This image released by Sony Pictures shows Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures'
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures' 'Spider-Man: No Way Home.' Image Credit: Sony Pictures via AP

Christmas has arrived a week early for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ — arguably the biggest cinematic moment of 2021 — hits UAE screens on December 16.

Picking up right after the events of ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’, ‘No Way Home’ will see Peter Parker deal with the consequences of having his identity as the web-slinger exposed.

“In ‘Civil War’, [Tony] Stark says, ‘Are you the spider-boy?’ And in the previous films, Peter really has been the spider-boy, and this film is about him becoming the Spider-Man,” says Tom Holland, who reprises his role as Peter Parker in the new film. “It’s about him growing up, stepping up to the plate, and making his own decisions as a full-blown Avenger.”

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Cast members Tom Holland and Zendaya attend the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Image Credit: REUTERS

Doctor Strange and Spider-Man get close

At the heart of the new ‘Spider-Man’ film is the relationship between Peter Parker and Doctor Strange. While they are not complete strangers to each other, the two have had little interaction outside of their big fight against purple man Thanos. So when Peter finds his life turned upside down, he heads to the closest adult among the Avengers.

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Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Strange and Tom Holland stars as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Image Credit: AP

“If you think about what Peter’s been through, Strange is closely tied to a very substantial moment in his life,” says director Jon Watts. “In ‘Endgame’, Strange’s plan to stop Thanos leads to Peter losing Tony, his mentor, right in front of his eyes. I imagine Strange would feel some responsibility for that, so it’s understandable that if Peter came to Strange and asked for his help, Strange would oblige, even if it meant bending the rules a bit.”

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Tom Holland stars as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Strange in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Image Credit: AP

That’s true even though Strange and Peter haven’t been super close in the past, according to Benedict Cumberbatch. “To begin with, it’s a matter of literally not knowing how to address each other,” he says. “This chapter of their story brings them far closer to knowing and understanding each other, because despite the intensity of their experience together so far and the importance of their joint efforts on Earth and the Q ship and Titan, they don’t actually know each other very well. Until this point, Strange has just seen a kid with extraordinary powers caught up in a problem far larger than either one of them.”

The villains are back

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Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Image Credit: AP

To help Parker regain his life before his identity was revealed, Doctor Strange casts a spell but an accident opens the multiverse so that anyone in any universe who knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man could come into his world. It turns out, that’s a lot of people…

For each of these roles, the only choice was to enlist the original actors to return. Returning on-screen are Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx to their villainous roles as Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and Electro. How do you convince all these guys to come back? The job falls to Marvel head Kevin Feige. “We don’t ever take casting for granted,” he says.

“We don’t ever assume someone will sign up sight-unseen. We always want to sit down, have a meeting, and share our hopes and dreams for the project — before we have perfect scenes written, it’s just an idea and a hope and a dream. We want to bring people into that dream and to trust that together, with their inclusion, we can achieve that dream. But we never take it for granted,” he adds.

On the other hand, it never crossed anyone’s mind to recast. “If you’re gonna bring back Doc Ock, wouldn’t it have to be Alfred Molina?” says Feige. “Wouldn’t that be fun?”

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Cast member Willem Dafoe attends the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Image Credit: REUTERS

Molina couldn’t be happier to be back in a Spidey film. “I was very proud of that film [‘Spider-Man 2’] and very pleased to be a part of it. It was the first time I’d done a tentpole movie, with all the technology, and I was thrilled to be a part of it,” he says. “It’s great to be doing it again, but in the best way, I feel a bigger sense of responsibility because I know how popular the character is. Seventeen years ago, I was loving it in an enthusiastic way. This time, I don’t want to let the fans down.”

For Dafoe, prepping for his role of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, meant not reviewing his performance in ‘Spider-Man’. “I remember the character very well, and I remember it fondly.” says Dafoe. “It’s still a double character, with Norman and Goblin fighting for his soul. That’s still the heart of the character for me.”

“It’s fun to exercise bad tendencies of the character and to find a righteous logic behind it,” he adds. “The Osborn/Goblin character believes in a world of losers and winners, that power is all that matters. He has very little interest in patience, compassion, or empathy — he believes that things get done by people that are strong, and we don’t really worry about weak people.”

The unstoppable trio

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Tom Holland, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Image Credit: AP

Anyone who knows Spidey knows that it’s his relationships that matter to him the most. In the ‘Homecoming’ trilogy, that’s his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and now girlfriend MJ (Zendaya).

“Whenever we get asked back together, we always pick up where we left off,” says Holland. “Sometimes it’s a nightmare for Jon Watts, because we have so much fun on set that we can be quite hard to control. But that comes across on screen, and it adds a level of chemistry that actors just couldn’t bring to life. The fact that we really do love each other comes across. And that’s why people are so invested in our relationships.”

“I think it’s pretty apparent in the movies that we enjoy being around each other,” says Batalon. “It isn’t hard to act like we like each other.”

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Cast members Benedict Wong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya and Tom Holland attend the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Image Credit: REUTERS

Batalon says that the friendship has been extraordinarily meaningful to him — and not just professionally. “When we began, I was just starting drama school. I had done nothing. Tom and Zendaya were very much in the industry at that point. Here are people my age who were more successful than I was — so to have them support me and be there for me and help me to get where I am now is a lot of the reason why I’m here,” he says.

One of the cooler things that Batalon’s Ned gets to experience in ‘No Way Home’ is having his own powers — kind of. While we won’t spoil the specifics here, Batalon is obviously pumped.

However, MJ’s changes are more internal, according to Zendaya. “Peter has really opened her up,” she says. “She’s used to being a very glass-half-empty, negative person, but Peter opens up a hopeful side of her, a positive side. It’s sweet to watch how they bring out these different parts of each other and rely on each other in different ways.”

Addressing fan theories

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Spider-Man from Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Image Credit: AP

If the multiverse is resurrecting past villains, it’s only fair to assume that the heroes will return, too. Even before the first trailer of ‘No Way Home’ dropped, fans have been convinced that the film will see Holland’s Peter Parker team up with previous Spider-Men, played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. While the actors have repeatedly denied any involvement — probably under the influence of diligent NDAs — fans are determined to see them on-screen come this weekend, with a few alleged leaks of set photos pointing to the same.

Another major fan theory regarding ‘No Way Home’ is that actor Charlie Cox will reprise the Netflix role of Matt Murdock/Daredevil. When the first trailer dropped, fans were sure they spotted Murdock’s arms in a scene including Holland. But Cox put all rumours to rest when he said: “I can promise you those are not my forearms.” With Marvel head Feige confirming last week that Cox’s Daredevil is indeed returning to the Marvel fold soon, this rumour could very well be a reality.

Don’t miss it!

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is releasing in UAE cinemas on December 16.