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Is a big ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ plot twist hiding in plain sight?

Published Aug 26th, 2021 11:51PM EDT
No Way Home Plot
Image: Sony and Marvel

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The first Spider-Man: No Way Home teaser trailer leaked in full on Sunday. Then, it dropped online on Monday, breaking the internet in the process. No Way Home is now the most-watched trailer in the 24 hours after release, beating Endgame’s record. That’s because people can’t get enough of the trailer. They’re watching and rewatching, pausing and rewinding in search of clues to the film’s secrets. As we’ve already shown you, you should be pausing and rewinding the clip to realize it packs a few fantastic teasers. But even without that much scrutiny, there’s something somewhat shocking about the No Way Home trailer that hits you from the first viewing. If this report is correct, Sony and Marvel might have snuck a big No Way Home plot twist right into the trailer. Mind you, massive spoilers may follow below.

Doctor Strange in No Way Home

It’s not a surprise to see Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) appear in No Way Home. First of all, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) still needs a mentor, especially now that Tony Stark died. Secondly, he spent quite some time with Strange, saving the universe in Infinity War and Endgame together. The wizard is now back at the Sanctum in New York. Also, he’s the kind of guy you’d seek if you wanted to make everyone forget who you are.

That’s what Peter asks of Strange in the trailer. He wants the world to forget who Spider-Man is. But then Peter realizes that everyone will forget. MJ (Zendaya), Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and Ned (Jacob Batalon) included.

The spell Strange performs is dangerous to begin with, as Wong’s (Benedict Wong) warning indicates. Add to that complexity Peter’s second thoughts, and you end up with an experiment that unleashes the multiverse.

It’s interesting to observe that the multiverse accident in No Way Home might only be possible because of what happens in Loki. We could speculate that Strange performs his magic just as Kang (Jonathan Majors) loses control over the timeline in TVA — but we’ll cover this No Way Home plot what-if another time.

What’s really strange about the whole thing is that Strange is ready to grant Peter his unusual wish.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer
Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer: Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Image source: Sony and Marvel

Is this a big No Way Home plot twist?

Strange, an adult who has lived a life well beyond what any other superhero in the MCU can dream of, appears to be ready to satisfy a teenager’s crazy request without stopping to consider the potential implications. For a man who has seen what sort of devastation the universe can endure, that’s quite unusual. Not to mention that Strange has lost the Time Stone, which would have granted him “undo” powers.

Many people have been wondering online whether the Strange we see in the No Way Home is the actual Doctor Strange. What if he’s a villain? That would turn Strange into the big No Way Home plot twist. And Geekosity’s Mikey Sutton claims precisely that. It’s not Strange in the No Way Home trailer. Instead, it’s Mephisto posing as Strange.

We’ve been down this road before in early 2021 with WandaVision. We expected Mephisto to be the big villain of the TV series, but that never happened. Since then, we learned to temper our expectations in regard to Disney Plus MCU reveals.

But Sutton claims it is Mephisto, rather than Strange, manipulating Peter in No Way Home. However, this is a rather big detail that hasn’t shown up in other plot leaks.

What could Mephisto be next?

Sutton says he leaked last December that Mephisto is in No Way Home. That’s a No Way Home plot detail we’ve hardly seen anywhere else. But there’s precedent in the comics. In the One More Day story, Peter makes a deal with Mephisto to save Aunt May’s life. The leaker claims that Strange’s behavior in No Way Home is “completely off.” That’s because Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t playing the real Doctor Strange, but Mephisto.

He adds there are plenty of details that indicate things aren’t as they might look. The Sanctum is filled with ice and snow, even though there’s no snow outside. The devil is in the details, and this devil might live in the frost, just like the Ninth Circle of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Sutton reiterates that Spider-Man 3 is essentially the second part of a specific trilogy story in MCU Phase 4. It all starts with WandaVision and ends with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. No Way Home is just the middle part of it.

Sutton also speculates that Sony and Marvel might want to keep Mephisto’s name out of No Way Home so that the movie has a chance to play in theaters in China. A Satanic villain would complicate things.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in first Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer. Image source: Sony

The easier route for the No Way Home plot

While Strange’s behavior is suspect indeed, there might be another explanation for his desire to use that spell. Strange isn’t exactly the self-absorbed surgeon full of himself in Doctor Strange. Strange has been on quite a journey of self-discovery since then, becoming a different person.

But the man Stephen Strange was before the magic isn’t completely gone. Strange has the same desire to learn, to get better, to become a better professional. His job is protecting everyone’s reality with magic rather than saving lives with modern medicine.

Strange, the medical professional, was bored with mundane cases and always wanted a challenge. The same might go for Strange, the wizard. That’s why he’d be excited to perform a dangerous spell he never did before, despite what his peers tell him.

There’s also the fact that he swore an oath to help people when he began his medical career. Peter needs help in No Way Home, and Strange can provide assistance.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that Strange is behaving very strangely in No Way Home. Or explain the snow.

Even if Strange isn’t Mephisto, he could be someone else. After all, a Secret Invasion is coming. Some of the Earth’s mightiest heroes are replaced by shape-shifting Skrulls in that comic book storyline. But would a Skrull disguised as Strange be capable of such magic?

Finally, let’s not forget that Sony and Marvel are intentionally misleading the audience with the trailer. Strange’s behavior surprises us because we lack the proper context.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.