Over the years, moviegoers have grown to know and love many different Marvel characters. This is largely because the superhero genre of film has all but entirely taken over the cinemas worldwide during Marvel Studios' box office reign. However, much of that goes to the credit of one hero that everybody loves, who was on the silver screen even before Marvel Studios' Iron Man - your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.
Because of the many different comic runs and appearances that Spider-Man has had since his inception in 1962, there are already so many different directions the character has gone. Spidey is also one hero in particular that fans have gotten to know several different times on-screen over the years, through the lenses of different actors, directors, and studios.
Because of this, Spider-Man has also had many faces over the years as well, as actors including Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield have offered their own iterations of the character. Right now, he's played by Tom Holland, and fans will get to see him again soon, as his untitled Spider-Man 3 is set to release in December 2021.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH SPIDER-MAN 3
Because of how Spidey's last flick ended - with Peter Parker being framed for murder and being outed as Spider-Man - it's safe to assume that more characters than ever will be after the webslinger in his next appearance. It's even been revealed that Jamie Foxx will be reprising his role as Electro for Spider-Man 3, a role he has only played once before in 2014, in a different Spider-Man franchise not even connected to the MCU's current continuity (yet). So yeah, Peter is gonna have his hands full.
However, contrary of fans' previous expectations, more recent news has revealed that Spidey won't be the only hero appearing in his franchise threequel though. It's now being reported that Benedict Cumberbatch is reprising his role as the MCU's Doctor Strange in Spider-Man 3 as well.
The internet immediately lost its collective mind when the news broke that Doctor Strange would be joining the webhead on his next adventure. And just like a spider's web, fans began connecting the dots between the two heroes' franchises, and what it could mean for the highly anticipated threequel, and even for the MCU all together.
There is one idea in particular that fans have been raving over for years, and with every bit of Spider-Man 3 news that drops, it just seems more and more likely to happen: Spider-Man 3 will feature a live-action Spider-Verse.
HOW THE ORIGINAL WEBS WERE SPUN
From 2002 to 2007 (and long after that), the world knew Peter Parker to be played by actor Tobey Maguire. Then in 2012, Andrew Garfield took the helm and became the next on-screen Spider-Man in Sony's attempt to reboot the franchise. However, after a couple of films and eventual fallouts between the franchise's cast and production teams, the plans to keep going with that project were scrapped, and Sony finally agreed to loan Spider-Man to Marvel Studios, to be used in their Marvel Cinematic Universe. There, Tom Holland would take the role as Peter Parker, appearing alongside the Avengers in 2016's Captain America: Civil War.
After a couple standalone films and a pair of appearances in Avengers 3 & 4, combined with Tom Holland's performance being very well-received by MCU audiences, Marvel Studios and Sony have decided to continue this partnership. Additionally, Sony plans to expand its "Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters" even further with its upcoming Morbius and Venom movies, which may involve Holland's Parker in some shape, manner, or form.
Because of how Far From Home ended in one of the biggest cliffhangers of all time, it's safe to assume that it won't take long for Spider-Man 3 to acknowledge the shocking reveal that the world knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Fans will likely be keyed iin on how Peter (and the rets of the world) havev reacted to his recent outing. It's possible that he'll be hunted by world governments, contract killers, and everything in between, and will have to learn to survive in a world that will now see him as a murderer.
So, this begs the question: where does Doctor Strange fit into all of this?
ENTER, THE SORCERER SUPREME
Because of how Far From Home left off, there is an equally and more practically possible chance that Doctor Strange's role in Spider-Man 3 may be nothing more than providing a place of refuge for Peter Parker in the Sanctum Sanctorum, as he may have nowhere else to turn in New York City as he was framed for murder while surrounded by the city.
In fact, when Doctor Strange appeared in Thor: Ragnarok, it was only for a brief, single-scene segment, just to guide Thor to his exiled father (and to explain why no one said anything about Odin being on Earth the whole time he was missing). This point can be used to argue either side of whether or not Strange will appear in a similar capacity in Spider-Man 3, as it would create the feeling that Doctor Strange is the go-to guy when an MCU story needs to make sense, but would also allow a practical, existing short-term solution for the displaced Peter Parker in the heart of New York City.
Despite this, there is reason to believe that the Sorcerer Supreme could play a much larger role in this third Spidey flick. For instance, fellow The Direct contributor Tom Drew has theorized that Strange could play a role as both a guide and a mentor for Peter as he may encounter different aspects of the multiverse gone mad while he is on the run. The idea is that Peter will already have his hands full with trying to dodge the constant threat of being found, but he will also notice that he's running into more trouble than usual - the super kind of trouble. And as it may turn out, this happens because of a rift in the multiverse that will allegedly be created in WandaVision, which would then warrant the intervention of Doctor Strange and create a "best of both worlds" situation for the unlikely duo.
