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From origin stories to web-shooters: Our 9 favorite callbacks in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'
Our favorites tributes to some classic Spider-Man story elements.
Every superhero movie is full of Easter eggs, whether they're paying tribute to the original comics that inspired the story or throwing a nod to other characters in the same universe, and Spider-Man: No Way Home is no different in that regard. Because of the film's multiverse-spanning plot, though, No Way Home seemed to have an extra emphasis on knowing winks and nods in the direction of other stories, namely the original Spider-Man trilogy and the two films that made up the Amazing Spider-Man movie continuity.
It's a movie packed with callbacks to those two eras of Spider-Man cinema, and not just because the villains from those films are walking around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So, we decided to round up a few of our favorites. From web shooters to supervillain origins, here are our favorite callbacks to other classic Spidey moments tucked into No Way Home.
Oh, and it should probably go without saying, but there are **Spoilers ahead for all of Spider-Man: No Way Home.** Read on with caution.
Be careful where you fall: With a few exceptions, Spider-Man villains don't get a lot of time to compare notes in the movies, but that changed with No Way Home as adversaries from two different universes had some down time to discuss their respective origins. One of the most amusing outcomes of this plot element came when Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) took a moment to discuss how they each got their powers. Electro revealed that he fell into a tank of electric eels, while Sandman countered that he fell into a supercollider. The lesson? Gotta be careful where you fall. It's a brief but fun insight into the way these two characters view their fates.
Turning everyone into lizards: Though he didn't get as much play in the trailers for the film as some of his compatriots, No Way Home also brought back Amazing Spider-Man villain Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), who spent much of the film mocking the other characters from his cell in Doctor Strange's undercroft. He's largely a secondary villain this time around, but The Lizard does get one key moment to stand out, when Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker notes that he wanted to turn everyone into lizards, and Connors counters that he still wants to do that despite everything he's learned. It's a nice commentary on the ways in which different Spidey villains work, and it also feels like a nod to one of the internet's favorite Spider-Man comics panels of all time, in which the villain Sauron tells Spider-Man that he just wants to turn people into dinosaurs, no matter what else he might be able to do with his gifts.
Something of a scientist: Early in the film, Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn appears as the Green Goblin, then reverts back to the scared, confused version of Norman who comes out when the Goblin isn't dominant in his mind. That version of Norman spends a lot of his screentime trying to help Peter in his quest to "cure" each of the villains and send them back to their own universes with a fighting chance at redemption, and his willingness to lend a hand gives the film one of its biggest laughs. As he catches on to Peter's plan, Norman smiles and notes "I'm something of a scientist myself," winking in the direction of a line from the first Spider-Man film that's since become a fan-favorite meme. Goblin may be the dominant personality, but you can't keep Norman's mentor energy down forever.
Uncle Ben: One of the more intriguing hallmarks of Tom Holland's journey as Spider-Man so far is that we've never actually seen, or heard much about, his origin story. He makes reference to getting bitten by a spider, and says something in Civil War about "bad things" that happened in his past, but we don't actually know who he lost, or when, or why. That means we have to wait until No Way Home for someone, in this case his Aunt May, to tell him that with great power comes great responsibility. Peter then spends a few minutes worrying that what she said didn't mean anything in the end, until he meets Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's versions of Peter. On the roof of his high school, Peter gets a well-earned lesson in humility and perseverance from his fellow Spider-Men as they both recall their Uncle Ben, how he told them the same thing, and what they've done with that lesson since. It's an emotional nod in a movie full of emotional nods.
Organic webshooters: After they meet up, the three Peters decide to work together in a quest to cure all of the villains from the other universes and send them home, and break into the science lab at the school to pull it off. It's there that both Holland Peter and Garfield Peter learn that Maguire Peter differs from them in one key respect: He has organic webshooters that blast fluid right out of his wrists. In a nod to one of the greatest Spider-Man movie fan debates, the other two Peters spend more-or-less the rest of the film interrogating him about his unique ability, and asking if... you know, the webs come out of anywhere else. Two decades after that first film, and it's still a good question.
"Web block": The other two Peters fixate on Maguire Peter's organic web shooters to the point that, by the time they're all gathered at the Statue of Liberty to lure in their villains, they ask him if he ever has trouble with them, if he's ever had a "web block." Maguire Peter responds that, yes, he did have a web block once, spurred on by an "existential crisis," which Garfield Peter seems to particularly understand. This is, of course, a reference not just to Spider-Man 2, but to the crisis that eventually gave us the infamous Emo Peter Parker. Sadly, there were no jokes about the hair.
Fighting aliens: While just about every major villain returned for a fresh appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home, not everyone was back. We didn't get an appearance from Spider-Man 3's version of Venom, for example, but he did get a mention. While they wait on the Statue of Liberty for the final fight, the three Peters compare notes on the adversaries they've fought, and while Garfield Peter mentions a guy in a rhino suit, Maguire Peter mentions an "alien made of black goo." It's a throwaway line that mostly leads to the other two Peters excitedly asking Holland Peter about his own adventures fighting aliens in space, but hey, at least the movie didn't forget about our original big-screen Venom completely.
Catching MJ: When the three Peters first meet, the two elder versions of Spider-Man commiserate with the MCU version over their respective losses, and Garfield Peter mentions the death of Gwen Stacy, "my MJ," who he couldn't save during the final battle of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. A few minutes later, MJ (Zendaya) falls off the scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty, and though her Peter can't save her, Garfield Peter can. What follows is a brief but emotional moment as the Peter of the Amazing Spider-Man universe almost breaks down with MJ in his arms, feeling some measure of redemption, but still acutely feeling the loss of the woman he loved. It's a nice period on the end of one of that franchise's great unfinished sentences.
Multiverse villains: Near the end of the film, Doctor Strange heads up to the top of the Statue of Liberty and begins fighting in vain to close rifts opening up in the multiverse all around them, warning Peter that he can't keep them closed forever. The rifts don't stay open for long, thanks to Peter's willingness to make everyone forget that he's Spider-Man, but they're open long enough for us to catch glimpses of a few villains who didn't make it into the movie. Among the other members of Spidey's rogues gallery lurking at the edges of the MCU are silhouettes of Kraven the Hunter and Rhino, a nod in the direction of the Sinister Six team that might have appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man 3 if that movie had ever been made.