The cast of Spider-Man: No Way Home is massive. In addition to returning characters from Marvel’s previous Spider-Man movies, including Peter Parker (Tom Holland), MJ (Zendaya), Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), the film boasts an impressive number of crossover characters.
That includes No Way Home’s team of villains, which counts the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) among its members. Impressively, the film manages to balance its five different antagonists fairly well, succeeding where movies like 2007’s Spider-Man 3 and 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 didn’t.
But No Way Home’s third act also reveals the disappointing and avoidable shortcuts that were taken with two of the film’s villains.
Major Spider-Man: No Way Home spoilers ahead.
Dinosaurs & Sandcastles — To be fair to Marvel and Sony, it’s easy to see why they would choose to spend more time with Foxx’s Electro, Dafoe’s Norman Osborn, and Molina’s Doc Ock than Church’s Sandman and Ifans’ Lizard. Not only are the latter two characters the least well-known of No Way Home’s villains, but the actors who play them are less recognizable than their co-stars.
That doesn’t mean Marvel and Sony had to do what they did in No Way Home. The new film brings Sandman and the Lizard to life almost solely as CGI characters, with Ifans and Church returning just to read voice-over lines.
And for the few moments where Sandman and the Lizard return to their human forms in No Way Home’s third act, Marvel and Sony simply repurposed shots of them from Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man.
The Short End of the Stick — The Lizard being a CGI character in Spider-Man: No Way Home makes sense, but the same can’t be said for Sandman. Unlike Ifans’ Curt Connors, Church’s Flint Marko can go back and forth between his human and sand forms whenever he wants. Having him maintain his sand form for all of Spider-Man: No Way Home is therefore a weird choice, especially since the CGI necessary to bring him to life never looks good.
Illogical narrative choices and bad CGI aside, the creative decision to just reuse shots from Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man for Sandman and the Lizard’s transformations at the end of No Way Home is inexcusable. Not only are the shots clearly from those films, but they’re also awkwardly shoved into No Way Home’s climax. Neither actor says anything when they appear, which forces the film to cut from their repurposed transformations to shots of Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire saying lines to actors who very obviously aren’t on the other side of the camera.
Could Marvel and Sony really not get Ifans and Haden Church back in costume to read new lines? Not even for a day? Given how many actors from Sony’s past Spider-Man films they convinced to come back for No Way Home, it seems more likely that the two studios simply thought they didn’t need to put in the same amount of effort for Haden Church and Ifans as they did for Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina.
The results of that decision, unfortunately, speak for themselves.
The Inverse Analysis — Repurposing shots from old films is always a lazy move, but especially when corporations as wealthy as Marvel and Sony do it. What makes Spider-Man: No Way Home’s handling of Sandman and the Lizard so disappointing, however, is that the film doesn’t make the same mistakes with its other legacy characters.
Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Molina’s Doc Ock, and Foxx’s Electro are all used really well in No Way Home, as are Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parkers. The film comes incredibly close to perfectly pulling off the creative risk of bringing back nearly 10 characters from past, non-MCU Spider-Man films. But it’s held back by the way it fumbles Haden Church and Ifans’ “returns.”
Spider-Man: No Way Home is playing in theaters now.