Marvel Studios and Sony decided to rack our minds on Monday night, debuting the first teaser trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — the upcoming Marvel movie about the friendly neighborhood web-slinger.
One view of the trailer suggests a fun film. A second viewing suggests a crazy, mind-blowing adventure. But when you get to the third and fourth watches, you start to wonder what’s really going on here, and what it might be telling us about the characters within it.
Specifically, a cameo from Doctor Strange in the trailer might be the key to understand the entire movie.
But don’t get it twisted — something is off about Doctor Strange.
What the new ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ trailer shows us
The “Spider-Man: No Way Home” trailer picks up in the aftermath of “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” where Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is accused of killing Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhall). His identity is then revealed to the public. We see him face public scrutiny, excessive attention from his classmates and continued media coverage. His family is being torn apart. Things don’t look good for Peter.
So, as seen in the trailer, Peter visits Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), asking him to help rewrite the past so that no one knows that Spider-Man and Peter Parker at the same person. Though Wong (Benedict Wong) warns Doctor Strange against conducting a spell to change the course of history, Doctor Strange eventually follows through. The problem, though, emerges when Peter is talking to Doctor Strange during the spell casting. Suddenly, the entire world is disrupted. We see bright colors and weird mystical effects, all of which are reminiscent of the multiverse and some of Marvel’s more space-centered adventures.
From there, we see parts of the Marvel multiverse seep into the story. Trains aren’t working right. A green goblin bomb rolls down the street. Electro’s lightning flashes. And then we see Doctor Octopus, played by Alfred Molina. Molina's version of Doctor Octopus originated in the “Spider-Man 2” film starring Tobey Maguire.
So, yeah. Things are going haywire.
Why Doctor Strange is off
It’s no question that Doctor Strange just seems ... off in this trailer. For one, Doctor Strange has been strict about the rules of time and the mystic arts. Though he started off reckless, a part of his character development has been becoming more strict about the rules and following the guidelines of time and space. He doesn’t meander away from those rules. In fact, he was so strict about them that he never revealed what would happen in the battle against Thanos out of fear that he might mess up the timeline.
So it’s a little strange to me that Doctor Strange would be so reckless as to cast a potentially game-changing spell for a teenager like Peter Parker. It doesn’t fit the strictness of these time-wielding abilities. You’d think with all the madness going on, he’d be a little more careful about playing with timelines.
The counter-argument to this is that Doctor Strange has always been something of a show-off. When he was a neurosurgeon, known as Dr. Stephen Strange, he would often perform surgeries to music and act cocky while he did it. He loved the attention and loved being the best. So there’s a chance Wong’s dismissal of the spell-casting might be enough to encourage Doctor Strange to act recklessly. And with grave dangers like Thanos out of the way, maybe Doctor Strange feels like he has a handle on things.
And then you could argue that Doctor Strange was doing the spell to help the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe group of heroes. Maybe he’s had a spell in his back pocket to protect their greater identities to ward off enemies.
Still, doesn’t it seem a little too reckless for someone who wouldn’t tell Tony Stark the truth about stopping Thanos back in “Avengers: Infinity War”? It just seems weird.
Is Doctor Strange a variant?
His decision-making aside, check out Doctor Strange’s appearance in the trailer. His house is covered in snow. At one stage, he’s wearing jeans and a hoodie along with a huge overcoat. We even see a clip later of him in traditional Doctor Strange garb — the blue suit and the red cape. And there’s a scene where Doctor Strange and Peter Parker are sort of fighting on a train that’s twisting and turning in odd ways.
Nothing appears normal about Doctor Strange. Why is there snow in his New York City apartment? Where is Wong going? How would he mess up such a major spell?
Well, there’s one major reason that could be true — he could be a variant.
We learned in “Loki” that there was once a Sacred Timeline for the universe. But sometimes people would stray from their Sacred Timeline path, becoming variants. This has happened time and time again. For example, Loki in “Loki” is a variant of the original Loki we saw die in “Avengers: Endgame.” He even meets Sylvie, a female variant of Loki. The two end up thwarting the controller of the timeline — He Who Remains — and allowing the multiverse to spread.
So could this Doctor Strange be a variant? I know it seems a little farfetched. But stranger things have happened in the MCU. With all this talk of multiverses and different timelines, should we discount the idea that Doctor Strange in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is actually a variant of our traditional Doctor Strange? Isn’t it a little weird that we haven’t seen Doctor Strange yet in the new MCU phase (despite so much hype around him and the multiverse), and his first appearance comes in the trailer for ‘Spider-Man’?
A different version of Doctor Strange might be manipulating everything, creating a bridge between the original timeline we know and another, which would bring characters like Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin into our world.
Why Doctor Strange might be the key
Look, we’re not going to find out everything about Doctor Strange in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” until we actually see the film. Marvel films have an excellent pattern of showing us a bunch of mixed-up clips within a trailer that end up making more sense once we’ve seen the movie. Rarely are the clips told chronologically. The clips often work for the trailer, but are seen in a different order with more context in the film. Take the recent “Shang-Chi” trailer as an example. The trailer suggests the movie will be a battle between a father and son. But trust me, the movie is much more than that. I was surprised at how much the trailer took on new light once I saw the movie. But alas, it’s true.
So right now, we don’t know anything about this Doctor Strange. And we won’t know anything else until we see “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” We’ll get all the context we need and develop a full understanding of his character and the circumstances surrounding him.
The good news is we only have to wait three more months.
In the meantime, there’s reportedly an upcoming Marvel’s “What If...?” episode with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man. Will we learn more details there?