Right from the start, Tom Holland's MCU version of Spider-Man has been different from both Tobey Maguire's and Andrew Garfield's incarnations of the web-slinger.
The previous franchises had their Peter Parkers graduate from high school and enter adulthood, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Peter is still a kid; and while he does live with his Aunt May as the others did before, the Uncle Ben mentor role was filled by Iron Man's Tony Stark.
While 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home marked Peter's first adventure without Stark, the looming presence of the billionaire philanthropist turned father figure was still a significant part of the film.
Therefore, when fans learned Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange was starring in Spider-Man: No Way Home alongside Holland, many assumed the Sorcerer Supreme would be filling Stark's mentor role.
However, Strange's odd behavior in the trailer, coupled with new admissions from Holland himself, indicate just the opposite.
Spider-Man and Doctor Strange's No Way Home Conflict
In talking with Total Film, Tom Holland confirmed that his character of Peter Parker and Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange are "definitely not friends" in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
According to the actor, it's "a very different relationship" compared to Tony and Peter's dynamic:
"It’s a very different relationship [from Tony Stark and Peter Parker]. I wouldn’t consider Doctor Strange as a mentor in this film – it’s more as a colleague. At this point in the films, Spider-Man has established himself as quite a powerful and serious Avenger. Doctor Strange sees that in him, and treats him like an equal."
This supports a scene from the threequel's first teaser trailer where Peter Parker refers to Strange as "sir," only for Strange to remark that since they saved half the universe together, "I think we're beyond you calling me 'sir'."
Despite this sense of respect for one another, Holland goes on to say that their professional relationship eventually turns sour, admitting that, "...throughout the course of the film, their relationship breaks down. And rather than becoming colleagues – they don’t become enemies, but they’re definitely not friends."
From what footage fans have seen of the film, there's reason to believe that Strange and Parker are at odds. Cumberbatch's tone in telling Peter that the "problem is you trying to live two different lives" and "Be careful what you wish for, Parker," does sound somewhat ominous.
Also, there are rumors suggesting a battle between the two in regard to the mysterious artifact Peter is seen carrying in various promotional materials.
Cumberbatch has touched on his character and Peter's relationship in interviews as well, saying that it "shifts into something far more parental and corrective. And then it shifts again."
In regard to comparisons of Peter and Tony's bond, Holland went on to say that, "It's very, very different from the one of Tony and Peter" but also admitting that "it's a fun one:"
"Spider-Man always wants to please everyone. He always wants everyone to be happy. And then, in this instance, that’s not the case. It’s an interesting relationship. It’s very, very different from the one of Tony and Peter. But it’s a fun one. And obviously Benedict [Cumberbatch] – I love him to bits. He’s such a good guy. I’ve worked with him loads of times now, and I’ve always really enjoyed it. He’s been a real joy and pleasure to work with. Spider-Man and Doctor Strange are a great mix. They look great onscreen. The balance between them is very funny."
Strange and Spidey's Strange Relationship
Even though Holland's Peter Parker was dusted in Avengers: Infinity War and lost Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home is shaping up to be his greatest challenge yet, and it sounds like Cumberbatch's Strange won't be making things any easier for him.
The question, of course, is why they're at odds and whether this shift in their relationship is due to Peter's actions or perhaps what's to come in Cumberbatch's upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Still, while Parker and Strange's relationship may be a bit strained in the upcoming film, it doesn't sound like that's the case for Holland and Cumberbatch off-camera.
In addition to Holland's claims that Cumberbatch is "such a good guy" and "a real joy and pleasure to work with," Cumberbatch has shared similar praise for the web-slinging actor, referring to his acting skills as "utterly gobsmackingly brilliant."
Holland has often been at his best as Spider-Man when playing off of an older, wiser figure; and now that his character is on his own and grappling with multiversal threats, it's safe to say that his and Strange's dynamic should be one of the film's many highlights.
Spider-Man: No Way Home debuts in theaters on December 17, 2021.