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If Marvel were playing baseball, I’d say it’s one movie away from being struck out. The game starts with the middle-of-the-road reception for the belated release of “Black Widow,” which I personally thought was a pointless pitch. It wasn’t the worst, but it surely wasn’t the best. The excitement I felt for it was more about the fact that it was the first block-use movie I’ve seen in theaters after months of being stuck at home. At best, “Black Widow” was a ball — 3 out of 5 stars, and that’s probably being generous.

Then comes “Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings.” This time, Marvel watched the pitch but it was definitely a strike. I know I wasn’t too kind in my initial review for “Shang Chi,” and maybe it does deserve a second chance as many have encouraged. But, for now, I’m sticking to my rating of 2 out of 5 stars — still a strike by my standards.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Marvel’s biggest ever swing-and-miss came in the form of the “Eternals.” I have no other word for it but godawful, and I think my previous rant has given it more than the attention it deserves. Definitely 1 star out of 5 in my book, and if I could take back that single generous star, I would. Out of all the 27 MCU films, the “Eternals” takes the cake when it comes to being the absolute worst.

With two strikes and the next pitch coming, is there even a way Marvel could hit the ball out of the park with its fourth movie? Surprisingly enough, “Spider-Man: Now Way Home” is the game-winning, grand-slam home run that it needed to conclude an otherwise anemic year at the box office.

Here’s why.

The Good, the Bad, and the Multiverse

I’m going to make this review as spoiler-free as possible because it’s so good that you have to watch it yourself. I might circle back to this film later to discuss it in-depth, and there will certainly be spoilers because they’re a huge part of what makes this movie worthwhile. If you haven’t watched “Spider-Man: No Way Home” yet, you should see it as early as you can because those spoilers are going to find their way to you sooner than you think.

In case you haven’t been following the latest “Spider-Man” franchise, here’s a quick recap of the previous movie’s ending: In “Far From Home,” Peter Parker is outed as Spider-Man, who until now managed to keep his true identity concealed. “No Way Home” picks up from where this left off and Peter’s unmasking forms the backbone of the entire film.

Spoilers notwithstanding, I think what really sells this film is the multiverse concept that Marvel introduced with their Disney+ release of “Loki.” Thanks to the multiverse, you can see familiar villains from all the other Spider-Man franchises, notably Willem Dafoe as the iconic Green Goblin, Alfred Molina as the menacing mech Doc Oc, and Jamie Foxx as the revenge-charged Electro. Personally, I think Willem Dafoe is more sinister here than he ever was as the Green Goblin back in the 2000s. He’s second only to Thanos when it comes to being one of the best Marvel villains to enter the MCU. Along with characters like Doc Oc, Electro, and Sandman, “No Way Home” is an exciting yet nostalgic reunion of familiar faces.

As mentioned, this was all possible because of the multiverse, for which Dr. Strange was responsible. He’s seen as an important mentor figure to Peter, which is why the young superhero came to Dr. Strange for help when his identity was revealed. However, something goes wrong when Dr. Strange was casting this “forgetfulness” spell, which opens the multiverse and pulls in all these villains from the other “Spider-Man” franchises.

The Perfect Combination

After seeing “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I would definitely give it 5 out of 5 stars. In fact, if I could steal that one star from the “Eternals,” I’d gladly give it to “No Way Home.” Not only is the story spectacular, but it’s also hailed by critics as one of Marvel’s most emotional films, which I wholeheartedly agree with. It has some laugh-out-loud moments, but it also has soul-crushingly tragic scenes that will leave you teary-eyed. I saw “No Way Home” on its opening day and you could hear sniffles in the theater during its emotional beats, thunderous cheers and applause as the story peaks, and a chorus of laughter during its hilarious moments. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you feeling satisfied after coming out of the theater.

I would say that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is right behind “Avengers: Endgame” and “Infinity War.” It has pretty powerful moments that could rival Iron Man’s sacrifice during “Endgame.” Although, “Captain America: Civil War” could outrank it in some other aspects, but only by a tiny bit.

As far as the content rating is concerned, “No Way Home” is PG-13, and for good reason. There’s tons of action, as well as some suggestive and crude humor. But apart from a few on-screen kisses, there’s nothing sensual at all so you don’t have to worry about your teens joining you in the cinema.

I think what really makes this movie great is that it’s there to simply tell an amazing story. There isn’t an agenda that I have to be wary of– which is exactly how it should be. Movies should be movies. They tell stories and introduce us to characters that we identify with simply because they are human, not because they conveniently identify with a certain race, gender, or sexuality. No Way Home plays on nostalgia in many ways, but perhaps the greatest and most meaningful is that it takes us back to a time in the not-so-distant past when we could all together enjoy aspects of society such as movies regardless of how we identified politically.

Fresh, Fun, and Exciting Sells

So, as you can already tell, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is highly recommended. As of this writing, it just passed the $600-million-mark at the worldwide box office. Other reviews about it are generally positive as well. Hopefully, Marvel and Disney get the message that this is the kind of story people want to see — a film that’s fresh, exciting, and just wants to give the viewer a fun time rather than one that seeks to lecture the audience on the latest woke-ology.