Another possible scenario is that, after being dusted away for half a decade and no longer having the Time Stone to rely on (or any Infinity Stones, as of now), Doctor Strange may take it upon himself to expand his duties of protecting his realm from further harm. More specifically, he may look into alternate realities to better understand potential threats in his own reality.
This would certainly explain why Jaime Foxx is returning as Electro, yet apparently "won't be blue" like he was the first time in 2014 in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Bringing Foxx back as Electro in a different cinematic universe for any other reason doesn't make a ton of sense unless his original performance was Oscar-worthy. And Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige giving simultaneous praise and constructive-criticism to Foxx's performance shows that he liked what he saw, but he also has his own ideas in mind for the character.
So, this would help point to the idea that Foxx will be playing an alternate version of Maxwell Dillon, this time in the MCU. Dillon was a huge Spidey fan in the Andrew Garfield-led sequel; perhaps he is a fan of the webslinger in the MCU as well, and is driven mad by the notion that his favorite hero is now a murderer. Maybe Doctor Strange peered into the universe of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise and saw how quickly and easily Dillon was broken down and manipulated, and takes it upon himself to intervene in the life of the MCU's Dillon before it's too late.
THE MCU'S SPIDER-VERSE
As many know, the upcoming Disney+ series WandaVision is supposed to be pretty bonkers, and has been confirmed for awhile now that it will be a direct tie-in to the Doctor Strange sequel. But it hasn't been confirmed how much time will pass in the MCU between the two projects, as they are now placed fifteen months apart on the MCU release slate, and separated by eight MCU projects in between - including Spider-Man 3, which is now rumored to be tied to the series as well.
To think that the effects of whatever events that transpire in WandaVision won't be further explored until Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness would be silly. The Doctor Strange sequel is now set to release in March 2022, just a few months after Spider-Man 3 comes out in December 2021, so it would also make linear sense to bring attention towards the madness that Doctor Strange will have to face as a result of WandaVision, which will have already been out for a year and some change.
But how will the concept of a multiverse translate into a Spider-Man film? And why would it be helpful for fans?
It's no secret that even the suggestion of a multiverse can makes things messy real quick. In light of that, this may actually be the most desired route for Marvel Studios to take while introducing and explaining the concept of a multiverse to MCU audiences.
Sony's 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse proved that audiences can both understand and enjoy the idea of a multiverse, but only if it is written well. If Marvel Studios is on track to write their own multiverse into the MCU, then they will have to do it in a way that fans will be able to understand and relate to, while still acknowledging the decade-long saga that already exists in the MCU. Bringing in the Sorceror Supreme in all his magical wisdom, as opposed to a webslinging teenager on the lam, would certainly help MCU fans to better interpret the nature and the scale of what is being introduced.
So then how can Spider-Man help with this transition at all? Think about it: what other superhero has been portrayed in not one, not two, but three moderately-to-incredibly successful franchises, just in the past 20 years? What other character in a movie has been played by several different actors who were all well-received by different audiences? What other character has been written in several different but somehow familiar stories that fans now know like the back of their hand? Lastly, what crossover event have Spider-Man fans been begging to bring to live-action for years now?
Because of this, Peter Parker is the perfect candidate to help the fluidity of slowly but effectively bringing the MCU's multiverse to center stage in a way that even the most casual of fans can both understand and enjoy. By doing so, it would provide a familiar, substantial example of how different versions of the same person can exist across multiple realities, because instead of having to show the audience how Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire's versions of the characters are different, fans will already know every detail because of Maguire's three films as Spider-Man, as well as Garfield's two. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Spider-Man fans have been dreaming of a crossover event like this for ages.
Imagine Tom Holland's Peter Parker comes across an electrically charged Maxwell Dillon, and he is not properly equipped to face off against him. Who is the one person that was able to figure out a way to defeat Electro? That's right, Peter Parker - just not the MCU's Peter Parker.
So, who knows this? Who may have already seen this reality play out? Doctor Strange could either help Peter defeat Electro by telling him how Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man did it in his own universe, or he could even pull Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker to the MCU reality for assistance.
Imagine the reaction of the crowd; instead of confused looks and scratching heads, the Sorceror Supreme bringing a second Spider-Man into the mix would be met with roars of cheers and thunderous applause.
So, if Marvel Studios is looking for the right way to integrate the multiverse into the MCU for the longhaul, then placing Doctor Strange among the events of Spider-Man 3 is a good sign, to say the least.