I bought tickets for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” for the earliest showing I could, just like millions of other geeks. It was obvious that there would be a lot to discuss, and not everyone has the good judgement to discuss these topics in articles that are explicitly marked as spoiler-heavy.
By the way, there are a lot of spoilers in this article. Please, for the love of all that is holy, refrain from reading any further unless you have already seen the film or don’t care in the slightest about spoilers.
We could analyse how the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be affected more generally by the multiverse or how they handled all the special cameos, but that’s not what I wanted to speak about after watching the film. How about turning this brief argument into something that seems easier to understand?
I would like to discuss the suits.
The Suits Embody Peter’s Character Development
There are a myriad of reasons why the creators of the “Spider-Man” movies gave us a selection of outfits. The majority of them are unoriginal and only exist to market products like action figures, Hot Toys, t-shirts, and the like. Making these massive superhero movies comes with the territory.
However, this does not imply that all costume changes are money grabs. Filmmakers that are astute incorporate what audiences expect from them into their stories. The appearance of Tony Stark’s suits in the first “Iron Man” is a good historical illustration, as he transitions from a large and unwieldy costume fashioned out of junk components to a more polished prototype before taking on the iconic Iron Man design.
Although I will admit that Jon Watts’s films have been very good about making Spider-outfits Man’s part of his emotional journey especially because, up to this point, they have been tied to his relationship with Tony Stark, what the creators of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” have done with Peter Parker’s supersuits here is probably the best use of ol’ web-threads head’s in recent memory.
“No Way Home” contains several different angles to discuss. I’m only concentrating on the Tom Holland version of Peter Parker here, although there are four suits, at least. The Iron Spider/Nanobot from “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame,” the black/gold suit he wears when facing Electro for the first time, the red/black Spidey suit he created at the conclusion of the previous film, “Far From Home,” and finally the more traditional Spider-Man red and blue suit that was briefly seen at the conclusion of “No Way Home” are all examples.
The Red and Black Suit
The Iron Spider outfit doesn’t receive as much action as his typical red and black suit, and if I’m being completely honest, I still don’t know whether the nanobots are actually doing anything or are just kind of waiting around to be deployed. For argument’s sake, I’m counting them as two separate suits.
The reason why we begin with red and black is because this film immediately begins up after the post-credits scene from the previous one. With this outfit, Parker is fusing his own ideas and the technological wonders of Tony Stark. Tony created the Iron Spider costume exclusively to shield his adopted kid. It is strong, with a focus on force. occasionally deadly force In this suit, you can still feel Tony Stark’s inner arms manufacturer.
The red and black suit, which Peter made while on his way to battle Mysterio and save his comrades in the previous film, is more in keeping with Parker’s own ideas about what Spider-Man ought to stand for. The Stark tech bells and whistles are still present, but the appearance is friendlier and less frightening.
Now, the black and gold suit and the red and black suit are actually two different outfits. According to some conversations I overheard as I was leaving the cinema after yesterday night’s screening, a surprising number of folks seemed to overlook this.
The Black and Gold Suit
When a Mysterio fan sprays Spidey with green paint and he is unable to remove the stain on his own, the red and black suit is ruined. He needs Aunt May’s help for that, so when pressed into action on short notice he turns his red and black suit inside out which explains why you see a lot of the suit’s underlying tech on the surface.
On a character level, you could read this as Spider-Man’s world having been turned inside out. Parker’s world is blowing up. His identity has been revealed, his tight circle of friends is threatening to break apart as their high school experience comes to an end, and now this spell is going wrong just as he’s on the verge of fixing his reputation.
It’s a dark time for Peter Parker where what used to be up is down and what was light is now dark. The inside-out suit is a perfect representation of this.
It might be a stretch, but one could also read it as foreshadowing the pending temptation to a darker side for Mr. Parker. That might not be the primary decision for going with this particular look, but it was certainly on the filmmakers’ minds. I mean, what piece of the exploded Lego Death Star does Peter keep? The Emperor, who is the very embodiment of the temptation to give into anger and hate and revenge.
The Iron Spider Suit (With Fancy New Gold Emblem)
This is the suit Spidey is wearing with his confrontation with Doc Ock. The nanobots from this suit not only protect Parker from the killing blow Ock sends his way, they also graft onto Ock’s mechanical arms, infiltrating the tech and giving Parker full control over them, essentially making Octavius a prisoner of his own technology.
