Spider-Man and Electro in Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man: No Way Home | Sony Pictures

‘No Way Home’ and the End of Spider-Man

The new trailer marks the culmination of nearly 20 years of storytelling, after which something new will be born.

“They’re starting to come through, and I can’t stop them!” Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) warning may be bad news for Peter Parker (Tom Holland), but it’s a long-awaited payoff for eager audiences who have waded through years of rumors and theories about the effect the multiverse will have on Parker, the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC). The second trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home showcases a film that is shaping up to be a Spider-Man event, the scale of an Avengers movie, and will bring together three generations of fans who have spent 20 years learning the weight and scope of power and responsibility through Sam Raimi, Marc Webb and Jon Watts’ films. We’re a month away from the release of the film, but that’s more than enough time to consider a few more theories about what lies in store for Spider-Man.

Holland has said that No Way Home was approached with a sense of finality as the conclusion of a trilogy, while acknowledging that subsequent films, if they happen, will be “something different, with a tonal change,” according to an October interview with Entertainment Weekly. While Holland has been noncommittal in his response to how many more Spider-Man films he wants to do, it seems highly unlikely that No Way Home is the end for this iteration of the character. Last week’s Disney+ Day unveiled a new animated series in the works, Spider-Man: Freshman Year, which will serve as a prequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and tell the story of Peter’s first year as Spider-Man. It’s unknown if Holland will voice the character, as What If…? featured Hudson Thames as the voice of Spider-Man, but the April deal between Disney and Sony, allowing for past Spider-Man films and future Sony Marvel films to appear on Disney+, signals a continuing relationship between the two studios.

It’s a significant change from two years ago when the collaboration between Disney and Sony briefly fell apart and almost saw Spider-Man’s tenure in the MCU ended. This streaming partnership, plus the Venom: Let There Be Carnage post-credit scene, which Kevin Feige said came about through “a lot of coordination” doesn’t seem to suggest ties will be cut any time in the near future.

So, what will that future look like? No Way Home is bringing back a cadre of villains from the previous Spider-Man franchises, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Lizard (Rhys Ifans). That’s one villain short of a full Sinister Six roster, which leads me to believe there’s another, well-kept, secret villain in the film. Some are speculating Venom (Tom Hardy), though his solo movies have made it quite clear that he’s not a villain. In Ultimate Six by Brian Michael Bendis and Trevor Hairsine, the Ultimate Universe’s introduction to the Sinister Six saw Peter Parker blackmailed by Norman Osborn to be the sixth member. Could No Way Home do a version of this? Perhaps we’ll be introduced to a fourth Peter Parker, one who has joined the villains but of his own accord? Let’s table that for now.

Doctor Strange tells Peter that all the villains who have come from other worlds died in their fight against Spider-Man, that it was their destiny. There have been some theories that these villains were pulled into the MCU in the moments before their deaths, but the Green Goblin’s costume features the missing armor from where he was impaled with his glider. And Octavius redeemed himself in the moments before his death. This makes me believe these characters were resurrected somehow. As for the others, Sandman definitely didn’t die at the end of Spider-Man 3 (2007) and was given the chance to save his sickly daughter. The Lizard didn’t die in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) either as Curt Conners was seen in a holding cell in that film’s post-credits scene. Electro’s demise in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) was always in question given that he’s pure energy and energy can’t be destroyed. It’s possible that Sandman couldn’t save his daughter and wound-up fighting Spider-Man again and dying after the events of the 2007 film. And if Electro was able to transmit his energy to another universe it could explain his new look. Of course, these could all be Variant iterations of the characters, and not the ones we saw in Raimi and Webb’s films but that feels too easy and would sacrifice the built-in audience connection to these characters.

The Green Goblin in Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home | Sony Pictures

One of the most interesting bits of new information in the latest trailer is that Parker intends to prevent the deaths of these villains, despite Strange’s insistence that they have to happen. Parker trying to save his enemies is a classic Spider-Man move, but if you look at the choices of the villains, each one has a sympathetic backstory, a reason for Peter to believe they can be redeemed. The previous iterations of Spider-Man, portrayed by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, tried a similar approach, but they didn’t have to attempt to save five villains all together. It seems like a no-brainer at this point that Maguire and Garfield’s Spider-Men will play a role in that Statue of Liberty battle, but can Peter save his friends, the city and his enemies? My bet is no because Spider-Man is at his best when he loses and still has to keep fighting.

My bold prediction? These villains can’t be saved. Strange is right, they are meant to die. What I believe this will set up for the next Spider-Man trilogy is Parker seeking out the versions of those characters in his world – the MCU iterations of Otto Octavius, Norman Osborn, Curt Conners, etc., portrayed by new actors, and trying to prevent the fates that happened to their Variants. But because this is Spider-Man, always cursed by the Parker Luck, his interference in their lives may be the very thing that leads those MCU characters to becoming the villains they are on other worlds. While the Sinister Six may seem like the ultimate threat to Spider-Man, leaving nowhere else to go, a Peter Parker burdened with the knowledge of the multiverse and potential futures may be his biggest threat yet. And with wildcards like Venom, Morbius (Jared Leto), Kraven (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Vulture (Michael Keaton), and Scorpion (Michael Mando) being established in the MCU and Sony’s Marvel movies, Spider-Man will have his hands busy.

Perhaps Holland’s Spider-Man will get by with a little help from his friends. While I don’t believe we’re going to see Spider-Man 4 or The Amazing Spider-Man 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maguire and Garfield have further roles to play in the franchise, not necessarily as action heroes, but as a Peter Parker support group. Regardless of how significant those roles end up being, given the schedules and interests of those involved, I think we’re going to get a sense that all three Spider-Man universes are continuing on in some fashion, an ever-widening web of possibilities.

[The Hollywood Reporter]