Spider-Man: No Way Home isn't just Tom Holland's third solo Spidey film; it's also the completion of his origin story and a film that defined who Spider-Man is as a cinematic hero. While it's absolutely Holland's film, much of the hype for the threequel is due to the presence of former big-screen web-slingers and their antagonists, as well as the MCU's own Doctor Strange.
In No Way Home, Holland's Peter Parker interferes with Doctor Strange's spell, leading to the Multiversal events of the film and a new path for the MCU's web-head.
While Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire's Peter Parkers contributed to Holland's arc as Spider-man, his interactions with Doctor Strange didn't only move the plot forward but may have revealed more of the web-slinger's potential cosmic connections and mystical capabilities.
Spider-Man & Strange's Astral Push in No Way Home
When Doctor Strange explains to Holland's Peter that the film's Multiversal villains must be returned to their worlds where they die fighting Spider-Man, Peter insists that there must be another way.
After stealing the mystical cube which can send the past baddies home, Strange pushes Peter's astral form out of his physical body in an attempt to stop him.
Now, this has been seen multiple times in the MCU, such as when the Ancient One did so to Strange in 2016's Doctor Strange. She later did the same to Smart Hulk in 2019's Avengers: Endgame.
While Peter is understandably thrown by this literal out-of-body experience, he quickly embraces it; and as Strange reaches for the cube, Peter's physical self in his Spidey suit dodges Strange grasp while Peter watches in his astral form.
Strange remarks that he shouldn't be able to do that, but Peter's physical self continues to do so while he swims back into his body of his own accord. This is then followed by a romp through the Mirror Dimension where Peter bests Strange's tactics yet again due to his expertise in geometry and then steals Strange's sling ring.
So why is teenage Peter Parker able to top the Sorcerer Supreme and that Astral Push? Let's start with the dominant theory.
Peter Parker's Spidey-Sense
During the scene where Peter's physical self avoids Strange's grasp, a number of fans noticed wavy lines hovering over Peter's astral form. Many believe this to be a visual (or astral?) manifestation of his Spider-Sense (aka "Peter Tingle"), especially since it's similar to how this ability was depicted in the comics and in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Peter's Spider-Sense is likely the reason why his physical body is intuitively countering Strange's attempts; but still, it's interesting - and even surprising - that he was able to control himself while still in his astral form and without sorcerer training.
It's even more notable that Strange didn't think this response was even possible, despite being familiar with Peter's powers due to their team-up in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Could it be that these little details are actually evidence of Spider-Man's newfound cosmic connections?
Spider-Man is All the Peter Parkers?
Even though Spider-Man: No Way Home is about responsibility, it's also about identity; and like Strange says, Peter's problem is him trying to live two lives.
Basically, he needs to accept the fact that he can't separate Peter Parker from Spider-Man; and the visual of his Spider-suited physical body responding to his astral form supports this message.
No Way Home also established that Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland's Peter Parkers are all connected and share an identity that extends beyond their name, as evidenced through quotes like "it's what we do."
Since Peter Parker/Spider-Man isn't limited to simply one universe - or one physical form - perhaps this is why he was still able to control himself even while in the astral plane?
If so, his various connected identities, and the fact that they exist across the Multiverse, might also be why he's able to swim back into his physical body of his own accord.
A Supreme Spider-Man?
Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men weren't the only additional web-slingers the MCU introduced in 2021.
Marvel's What If...? on Disney+ introduced Marvel audiences to Zombie Hunter Spider-Man who - like Tom Holland's version of the web-slinger - also turned down Tony Stark's offer to be an Avenger.
However, when a Quantum Virus transformed this Spidey's world into a zombie apocalypse, the fallen Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation seemingly chose Peter.
While the cloak has been known to rescue various MCU characters, including Ned in No Way Home, What If...?'s Peter actually wore the cloak for a time. Granted, the cloak was later worn by Ant-Man's Scott Lang due to his head being in a jar, but the few beats involving Peter and the cloak seemed more intentional. There was even a touching exchange between Peter and the Wasp's Hope van Dyne about him growing into the look.
If the Cloak of Levitation chose What If...?'s Peter Parker, could this mystical connection also apply to all other Peter Parkers?
The MCU's Plans for the Web of Destiny?
Due to multiple Peters, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the MCU Multiverse, and Marvel and Sony's Spidey partnership, there are both theories and rumors hinting at Madame Web and the Web of Life and Destiny as a means to connect these various stories and events.
In the comics, the Web of Life and Destiny binds the Multiverse together. It's also where all of the various spider-powered heroes draw their power while Madame Web has the power to transport different versions of Spider-Man to different realities.
While audiences have already seen different versions of Spider-Man crossover into the MCU, the web-head's Multiversal adventures are only just beginning due to two upcoming Into the Spider-Verse films.
If this continues, a comic book precedent to connect and explain all of these Spidey stories wouldn't just make sense but may also prove to be necessary.
How the MCU's Spidey is Different
Even though No Way Home left Holland's Spider-Man on the start of a new path, what Marvel and Sony have in store for the hero remains to be seen. Still, the film took time to show Peter's surprising capabilities in terms of the astral plane, and there's no denying that Strange's actions - and cosmic, Multiversal versions of himself - have shaped his current situation and who he's become.
While only time will tell if those mystic and cosmic connections mean something more for the web-slinger in the future, it's hard to deny that the possibilities are endless when it comes to the MCU's version of the iconic web-slinger.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently playing in theaters.