Like most of you, I was born into a much different world than the one we exist in now. I got to experience the ‘80s and ‘90s. The unique cultures those decades possessed. The unique creations they spawned.
But about two decades ago, everything seemed to stop. Not that people weren’t producing just as many films and songs. But they all felt as if they were pointed backward, never forward. There hasn’t been any new event or creation to look forward to as long as I’ve known to look for them.
We have neat new phones, cars, and other gadgets that are patterned after old things that came long ago. We have new sequels and remakes of old films, or else adaptations of old properties, such as comic books.
I have never been able to fully capture my feelings on this topic in words. But a movie recently came out that I believe showcases the true essence of the problem we face. That movie is Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s funny that a movie I thought I had no interest in watching turned out to be exactly what I needed to see.
Divorcing Values from Customs
We live in a world running on inertia. We have old customs we pay lip service to without thinking about the deeper meaning behind them. We don’t understand all the things that support our way of life. It’s too easy to take things like morality, sanctity, and honor for granted. And we’ve done that for so long that it’s difficult to even see their importance or purpose.
The Golden Rule is a good example. When we don’t follow the Golden Rule, but expect others to follow it, we assist in turning the world into a meaner place. If people learn that good behavior won’t be reciprocated, they’re forced to behave badly to protect themselves. Hopefully we then see why treating others as we would wish to be treated was given to us as the ideal standard of behavior in the first place.
Some people seem to think we need to deconstruct everything. Heroes, values, structures, and societal pillars. They all have to come down. To build what? Nothing special. The goal is mainly to destroy them. There is no solid replacement. Just a betrayal of what we thought was special. We’ve seen it done to numerous film franchises over the years.
Escaping to Nostalgia
As a means of escaping this dreary wasteland of destructive art, we instinctively turn to nostalgia. We dredge up old memories in the hopes that they will rekindle our lost feelings of hope and wonder. Some efforts fail utterly, like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Other efforts feel inappropriately reverential for their source material, like Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Spider-Man: No Way Home hit that perfect sweet spot. It had wonderful new characters interacting in creative ways with beloved old characters. Somehow it walked the tightrope of nostalgia perfectly. Seeing all three Spider-Man actors talking to each other, sharing experiences, and offering heartfelt advice felt special. Plus, watching how their various villains reacted to being placed in an entirely new environment was delightful.
Why Spider-Man: No Way Home Works
A lot of Spider-Man: No Way Home is built on the goodwill and strength of previous films. The reason we care about what happens to the villains is because we’ve seen their origins. Not in this film, but in their individual ones. It’s a lot of work to build up a new villain.
I’m not saying the Tom Holland Spider-Man films haven’t put in that work. They’ve created two interesting villains in the previous two films. But this time they wanted to bring back a half-dozen villains without creating a new one. Rather than introducing a new Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus, they brought back the definitive portrayals of them from Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, respectively.
Like I said, all of this led to spectacularly satisfying results. I enjoyed spending time with these characters again. Every scene that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield shared together was pure gold.
But all good things must come to an end.
What Will Our Children Be Nostalgic for?
I worry that, by living on inertia and always looking to the past, we haven’t been creating anything new that’s worthwhile or that will last. What will future generations look back on favorably from the first two decades of the 21st century. What will they be nostalgic for? It’s impossible to build on a structure that has no foundation.
That’s what I took away from the ending of Spider-Man: No Way Home. In the end, all of the fun reminders of good times disappear. And what are we left with? In Peter Parker’s case, he has lost everything. He has no identity. No one remembers him. Everyone who loved him is either dead or is permanently indifferent to him. He might as well have ceased to exist.
The past can be fun to remember. Or it can be painful. Generally, it’s a mix of both. But no matter how we feel about it, we can never go back to it. We have to keep pressing forward. And what are we moving toward? Are we building a better future, or are we avoiding it by living in the past?
The other Peter Parkers could help the current one solve the problems they accidentally brought with them. They can even offer sage advice. However, they can’t live Peter’s life for him. He has to deal with the consequences of having no roots to build upon. What a lonely, sad existence. I hope we will learn to be wiser than him.
With Great Power…
I heard that the makers of Spider-Man: No Way Home will try to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination for their film. That would be appropriate. Among the many nostalgic movies that have come out in the past few decades, it is definitely the best.
Hopefully I haven’t come across as saying that the filmmakers intended to make a commentary on the societal lack of roots. Or the dangers of nostalgia. Those are just themes I picked up on and read into the film. It was a fun ride, but this movie left me feeling sad to remember that there really is no returning to a simpler time. There really is no way home. We all have to deal with growing up and facing an uncertain future.
But if we look for lessons from our past, they can give us greater knowledge. And knowledge is power. And with great power comes great responsibility.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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If you’d like to support the Deja Reviewer, please consider donating a few dollars to keep this site going strong. I’ll even send you an original joke if you do! Try it, and prepare to enjoy a good chuckle.