There’s an interesting mirror here: The Iron Spider suit has mechanical arms, and so does his opponent. Alfred Molina even has a line acknowledging this, when he tells his own mechanical arms they have some competition. It’s interesting that the villain Peter Parker can relate to the most is mirrored in this way. Also, let’s not forget Otto Octavius isn’t a monster it’s his tech that went haywire and took over. And why is Parker in trouble in this movie? Because he lost control of his tech in “Far From Home.”
The Iron Spider Suit gets a cosmetic upgrade towards the end of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in the form of a shiny gold spider emblem, courtesy of Doctor Octopus. After Peter cures the good doctor and is sure he’s no longer a threat, he is given his nanobots back by Doc Ock. When the nanobots transferred to Ock’s arms, they took the form of red plating. When Spider-Man gets them back, it seems like Ock is giving a little of himself as well. The emblem, once a gold outline filled with blue, is now a solid gold color.
I read this as a little reward a gold star, if you will for Peter making the right decision and helping Otto instead of dooming him to death. A good deed pushes Peter slightly closer to the light. It reflects the optimism of the moment. He is so close to fixing everything! Of course, it all comes crashing down moments later.
The Classic Red and Blue Suit
Now we get to the most interesting suitfeatured in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
We’ve seen each and every other suit before (even the black and gold is a previous outfit, just inside out), but in the final seconds of the movie we get the traditional bright red and blue Spider-Man suit from the comics and the emotional weight of this outfit is twofold.
One, it’s just soaring nostalgia for geeks like me who grew up reading “Spider-Man” comics. The webslinger was my gateway into comic books as a kid and seeing, even briefly, the classic simple suit thwiping away into the night sent my heart soaring.
And then I was hit by something as I put some pieces together in my head. This suit means more than just a nod to the comic book. It represents something far deeper.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
I was serious about spoiler warnings before, but I’m doubly serious now. This is real spoiler territory so enter at your own discretion.
Parker’s life changes drastically in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” but the most devastating turn is the death of Aunt May. This hurts Peter in a way that nothing else could and sends him dangerously close to turning into a villain himself. Well, maybe not a villain, but at the very least the violent vigilante that J. Jonah Jameson has accused him of being for the whole movie.
At the end of the film, Peter embraces May’s final words to him: the iconic “with great power comes great responsibility” line that defines Spider-Man as a character. He chooses good, sacrificing literally everything he holds dear to make things right.
The MCU version of Peter Parker has always been a pure character, all optimism and good cheer and empathy. But he’s never had to make a choice like this. The only way to fix the world is for the world to forget Peter Parker ever existed. For the good of the many, Parker loses his true love, his best friend, and any power he ever wielded as an Avenger and quasi-heir to Tony Stark’s tech and unlimited cash. He resets the game board, stripped of everything he has fought for and earned, leaving nothing but Peter Parker, studying for his GED and living on his own without any friends, family, or support of any kind.
In essence, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ends with the Peter Parker that we know and love from the comics. He’s the guy who can barely make rent and has to get by on his smarts, not the one that has the Avengers on speed dial. So when that red and blue suit comes out, it represents the more traditional Spider-Man that the world has loved for nearly 60 years.
Moving Forward With Love
That’s the outside emotional read, but there’s an even more powerful one from the MCU movies themselves and this is another thing a lot of people have missed.
Tom Holland’s Peter Parker makes the final suit himself, using Aunt May’s sewing machine and fabric. We see her sewing earlier in the movie, helping to fix up Norman Osborn’s clothes, I believe. After her death we get a shot of her sewing machine, standing still, a garment half-finished in the teeth of the machine.
All of his previous suits represented Tony Stark’s love for him. This new one represents Aunt May’s love.
There is no fancy tech, no billion dollar AI assistant. It’s just Peter Parker using Aunt May’s sewing machine and fabric to construct a simple suit that he’ll use to continue being the person she wished he would be: a selfless, kind, and compassionate person who uses his powers to help people.
It’s easy to be cynical with these giant tentpoles made by mega-rich corporations, but the suits in this movie track the emotional journey of one of the most likable fictional characters ever created. Every single one has a deeper meaning and is connected to Peter Parker’s journey in some way, not there just to move a few extra action figures.