Why Spider-Man: No Way Home is the End of an Era for Tom Holland

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Spider-Man: No Way Home will serve as the sixth appearance of Tom Holland’s Wall-Crawler role, which, in a sobering fact, he’s been fielding for over five years now. Consequently, the star is saying that the new film, his third solo feature, is being treated like the closing chapter of a tonally-linked trilogy. Indeed, recent comments from the star seem to imply a surprising sense of finality, which adds even more ambiguity about the upcoming mysterious multiverse movie.

Of course, Spider-Man: No Way Home will have plenty for viewers to unpack when it finally drops in December, and the long-awaited revelations from its recent trailer were likely just the tip of the multiverse-twisting iceberg for the film. However, as the solo franchise reaches a third film benchmark that’s proven critical for Marvel movies, thoughts about an endpoint are undoubtedly spinning, especially since some Marvel Cinematic Universe solo standards like the Iron Man and Captain America films wrapped as trilogies, as will Guardians of the Galaxy. Likewise, Holland is openly calling No Way Home a “conclusion,” describing to EW how the atmosphere on set felt like a widespread, bittersweet case of senioritis.  

“We were all treating [No Way Home] as the end of a franchise, let’s say,” teases Holland, provocatively. “I think if we were lucky enough to dive into these characters again, you’d be seeing a very different version. It would no longer be the Homecoming Trilogy. We would give it some time and try to build something different and tonally change the films. Whether that happens or not, I don’t know. But we were definitely treating [No Way Home] like it was coming to an end, and it felt like it.”

While Holland is not expressing an intent to permanently hang up his Spidey suit after No Way Home, his comments clearly define the solo-starring efforts as a series of tonally-linked films. It’s a classification that seems obvious, with the films having started auspiciously with 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, leading to a titular departure with the second solo effort, 2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Home, with Spider-Man: No Way Home ultimately fulfilling a pattern that has been incrementally leading Spidey farther away from said “home.” Moreover, the idea of the Homecoming brand retiring with an introspective multiverse story is akin to the legendarily ambitious final episode of the acclaimed 1994-1998 Spider-Man animated series.

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Yet, the trilogy concept is not frequently evoked, seeing as the Wall-Crawler has enjoyed a significant presence outside of the solo films. Indeed, in the eyes of many, Holland’s Spider-Man is still the celebrated figure conjured by the grand multi-studio deal that finally brought the Sony-held Marvel mascot into the MCU with a spectacular, shield-stealing debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Moreover, his pre-dusting throes in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War stand as one of the genre’s most heartbreaking moments, and his return, by way of an abrupt stuck landing, in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest audience applause moments from what ultimately became the highest-grossing film of all time.

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Consequently, Holland’s Spider-Man was not wholly defined by the now-dubbed Homecoming Trilogy, despite being the films’ eponymous figure. However, in Holland’s mind, they stand out independently, perhaps as character study collaborations with director Jon Watts for the tangential Avenger, whose experience as a teenager and simple, spider-powered costumed crime-fighter in Brooklyn became blown to exponentially significant, global proportions when Tony Stark slid into his life in Civil War. Thusly, Holland describes quite a contrast from the purpose-seeking process of Homecoming compared to No Way Home, stating, “The first film, Jon Watts and I were sort of flying by the seat of our pants. This one, I think we both felt really confident, so we were able to relax. We actually had so much more fun on this one than we did on the previous two.”

While the end of the Homecoming Trilogy won’t necessarily manifest as the end of Holland’s Spider-Man, it does seem designed to mark the end of a central dynamic that has existed between his main player peers, specifically with cast members Zendaya as love interest MJ, and Jacob Batalon as comic relief best friend Ned Leeds. With the Spider-Man film franchise having been rebooted twice already, Homecoming brought the unique twist of choosing to focus on the youthful, prodigious, though-unpretentious chemistry of that triumvirate, which made the idea of their prospective dissolution after No Way Home as the center of tear-jerking moments on the set as the production came to a close.

“We’ve been making these films for five years now,” says Holland. “We’ve had such an amazing relationship, the three of us. We’ve been with each other every step of the way. We’ve done every single film, every single press tour. So, this one scene, [we didn’t know] if this would be the last time [we were all working together.] [It] was heartbreaking but also really exciting because we’re all moving into the next chapter of our careers. So, sharing that moment with them was maybe the best day I’ve ever had on set. I don’t think I’ve cried like that ever.”

While we obviously still don’t know what’s in store for the primary Homecoming Trilogy trio, we do know that Spider-Man: No Way Home will weave a web of universe-crossing. Moreover, its cast and personnel still find themselves attempting to downplay the strongly-speculated notion of former Spider-Man stars Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield joining Holland to battle a bevy of returning other-universe villains—possibly including Tom Hardy’s Venom, given a certain sequel’s consequential post-credits scene—unleashed after Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) botched undoxing spell. It will undoubtedly be the biggest Spider-Man movie thus far, and, for Holland, will potentially serve as a fitting solo coda for the hero once known as Underoos. Of course, we’ll still likely see his Web-Head swinging around other avenues of the MCU afterwards.

Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on Dec. 17. However, subsequently-arriving Marvel sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will likely become a follow-up story, even if that film—which will have Elizabeth Olsen as a post-WandaVision Wanda Maximoff—ultimately ends up Spidey-less. That film arrives on Mar. 15, 2022.

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