The last time we saw a massive set of villains in a Spider-Man solo movie was almost fifteen years ago, in Sam Raimi’s book. Spider-man 3. For reasons many fans remember, the script turned out to be complicated and over the top – trying to cram too many characters.
The third film in this trilogy, however, is quite different. Spider-Man: No Path Home is a cinematic achievement based purely on its screenplay – a masterfully woven tapestry of goodness stuffed with supervillains and web that also serves as a great coming-of-age tale.
There are real issues, real drama, real consequences – something critics have praised since the LA premiere last week.
While screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have written a rock-solid script, it’s not just about tight sequences and big character moments. The phenomenal writing team absolutely filled this movie with references, Easter eggs, and tiny love letters to fans – leaving us something to discover with each inevitable rehearsal.
Here are my personal favorites – keep an eye out for them on your first rewatch!
1. License plates
It’s an old cinematic gag that I just can’t do without – using license plates in the frame to make cheeky references and well-deserved tributes. Marvel uses them a lot, and SMNWH is no exception:
The first occurs during the scene where Peter walks over to the George Washington Bridge to chase the director of admissions from MIT, in hopes of renegotiating his friends’ nominations.
The university representative’s car has the license plate ’63ASM-3′. This is a reference to The Incredible Spider-Man # 3 – a 1963 comic that introduced the world to the infamous Doctor Octopus.
What is happening in No way home right after the license plate? We find Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, after more than 17 years.
With the death of Marvel’s main man Stan Lee in 2018, we will no longer see Spider-Man’s co-creator in any of his famous cameos. That’s certainly not to say the studios can’t pay homage to him through Easter Eggs!
This film’s reference to Stan Lee is subtle and comes just before Doc Ock’s. Behind the MIT officer’s car, you can see a taxi numbered “1228”. This is a reference to Stan Lee’s birthday, December 28 – just in time for the film’s holiday release.
During the Doc Ock Bridge fight, the Good Doctor throws an ill-fated Nissan Versa at Spidey. This one has bowled fans and journalists alike – with an “ASM” label, it’s certainly a benchmark, but what exactly?
The Incredible Spider-Man numbers 81 and 83 have nothing to do with the plot of the movie – so the problem numbers aren’t quite accurate.
While theories are still floating around, dates may be the answer. Amazing Spider-Man # 246 arrived in stores 8/2/83 – not quite exact, but maybe this number is related to the print date?
In this issue, The Watcher – featured in the recent What if?… series, gives readers a crash course in alternate realities and the multiverse. Pretty perfect for a multiverse themed movie, right?
2. Original design by Electro
Let’s be honest – The Incredible Spider-Man 2 Electro was a bit of a crowd divider. While its backstory drew fans in, its shiny blue design appeared to be a loose imitation of Watchmenis Doctor Manhattan.
Electro took his first steps in comics The Incredible Spider-Man # 9. As Max Dillion, the character was an electrician who was struck by lightning while working – and soon began robbing banks in a shocking green and yellow costume – complete with a ridiculous star-shaped mask.
While Jamie Foxx donned a subtle green-yellow costume for the film, longtime fans quickly gave the original design a nod during the final fight scene.
As an Arc Reactor-boosted Electro rose into the air, the power passed through his body and manifested as a glowing aura around his face – for a short while we can actually see the old man. iconic character mask!
3. The green goblin is no longer
If I’m being honest I couldn’t care less about Tom Holland in this movie – Williem Dafoe is what it’s about.
With an absolutely breathtaking cover of his legendary Norman Osborn / Green Goblin performance, the talented actor plays a deadly game – playing with audiences and, ultimately, the life of Aunt May.
An iconic comic book image that has been referenced in The Incredible Spider-Man # 50 was when Spidey ditched his costume, tossing it in the trash and walking away – a moment suited into Spider-man 2 back in ’04.
This time the roles have turned. Instead of Spider-Man, Norman Osborn breaks his goblin mask, tossing the costume in the trash and running away – a great way to weave “mirror dimensions” and “parallel worlds” into the film’s scenes.
4. Graffiti Tributes
New York City has an incredible history of street art – with a rich, multicultural influence dating back to the 1960s-1970s (when Spider-Man was premiered).
As a New York resident superhero, Spider-Man has always showcased local culture – and this time incorporated it into tributes to ancient comic book legends.
The first is the “DITKO” graffiti tag, which appears on the roof of MJ and Peter’s school, as well as the truck containing the lizard. This refers to Steve Ditko – co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.
As one of the most influential comic book artists of all time, Ditko is considered the brains of several characters – including iconic Spider-Man villains such as Green Goblin, Sandman, Electro, Doctor Octopus and The Lizard – featured in the movie.
The second graffiti tag you will find in the film is “GKANE” – which can also be found on the roof of the school. This refers to Gil Kane – another incredible artist who has illustrated several iconic numbers of The Incredible Spider-Man.
You can see some of her work on Gwen Stacy’s infamous death arc, which was adapted for The Incredible Spider-Man 2 and even referenced in No way home.
5. Doctor Strange’s new assistant
At the start of the film, Peter visits Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, where he meets two young apprentices shoveling snow.
It is theorized that one of them is Zelma Stanton – who first appears in Doctor strange (Vol. 4) # 1, written by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. Zelma seeks Doctor Strange to help her with a magical disease – after which they have teamed up to save the world on several exciting adventures.
With Ned now revealed to have magical potential, will he join them?
6. Sam Raimi Memes
If you’ve been a Marvel fan on the internet, chances are you’ve come across the infamous streams of memes and referrals related to Sam Raimi’s original. Spider Man trilogy. Popularized by the hilarious people of r / raimimemes, the movie throws up loads of fanservice moments.
The image above, for example – if you know, you know.
Some of the best quotes are “You know, I’m a scientist myself” from Osborn and “The power of the sun in the palm of my hand! By Doc Ock. There’s also a little throwback halfway through the movie – referring to the first time Peter and Octavius met:
I’m not going to lie, that one moved me a bit.
7. The end scene
No Spider-Man movie is complete without an ending scene of the hero swinging triumphantly across the New York Cityscape. Things are a little different for Peter now – he has lost his aunt, he has abandoned everyone he knows and has to fend for himself.
Despite the grim storyline, Holland’s Spider-Man learned a lot from his brief encounter with his other older people – he’s grown up now and decides to sew and wear the original Spider-Man costume – featured in Amazing fantasy # 15 – her very first appearance.
There’s also a symbolic narrative drawn here – like in the comics, every time Spidey takes on the OG costume it’s a moment of personal growth and strength for him – just as referenced in Spider-man 3.
The end scene is followed by a wild and wacky punk-rock style credits roll – many of which are directly inspired by classic comic book illustrations.
(Image sources: Marvel, Twitter)