Spider-Man: No Way Home united three generations of Peter Parker on screen together. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield opened the forbidden door of the Multiverse and officially made their (brief) Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts before returning to the realities they call home. While both Maguire and Garfield's Spider-Man movies kept the title characters as the sole hero of their universe, their integration into the MCU welcomed the possibility of both web-slingers' homes actually being a much bigger universe.
That is until Tom Holland's resume was met with blank stares.
"I don't want to brag, but I will: I was in the Avengers," Holland exclaims.
"The Avengers? That's great! What is that?" Maguire questions.
"Wait, you don't have the Avengers?" Holland asks.
"Is that a band?" Garfield responds. "Are you in a band?"
With no time to waste, Holland immediately sheds his surprise and gets to strategizing with his brothers. The third act continues with enough chill-inducing moments and historic individual frames to put this reveal on the backburner, but its impact cannot be understated: not every universe has the Earth's Mightiest Heroes. At least not yet.
Avengers: Not Yet Assembled?
While Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man franchise made their title characters a solo act, both have hinted at Peter Parker being one of many enhanced individuals in those worlds.
The most glaring indication came in 2004's Spider-Man 2. JK Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson takes it upon himself to name Alfred Molina's tentacled antagonist and fields potential aliases to Ted Raimi's Hoffman. While "Doctor Octopus" and "Science Squid" were initially shut down, Hoffman pitches a name that piques Jameson's interest.
"Doctor Strange," Hoffman suggests.
That's pretty good," Jameson replies. "But it's taken!"
This was nothing but a fun Easter egg for fans at the time, but the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home indicate that the Master of the Mystic Arts exists within Tobey Maguire's world. Strange's mention being brushed off as nothing more than a name-drop hints that beyond Spider-Man, heroes within Raimi's films are significantly more low-key. Doctor Strange may be protecting Tobey's reality, but operating from the shadows.
Using this logic for the rest of Tobey's universe, other founding members of the Avengers may exist but are not sensationalized like they are in the MCU.
It's in Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff's job descriptions to act like ghosts. While both Hawkeye and Black Widow get the spotlight in the MCU, they could very well be working covertly within Sam Raimi's universe. The same goes for SHIELD as a whole. After all, the helicarrier is literally programmed to turn invisible.
What If...? explored the possibility of Thor growing up without Loki and shifting into a reckless and macho lifestyle. This meant he was never cast out to Earth, and only paid a visit when his bar crawl added the planet to its itinerary. Raimi's Thor may simply still be living on Asgard without reason to journey to Midgard.
The safest explanation comes in the form of Captain America. Steve Rogers went into the ice in 1945 and wasn't thawed out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until 2011. If events across the Multiverse take place somewhat simultaneously, Cap still had a couple of years to unfreeze during 2007's Spider-Man 3. Once his melting does come in Raimi's universe, there's every likelihood he has no interest in returning to fight. Cap could have fast-tracked his Avengers: Endgame finale by a decade and sought out that life Tony told him about immediately once he got his second shot.
Hulk and Iron Man find themselves in a similar situation. The genius scientist and eccentric billionaire maybe a couple of years away from gaining their enhanced aliases. Dr. Bruce Banner has never had a problem with staying out of the spotlight, but Tony Stark is a bit of an attention addict. The simple explanation is that Tony is residing in his Malibu home on the other side of the country, and Tobey's friendly neighborhood is unconcerned with the man behind Stark Industries.
Earth's Mightiest Misfire
While Tobey's Avengers explanation relies on assumptions, Andrew's Earth's Mightiest answer actually begins with one of Hollywood's biggest what-ifs.
2012 saw the first swing at a Peter Parker reboot and the official assembling of a group of remarkable people. The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man hit theaters two months apart in May and July, respectively. The only similarity both films had was that their stories take place in New York, but the two almost had a deliberate connective tissue.
The Amazing Spider-Man producers Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach revealed that Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had discussions about unifying their Manhattan skylines by incorporating the Oscorp tower amongst the several structures in The Avengers. However, by the time The Amazing Spider-Man's Oscorp building was finished, The Avengers's digital skyline had already completed its render.
The domino effect of this deal coming to fruition is on a scale hitherto undreamt of. From the Avengers aspect, it emphasizes that Andrew's universe welcomed the idea of Spider-Man being one of many heroes, at least from a behind-the-scenes perspective.
Both Tobey and Andrew's universes may have not assembled their Avengers yet, but it might be destined to happen eventually.
Marvel Studios' What If...? introduced the concept of an Absolute Point. Jeffrey Wright's The Watcher defined this as a fixed moment in time that no matter what is done, the outcome cannot be changed. This was explored during Season 1 of What If...?, where Doctor Strange was forced to lose Christine Palmer in every instance, no matter how hard he tried to alter her fate.
Palmer's death was deemed a necessary evil to put Strange on the path towards becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. Absolute Points are only revealed once one attempts to tamper with it, which is why Strange's Supreme destiny has been the only one showcased thus far. Regardless, it's far from the only fixed moment in the Multiverse.
Spider-Man: No Way Home hinted at one major Absolute Point during the three Peter Parkers' introductory conversation. After Tom Holland's Peter revealed his Aunt May told him about "great power," both Tobey and Andrew's Peter perked up. Not only were they given the same advice, but it was delivered to them by their Uncle Bens right before they died.
Just like Strange losing Christina in What If...?, "with great power comes great responsibility" essentially serves as Spider-Man's Absolute Point. These words signal the true beginning of his heroic journey and his acceptance of the sacrifices he'll have to make towards his personal life on a daily basis.
If these universes are destined to have a Spider-Man, the Avengers can't be far behind. Heroes like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark need to be sent into the ice and captured by terrorists to ensure they become the men they are supposed to be. Natasha Romanoff must be sent to the Red Room in order to eventually become SHIELD's greatest assassin. If Scott Lang doesn't try to break into Hank Pym's house, does the Time Heist even come to fruition?
Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield may be without the Earth's Mightiest Heroes in their worlds at this moment, but their assembly may be inevitable.
Speaking of inevitable...
One of Avengers: Infinity War's most crucial scenes comes when Doctor Strange goes forward in time to see "alternate futures" of the coming conflict. Out of 14,000,605, the Avengers were victorious in one.
The Multiverse opens the door to infinite possibilities, with alternate futures and timelines being just that. As Loki showed fans, one slight change creates a branch timeline. While some of these offshoots are allowed to exist, others pass the threshold and need to be pruned.
Tony Stark asks Strange "how many did we win," to which Strange replies with a solemn "one." While the rosters of Avengers across these 14 million outcomes are likely varied, it does indicate that the team at least exists in every future. With the likelihood that Marvel's ultimate alliance unites in most future MCU timelines, one can't help but think that the Avengers would form in other universes as well.
There's no telling if fans will ever see these potential alternate Avengers rosters come to life, but May's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness leaves the door open. With Sam Raimi in the director's chair for the Sorcerer Supreme's sequel, he may want to act upon that Doctor Strange Easter egg he planted 18 years ago.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters now.