As Variety noted, not bad for pandemic times.

And at $637 million (thus far), “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the sixth highest grossing film of 2021.

In some ways, this success was not unexpected. After all, it offers one of the biggest crossover events of all times.

In comic books, a crossover is when characters from one title appeared in another title. Being that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) appropriated the idea of linking one comic book to another with its pattern of linking its movies and characters together, one should not be surprised that crossovers are now a part of movie franchises.

You see, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a crossover in more ways than one: It is co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing.

Back in earlier days, Marvel licensed Spider-Man and X-Men to other studios in order to get its movie business going. But Marvel’s parent company, Disney, is putting the “family” back together again. It bought 20th Century Fox, getting the license back for the X-Men. And it has been doing deals with Sony that lets Spider-Man make guest appearances in recent Marvel blockbusters.

However, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a crossover on many levels. You will be amazed at all the faces from past films you recognize.

To start with, this movie has all three movie Spider-man actors. Yes, it stars Tom Holland (the Spider-Man in Jon Watts’ current series). And Andrew Garfield reprises his role from Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films. Also Tobey Maguire returns to his role from the Sam from Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.

How do they do that, storywise?

Multiverses!

That’s the big thing in storytelling these days, multiple universes that allow conflicting storylines.

Take “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” for instance.

You’ll see the return of many characters from previous films: Willem Dafoe is back as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin; Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doc Octopus; and Thomas Haden church as Flint Marko/Sandman from Sam Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy. And Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors/Lizard; Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro from Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films.

And more still: Marisa Tomei as Aunt May; Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan; Tony Ravorlori as Flash Thompson; J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson; Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio; and more. Even Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock crossing over from Marvel Television’s Netflix series.

The plot (with minor spoiler alerts) finds Peter Parker (Tom Holland) outed as Spider-Man. That causes Peter and his two best-est friends M.J. Watson (Zendaya) and Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) to get rejected from MIT. To fix things, Peter approaches Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a magic spell that would make people forget Parker is Spider-Man. However, the spell gets bolloxed up and multiple worlds get intermingled – thus three Spider-Man superheroes and that plethora of supervillains listed above.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” can be found in most movie houses.

Should you buy a ticket (if you haven’t yet)? You bet. This is one you shouldn’t miss, True Believers.

Shirrel Rhoades is a film critic and former media executive. He previously served as executive vice president of Marvel Entertainment and has produced several movies and documentaries. He was also a senior faculty member of New York University’s Center for Publishing. He lives in Key West, Florida, and Lake Lure, North Carolina. Contact him at srhoades@aol.com.

Recommended for you