WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home, now in theaters.
Even for an episode in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: No Path Home had an ambitious task ahead of her. With a story that spanned universes, introduced nearly a dozen new characters, and wrapped up the MCU’s Spider-Man trilogy, what perhaps turned out to be the most impressive was what the film could give to. every part of the machine the service it deserved. And there was a backstory that the film conveyed effectively and perfectly. This story is actually a story, with a throwaway Spider-Man-centric gag from Tobey Maguire actually recalling a key moment from his own films, in addition to a few out-of-universe details that could have changed the character’s tenure in. the film always.
No way home sees the MCU’s Spider-Man embroiled in such a massive multiversal conflict that he needs other versions of himself to deal with it. Summoned from his native reality, first seen in the years 2002 Spider Man, directed by Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man is quickly building momentum as an older and wiser mentor among webbed wall robots. And one of the details that underline his advanced age appears in a scene before the film’s final showdown where he complains about long-lasting back issues that Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is helping him solve. The younger Spider-Man makes the older man’s back appear, and the movie no longer dwells on the details, but hints at a much deeper and more interesting story in its own right.
The moment is an example of the skill with which No way home understood and remembered the previous films from which it was drawn, such as a scene from Spider-man 2 showed the origin of the character’s back problems. For much of Raimi’s film sequel, Spider-Man struggled with the loss of his powers spurred by his doubts about his role in the world. Finally convinced that he needed to overcome his doubts to fulfill his role as a hero, Spider-Man decided to test himself by jumping on the rooftops as he did when his powers first manifested. Believing that his powers are fully returned to him, he shouts “I’m back! I’m back!” before realizing he misjudged his jump, falling and landing on a car below. He stands up, defeated, and moans “My back … phew, my back.”
There is yet a deeper layer at the Reference Still that stretches out of the Raimi Universe and into the real world. The joke back in Spider-man 2 was itself a possible reference to the contractual disputes that arose during the negotiations for the film. Actor Tobey Maguire previously suffered a back injury during a performance in Sea biscuit and worried that the injury would limit his performance as a comic book action hero. It means that No way home was referring to a moment that was itself a benchmark and which subsequently had thematic resonance on many levels.
Given the context of the original “I’m Back” scene, the moment stands out not only as an affirmation of Peter Parker’s acceptance of his role as Spider-Man, but also of Tobey Maguire’s acceptance of the role. that would define his career so primarily. Coming back for No coming home, he’s additionally embraced that role, and yet what makes the back trouble scene in the movie work so well is that none of that context is even needed to enjoy it. Even divorced from previous prominence, the oldest Spider-Man in No way home asserts his leading role among his counterparts while sharing a lovely moment of connection with his new successor.
Perhaps its greatest strength as a movie is that No way home manages to turn back time by meaninglessly referencing previous projects or jokes, incorporating them instead as important aspects of his characterizations and stories. Introduced into the film at the end of the plot, there was only a short amount of time to explain who Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man was, and the film managed to do so effectively with moments like the backstage. .
An even earlier discussion in the film referred to the issue that first fueled Spider-Man’s original back problems, speaking of an existential crisis that caused him to experience a “web block.” These subtle details interconnect to create a deeper take on the character. He’s a Peter Parker who struggled to come to terms with his role as a hero, who ultimately got to it, and still struggles with the pain it continues to cause him. And it’s a hell of a story behind.
To see Peter’s backstage be referenced, Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters now.
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