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Spider-Man: No Way Home

"a hellacious amount of fun"

★★★★ - STUFF 

- A crowd-pleasing Marvel that's a hell of a lot of fun - 

I feel as though it’s been a few years since I last went to a proper, mid-city, midnight preview.

I know there’s been a couple of Star Wars instalments that I’ve bowled into in the middle of the night, but I’ve usually bypassed the crowds and headed to a favourite wee suburban movie house, out on the Wellington south coast, if I’ve had the chance.

In fact, the last time I saw a midnight screening with a true Courtenay Place crowd must have been a Harry Potter, or maybe – the things I do for you people – a Twilight episode.

But on Wednesday night, in a sold out Embassy Theatre, with a crowd just happy to be there, whooping, applauding and cheering at every twist and turn and cameo of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it all sort of came flooding back.

I wasn’t even the biggest fan of the Potter films – and the Twilight franchise could be wiped from the face of the world as far as I’m concerned – but that noise and that crescendo of enthusiasm was a potent reminder that nights like this can be more than just “going to see a film”.

A midnight screening, with the right crowd, at the right venue, is an act of devotion and ritual. We just hope that the gods deliver and that the story up there on the screen scratches whatever ancient itch we still carry to see heroes triumph, villains vanquished, tragedy unfold – but never enough to rob us of a satisfying ending – and the promise of more to come.

Two-and-a-half hours later, I was kicking my way back through the city, wondering if there might still be a drinkable coffee to be had and wondering why the crowds at superhero movies are the absolute worst at picking up their rubbish and putting it in a bin (like, y’know, a superhero might) – but also grinning at what had just unfolded around me.

Spider-Man: No Way Home might not pick up any awards. It might not even threaten the box-office numbers of an Avengers instalment (although, I wouldn’t bet on that) and it won’t have the critics reaching for their dictionaries for fresh adulations.

But the film is a hellacious amount of fun. It is unashamed fan service and probably a smart Marvel re-set after the muted and unfamiliar Eternals and Shang-Chi. Good though those films were, they were never going to set the cinema on fire like the return of stone-cold favourite Spidey. And with a significant amount of screen time also given to Dr Strange, this No Way Home hits the screen like a couple of favourite old rockers, when all we’ve had lately is a diet of indie kids and up-and-comers.

The story – what there is of it – features Strange casting a spell to make the world forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Parker’s life – and the life of the people who love him – has become intolerable since he lost his anonymity back at the end of Far From Home, and he is hoping Strange can fix that.

But the spell – in a twist more Potter than Marvel, surely – goes awry and the fabric of time rips, just enough to allow a handful of massive cameo appearances to slip through. More I won’t say, in case you've been living under a digital rock these last few months and have missed all the internet chatter about exactly who might turn up in this movie.Just know that there were whole passages of No Way Home when the crowd was cheering so loud, no one could even hear the dialogue.

And at a midnight performance, in a beautiful old picture house in the middle of the city, in a country still trudging through the late stages of a pandemic and wondering whether the world will ever be as it was, I figure that is exactly as it should be.

Some films, some nights, just need to deliver us somewhere else for an hour or three. Spider-Man: No Way Home did that just fine.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing at Light House Petone and Pauatahanui! 

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