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The plot of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is set in motion by a threatened bout of collective amnesia, which is fitting because I could barely remember anything that happened in the last of these movies. That’s odd, because I definitely saw it. (I’m pretty sure I reviewed it.) Fortunately, like most installments of endless cinematic franchises, this latest Spidey adventure seldom stops explaining itself or referencing its predecessors (more on that in a bit). Within moments you are helpfully reminded of how 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” ended, with that belligerent hack journalist J. Jonah Jameson (Spidey mainstay J.K. Simmons) exposing the famous webslinger’s true identity to the entire world. And most thoughtlessly of all, he didn’t even think to preface it with a spoiler warning.
The people at Sony Pictures, by contrast, have taken their usual care to warn journalists not to spill the secrets of “No Way Home,” expecting us to behave with more scrupulousness and care than some of their own marketing materials. I’ll proceed as cautiously as I can, with the caveat that your spoiler sense may tingle differently from my spoiler sense.
If you’re that concerned about plot details, I implore you: Put down this review and read something else. Read the sports section. Read a Thackeray novel. (Do not read Twitter.) And yeah, sure, see the movie first if you must. If “West Side Story” hasn’t already sated your appetite for impetuous teenagers leaping acrobatically around New York, this one might do the trick.
Or you could just plunge ahead and read on, especially if, like me, you harbor some skepticism about the way studios use the promise of jaw-dropping, game-changing twists to preempt criticism and sell material that’s actually fairly predictable at its core. Really, given the months of speculative hype that have preceded “No Way Home,” the most surprising thing about it is how … unsurprisingly much of it plays out.
If you’ve had your ear even remotely to the ground, you know what’s up: Due to unprecedented ruptures in the multiverse, characters from the first two Spider-Man series make appearances in this one. To discuss who those characters are and what they do would apparently be a crime on par with leaking the nuclear codes, so let’s just swing around them, Spidey-like, as gracefully as possible.
Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
The narrative pretext for all these series-blending shenanigans is charming enough, in a low-stakes teen-movie kind of way. Due to an accompanying whiff of scandal, being outed as Spider-Man hasn’t exactly done wonders for Peter Parker (the excellent Tom Holland). Nor has it boosted the reputations of his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), and his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), whose associations with Peter have gotten them rejected from MIT. With bricks flying through the window of the Queens apartment he shares …….