Spider-Man: No Way Home has finally arrived in theaters, offering audiences web-slinging action, all the emotions, and a lot of story that not only centered on Tom Holland's Peter Parker, but also the film's extensive cast of Multiversal villains. However, involving baddies from past franchises and various points in time left some fans with as many questions and answers.
WARNING: The rest of this article contains spoilers from Spider-Man: No Way Home.
In No Way Home, Peter Parker and Doctor Strange's botched spell lifted the villains from Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man films and dropped them into the MCU.
The truly confusing aspect of this situation - and what some consider a plot hole - is that the Green Goblin who died in 2002's Spider-Man is now alive alongside Doc-Ock from 2004's Spider-Man 2. All the while, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men appear older and even acknowledge the passage of time.
So how can these baddies from all different points in time appear together, just as they were, while Maguire and Garfield's characters have aged? Also, now that the villains have been redeemed, what does that mean for their respective films?
The answers - and the very reason for why this Spider-Man threequel is even possible - can actually be found in past MCU projects, such as Marvel's Loki on Disney+ and 2018's Avengers: Endgame.
Loki Lesson #1: Time Isn't Linear
Spider-Man: No Way Home established that the film's roster of past antagonists all died fighting Spider-Man because, as Doctor Strange explained, it's their fate. However, Strange and Peter's failed spell lifted them all from various points in time occurring before their deaths to one collective point in the current MCU.
How is this possible and why does this work? Well, when thinking of time as a linear path, this doesn't make sense. However, earlier this year, Loki taught MCU fans that time isn't linear. Instead, all moments are occurring together all at the same time.
This is why the Green Goblin, who died in 2002's Spider-Man, was able to be alive and alongside Doc Ock who didn't obtain his metal tentacles until 2004's Spider-Man 2.
This is also why Tobey Maguire's Peter has aged and refers to the deaths of both Norman and Harry Osborn as events past, despite the current existence of Norman Osborn/Goblin in this film.
Loki Lesson #2: Fate Vs. Free Will
The doomed spell isn't the only catalyst for events in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Peter's decision to follow Aunt May's lead and help the villains leads to a chain of events resulting in all the Peter Parkers curing their former antagonists. Before they all return to their worlds, they're no longer bad, even though Doctor Strange said their deaths at the hands of Spidey is their fate.
So how is this possible? Once again, the answer can be found in Loki.
Throughout Season 1 of Loki, the God of Mischief railed against the idea of fate and that he wasn't in control. He was told his wayward ways helped Thor and the Avengers become the best versions of themselves and that this was part of the proper flow of time.
The show also established that each time a Loki tried to reform himself, they were pruned by the TVA. That all changed, however, when Sylvie killed He Who Remains, potentially freeing the timeline and giving way to the Multiverse.
If it weren't for the events of Loki, Tom Holland's Peter Parker curing Doc Ock would've been labeled a Nexus event and pruned by the TVA, preventing not only the redemption of the film's roster of villains but also that of the former Peter Parkers.
Endgame Explains Spidey Villains' New Beginning & Ending
While a cured Electro, Gobby, Lizard, and the like make great redemption arcs for all involved, what happens when they're sent back to their worlds (aka respective films)? Is there even a point in curing them since audiences know their movies and stories end?
Technically, the endings of those past movies are now their own timelines while the events of No Way Home created new branched realities and thus, additional timelines.
In Avengers: Endgame, Professor Hulk explained it best by saying, “If you travel back into your own past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can’t now be changed by your new future.”
Basically, Norman Osborn, Doc Ock, Sandman, Lizard, and Electro will return to their past timelines redeemed; however, their return to their past films is now their new future. How they interact with their Peter Parkers now will create a new branched reality for all involved.
The Future of the MCU Multiverse?
Even though Doctor Strange no longer has the Time Stone, time - and thus the Multiverse - has been a central theme of the MCU's Phase 4 thus far.
While fans still have questions, Marvel has been slowly educating its audience while also laying the groundwork for stories like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
In fact, both No Way Home and Loki are expected to play a role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but that's not all. Other Multiversal endeavors in the works at Marvel Studios range from Season 2 of What If...? and Loki, as well as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania starring Jonathon Majors as Kang the Conqueror.
While the MCU's plans for the Multiverse is a concept about which fans know frighteningly little; one thing is for sure, Marvel is just getting started.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently playing in theaters.