The Movie Guru: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ satisfies, but ‘Nightmare Alley’ is oddly heartless |

The Movie Guru: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ satisfies, but ‘Nightmare Alley’ is oddly heartless

“Spider-Man“ gets three stars, “Nighmare Alley” gets two and a half

If you love Spider-Man, it's hard not to fall for "No Way Home."
©CTMG/Courtesy photo

Spider-Man: No Way Home”

“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which hits theaters this weekend, isn’t an end to Tom Holland’s Spidey.

In addition to being a heartfelt love letter to the entire history of Spider-Man movies and the character of Peter Parker, the movie also serves as something of a soft reboot. Holland’s Spider-Man is brought closer to the character’s traditional roots, without the involvement of billionaire tech geniuses and space battles, and there’s the strong implication that Sony plans to continue with the character. If the results are half as satisfying as the second half of “No Way Home,” I’m looking forward to it.

The movie kicks off directly from the credits scene at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” so if you haven’t seen that movie this one won’t make any sense. You’ll also get more out of it if you’re familiar with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man movies, though the movie does explain them well enough that it’s not a requirement.

If you do, though, it’ll make watching the three Peter Parkers interact that much sweeter. They’re the highlight of the movie, hilarious and heartbreaking by turns, and by the time the movie is done you’ll wish they all got to spend more time with each other. Even if you went into this thinking you had a favorite, by the end it’s hard not to love all of them.

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Despite its definite strengths, the movie also has plenty of flaws. The entire first section of the movie is a mess, struggling to deal with the carnage left by the end of the last movie. “No Way Home” also exhibits a fatal misunderstanding of J. Jonah Jameson’s ethics, which won’t bother MCU fans but is deeply upsetting to anyone more familiar with the character.

Still, the incredible bits of the movie far outweigh the quibbles. If you love Spider-Man, it’s hard not to fall for “No Way Home.”

Nightmare Alley”

Normally, no one writes about monsters more kindly than Guillermo del Toro.

Even the twisted, damaged siblings in “Crimson Peak” were written with an incredible sort of compassion, allowing us to understand them even when they were at their worst. It’s one of the two defining traits of del Toro’s work, along with a singular artistic vision that transports us to an entirely new world. Even when there’s no magic involved, you know you’ll be dancing with monsters.

In “Nightmare Alley,” del Toro keeps his artistic vision firmly in place while somehow abandoning the compassion he’s so known for. A remake of the 1947 film noir of the same name, the new “Nightmare Alley” actually strips a lot of the compassion out of the original to create a cynical, profoundly bleak look at the nature of man. The world he creates is just as darkly engrossing as ever, a sordid, decaying circus where everyone is both a freak and a wonder, but he has no kindness left in him for his leading man. This time, he’s got a pitchfork in hand and is leading the mob.

In “Nightmare Alley,” Bradley Cooper plays a drifter with a secret who ends up working with a small-time circus and freak show. He learns how to con audiences while he’s there, getting all the tricks from a former mentalist who’s lost himself to alcoholism, then runs away with the circus’s electric girl to create a bigger, better show for himself. Can he keep the game going, or has he gotten in over his head?

Cooper is fantastic in the role, and the first half of the movie will suck you in. The second half, however, feels like pure punishment for both Cooper and the audience. Though it ends with a joke so pitch black you can’t help but appreciate the timing, it’ll leave you with a bad taste in your mouth you won’t be able to shake for the rest of the night.

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at



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