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There’s One Spider-Man: No Way Home Scene That Bugs The Hell Out Of Me

This column is going to spoil Spider-Man: No Way Home. Don’t read this if you haven’t yet seen the movie.

Let me start with this. Spider-Man: No Way Home is my favorite movie of all time. That’s not hyperbole. Spider-Man is my favorite character in pop-culture history, and has been since my earliest days. Jon Watts’ movie is a love letter to Spider-Man, and to Spider-Man fans. It captures everything that’s quintessential to the formation of the Marvel hero, and it spreads those traits amongst its three generational representations of the icon so that they all can embody sacrifice (Tom Holland), perseverance in the face of sorrow (Andrew Garfield), and leadership (Tobey Maguire). It’s the perfect Spider-Man movie, full stop.

But it’s not a perfect movie. There are flaws, most of them minor, that prevent Spider-Man: No Way Home from being a flawless film. And there’s one scene that has several issues with it, some which speak to a larger Marvel Cinematic Universe problem, so I wanted to hash it out, even knowing that this is nitpicking, and the overall movie is an impossible miracle of planning and execution that’s a joy to ride from start to finish. 

This is your absolute last chance to bail out before we get into massive Spider-Man: No Way Home spoilers. 

Spider-Man crouched in his Iron Spider suit in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment/Marvel Studios)

Last night marked my third viewing of Spider-Man: No Way Home. I want to see it as many times as possible in a theater, on the big screen, because once it leaves, that opportunity disappears… probably forever. I’m at the stage where I anticipate the arrival of exciting scenes, from Spider-Man and Strange’s confrontation in the mirror dimension to the Spidey-Goblin fight in the corridors of Happy’s apartment building. Willem Dafoe’s face breaking out in that menacing smile will haunt me for years.  

I realized last night, however, that there’s one scene I dread as it approaches, because it feels like a tacked on blemish to this otherwise magnificent work of art. It’s the scene between Peter (Tom Holland) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) at Aunt May’s grave. And I already can hear some people stepping up to defend it, so let me explain what annoys me so much about it. 

The production value in that scene is terrible. MCU movies can be efficient (meaning “cheap”) when it comes to picking up scenes – especially dialogue scenes – and shooting them on an obvious set, trusting the wizardry of a VFX team to hide the seams. The cemetery scene in Spider-Man: No Way Home blatantly looks like it was shot on a Georgia soundstage in the middle of summer, with fake snow, a tight frame on the two characters so as not to call attention to the fake background, and an almost flippant lack of caring for the reality of the situation. 

Something as simple as Happy’s outfit in the scene takes me immediately out of it. Favreau sports the signature black suit that Hogan wears in virtually every MCU movie. I get that. But he’s outdoors. In the “winter.” And an outside grave. Could the costume department outfit Happy with a coat? They remembered to slap an oversized stocking cap on Holland. It doesn’t help that Marc Webb tried a similar scene with Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but actually took the time to film ON a location that he dressed properly to reflect the passing of time and the influence of the seasons. THIS is how you do that scene:

Say what you will about Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films. The director struggled with world building, mainly because that aspect of the franchise never interested him. Webb’s an indie filmmaker who invests in human emotions, so a graveyard scene conveying the pain and heartbreak of a mourning Peter Parker is the definition of “his wheelhouse.” The framing in this shot conveys the devastating isolation that Garfield’s Peter is feeling now that Gwen is gone. It’s an emotional gut punch on top of the emotional gut punch we already received.   

Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

I’m not saying Watts doesn’t sell emotional pain in his Spider-Man movies. Quite the contrary. Holland’s performance in May’s death scene reflects the fear and denial we all would feel in the facing of losing our role model. And the shot of MJ and Ned silently hugging Peter on the rooftop of the school, physically forming the shape of a heart, provides the emotional core of Watts’ trilogy. But that care and attention to detail is missing from the Aunt May graveyard scene, and that sucks. Happy looks goofy in his flimsy suit. The lighting ALMOST makes it appear that Holland and Favreau filmed the scene on different days (though last night’s viewing had me thinking they actually were on set together). The visual scrimping of the scene instantly takes me out of the emotional context of the conversation.

Which, by the way, is completely unnecessary. Spider-Man: No Way Home screenwriters Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna have said in recent interviews that they thought a lot about how the memory wipe spell works, but they can’t answer all of the questions. Like, does Holland’s Peter still have a valid ID. Does he disappear from every photo he might have been in. Can’t Ned and MJ forget that Peter is Spider-Man, while still remembering who Peter is? If it’s a complete memory wipe, why does Happy remember May? He doesn’t know Peter, so he completely forgets that May had a nephew? And that he only knows May because of that nephew? It can get a little twisted. 

These comic-book logistics can be overlooked if the message of the scene matters. But all Happy confirms with Peter is that even though loved ones are gone (like May or Tony), we can still honor their legacy by adhering to the lessons they passed down. 

Which we already got the moment Tobey Maguire’s Peter told Tom’s Peter, “Maybe she didn’t die for nothing.” Holland made the ultimate sacrifice. He might not have been at peace with it entirely, but he’s working towards that. A scene of Holland alone at the grave might have carried far more resonance as this isolated hero – similar to Garfield’s in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – opened up to the aunt he remembers, and let’s her know (from beyond the grave) that her words connected, and he’s going to embrace the responsibility that comes with his great power. 

Giving Holland’s Peter one last curtain call scene with Happy Hogan comes across as a nod to the final remnants of the Iron Man Jr. critique that has been leveled at MCU Spidey since day one. So maybe it was necessary to finally throw a shovel of dirt on that coffin, and leave those relationships behind in what we now know as the Home trilogy. I’m nitpicking. I get it. But I wish, if that scene had to be included, it didn’t feel like an add-on that was filmed right before lunch on a random Wednesday, and treated like a sequence they expected to land on the cutting room floor.

Sean O'Connell

Managing Director at CinemaBlend. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.