Spider-Man: No Way Home focuses on the three different Spider-Man variants that came from various universes to fight a common threat. That’s what most fans were excited about — seeing Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man suits in the same movie. But there’s one more interesting dynamic in the film worth noting. It’s the relationship between Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the MCU’s main Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland.
No Way Home premiered about three months ago and all of its secrets spilled online long before the release. But we are still learning what it took to make the movie. The cast and crew have been talking freely about it in the past few weeks, and the No Way Home digital release includes additional extras about the movie.
Plus, in a big coincidence, a different secret dropped just in time for the No Way Home digital release. Benedict Cumberbatch revealed in an interview that one of the best Doctor Strange lines in the movie was improvised.
If you haven’t seen No Way Home, you should know that big spoilers follow below.
It might not be perfect, but Spider-Man: No Way Home is the biggest Marvel movie since Avengers: Endgame. It delivers a bittersweet finale for the MCU’s first Peter Parker trilogy and gets us ready for the future.
We’ll see Cumberbatch again soon in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Holland, meanwhile, will return to the Spidey role in future Spider-Man movies and crossovers.
How did Spider-Man beat Doctor Strange in No Way Home?
Spider-Man’s next adventure is going to be a reboot of sorts, as Sony and Marvel have taken everything from Peter Parker. In a matter of days, the MCU’s Spider-Man lost Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), MJ (Zendaya), and Ned (Jacob Batalon). He also had to give up being an Avenger and he lost the enhanced Spider-Man suit that Tony Stark made for him.
Spider-Man is completely alone at the end of No Way Home, and nobody remembers him.
Aside from using the multiverse to tie in other Marvel universes to the MCU, Sony and Marvel wanted this outcome for the character. And you couldn’t pull it off without having Doctor Strange’s magic.
It’s Strange who agrees to do Spider-Man’s silly bidding early in the movie. And it’s Strange who botches the spell once Spidey starts meddling. This pits Spider-Man and Doctor Strange against each other, as the two disagree on how to deal with the massive multiversal threat coming their way.
Strange has a radical plan in place to undo everything — and the plan makes sense. But that means sending villains back to their realities to die. Spider-Man wants to save them and everyone else. After all, he has been fighting murder accusations for a few months. He’s not about to send anyone to die.
And that’s how we end up seeing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange fight in the primary reality and the mirror dimension. It’s one of the great highlights of No Way Home, with Peter Parker surprisingly outsmarting the vice-Sorcerer Supreme. Parker used math to beat magic and leave Strange stranded.
The pivotal sling ring
What’s even better is that Parker stole Strange’s sling ring in the process, which is crucial for finding the two other Spider-Men.
That context is essential to patching up the relationship between Doctor Strange and Spider-Man in No Way Home. By the end of the film, the sorcerer realizes that he was wrong about Peter’s idea of fixing the multiverse problem. However, the issue remains, and the only solution to fix it is Strange’s original spell.
Peter wanted everyone to forget who he was initially to prevent his family and friends from suffering by being associated with Spider-Man. The same has to happen at the end of No Way Home. But Strange is reluctant to do it now, even though Peter asks him to perform a clean spell without interruptions.
“You gotta understand, that would mean that everyone who knows and loves you, we…,” Strange pauses, visibly affected. “We’d have no memory of you.”
That’s a heartbreaking moment right there that works great for both characters. It’s not just advancing this story; it also adds to Doctor Strange’s arc. For a brief moment, the doctor lowers his guard and shows how much he cares about others.
We will have to ignore the obvious plot hole here, however: Strange could have decided to remember everything. Or we could’ve skipped the entire movie if Strange just made everyone forget Mysterio instead… but I digress.
The improvised line that clinches the finale
It’s this particular No Way Home scene that Cumberbatch addressed in an interview with Collider. The site talked with the actor about the various characters he has played on the screen. Naturally, Doctor Strange came up.
Cumberbatch revealed he improvised the line where Doctor Strange tells Peter he loves him:
[John Watts] is fantastic. He’s got such great taste. He’s very detail-orientated as well. He manages the tone so beautifully, all the time, and yet is still so nimble. Great directors are able to throw aside a piece of script or a big set piece and go, ‘Oh, maybe that’s the story there.’
There was this one moment near the end of the film, where we were really trying to make that moment work, at the top of the Statue of Liberty. Tom [Holland] was having a tough time with the script, as it was before the reshoots. And then, we did the reshoots and I came up with this idea, to show that I love him, I didn’t want him to make the sacrifice of being forgotten. He was like, ‘That’s gonna be in the film.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, cool. That’s great.’
Cumberbatch further revealed that he learned he could go off-script in an MCU movie from Tom Holland and RDJ while working on Infinity War. And that’s excellent news for that pivotal spell scene at the end of No Way Home.
We’ll have to wait until May 6th to see Cumberbatch in action again as Doctor Strange. But the actor was willing to say “absolutely fucking nothing” about Multiverse of Madness during the same interview.
More Marvel coverage: For more MCU news, visit our Marvel guide.