Spider-Man: No Way Home finally allowed the MCU to utilize the Multiverse to bring together multiple generations of fan-favorite elements from the wall-crawler's cinematic history. Despite how satisfying it was for viewers, this created one big problem for the MCU's web-slinger as Tom Holland's hero had to face off against villains from five different Spider-Man movies throughout No Way Home.
Even with villains from across two decades of film, the story throughout the threequel still felt MCU-centric thanks to the incorporation of Doctor Strange and his magic, as well as continued talk about The Blip and Captain America's shield being added to the Statue of Liberty. Keeping with the theme, Spider-Man: No Way Home went a step further to set new expectations and ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it became the first feature film to fully dive into the concept of the Multiverse.
But Peter Parker's big solution at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home may have terrible consequences for the greater MCU, and the other Marvel Studios project that's tackled the Multiverse. The animated Disney+ show What If...? - explains why.
Spider-Man Breaks the Multiverse
The main premise of No Way Home explored the consequences of Peter Parker essentially cracking the Multiverse open and allowing characters from other universes into the MCU, which he accidentally triggered by tampering with Doctor Strange's spell that was meant to make the world forget Spider-Man's no-longer-secret identity. The opposite ended up occurring and instead, the spell pulled in beings from other universes that did know Spider-Man's identity as Peter Parker, including past Spider-Man movie villains like Alfred Molina's Doc Ock and Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin.
Once Doctor Strange became aware of this after having to face off against Rhys Ifans' Lizard, he found that Peter had captured Doc Ock and tasked him with rounding up the rest of the MCU's Multiversal visitors. But after Peter had wrangled in Jamie Foxx's Electro and Thomas Haden Church's Sandman, he returned with a confused Norman Osborn to find out that each of the villains he had pulled into the MCU were about to die fighting Spider-Man in their worlds before they were taken.
Peter immediately - almost instinctively - switched gears upon learning that the Multiversal Spider-Man foes were destined to die and decided to go against Doctor Strange to try to "change their fate," despite Strange's adamant warning that his plan would only cause bigger problems.
This sequence is oddly similar to a scene from What If...? that also features Doctor Strange, in an episode where he got into some big Multiversal trouble and learned the hard way how dangerous it is to mess with someone's fate.
Strange MCU Parallels in No Way Home
Doctor Strange: "It's their fate (to die). You can't change that any more than you can change who they are."
Peter Parker: "But what if we could? What if we could change their fate?"
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
Interestingly enough, Spider-Man: No Way Home isn't the first time this year that MCU fans have seen someone wrapped up in the Mystic Arts trying to prevent an unavoidable death.
Audiences learned in early September that messing with certain events in time can have fatal consequences on a universal scale. Episode 4 of Marvel Studios' What If...? followed an alternate-reality Doctor Strange as he tried many times to save Christine Palmer from passing away but couldn't find a way to avoid her death.
The Ancient One explained to Strange that he would never be able to undo Christine’s demise since it was an "Absolute Point" on his timeline that paved the way for him to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
Despite this warning, Doctor Strange instead chose to practice dark magic to try to bring Christine back. His efforts paid off for a moment and Christine returned to him, but this perfect plan ended up crumbling into a disaster shortly after.
The newly-dubbed Strange Supreme ultimately tore his entire dimension apart in his ignorance by removing an Absolute Point from his timeline, and in the end, he was left alone in an abyss of nothing because of it.
Trying to undo a Absolute Point in time resulted in the utter destruction of Doctor Strange Supreme’s universe as it faded into nothing. Maybe Peter Parker examining the fate of these Multiversal beings and asking "what if?" is teasing that his solution will only invite a bigger problem down the road, despite his good intentions.
What If... Spidey Creates a Multiverse of Madness?
Similar to how Strange Supreme ignored the warnings of The Ancient One, Doctor Strange warned Peter in No Way Home that it was the Multiversal villains’ fate to die, whether Spider-Man could stop it or not. Peter ignored this warning and changed their fate anyway, which seemed to work out pretty well as each multidimensional foe was "cured" by the time they were returned to their homeworlds.
However, five total beings that were meant to meet their maker entered the MCU instead, and it seems that they all left their homeworlds at the exact point at which they were supposed to die. If any of the five villains' deaths were meant to be an Absolute Point on their respective timelines, then they weren't there when that Absolute Point in time was meant to occur. In fact, the Multiversal villains could even end up returning to their respective timelines after that Absolute Point should have taken place.
It's bad enough to imagine a world where Doc Ock suddenly disappeared when he was supposed to destroy his unstable fusion reactor, but fans saw what happened to Doctor Strange Supreme's universe after Christine Palmer's fate was changed, and that seems infinitely worse.
It's important to ask why any of these villains' deaths could serve as Absolute Points in time. To answer that, think about what some of these villains' deaths have meant for the Spider-Men in their universes.
For example, if Norman Osborn's death hadn't occurred, it wouldn't have driven his son Harry to become the New Goblin. That means Harry never would have been there to save Peter Parker in his fight against Sandman and Venom in Spider-Man 3.
If a cured Norman Osborn returned to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man universe without his Green Goblin alter-ego, it would change that cinematic universe entirely. As hard as it is to admit, it may be better for that timeline that Norman Osborn died because that universe would have much bigger problems to deal with otherwise.
With that in mind, it becomes easier to imagine a death like Norman Osborn's being an Absolute Point in time because it means that Spider-Man lives on to keep saving the day.
Much like in What If...? when it was an Absolute Point in time that Christine Palmer would die so that Doctor Strange would become the Sorcerer Supreme, it's equally possible that any of the five Multiversal villains featured in No Way Home were also destined to die as an Absolute Point in time on their various timelines. If a death such as Norman Osborn's was a fixed point in time that was meant to benefit the greater good like Christine's death was in What If...?, then Peter Parker saving Norman in No Way Home would effectively doom Norman's universe.
If that's what happened, and Peter created a bigger issue by solving the one he caused, then how would it be resolved?
Will Doctor Strange 2 Fix Spidey's Mistake?
Fans saw that Doctor Strange had to go to great lengths to undo a fixed point on his timeline, trying every method under the Sun to protect Christine from her fate; however, he never tried removing Christine from that timeline entirely.
If an Absolute Point in time was removed from a timeline and placed out of reach, what happens to that timeline? What happens to the universe that caused the destruction of said Absolute Point?
The animated Disney+ series showed fans the dangers of messing with Absolute Points in time as Doctor Strange Supreme's whole reality began to disappear following his alterations to the timeline.
The MCU could have caused as many as five Absolute Points in time from other universes to be missed. Removing any one of those points would result in the same utter destruction that was shown at the end of What If...?'s fourth installment.
The new trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hinted at this same concept. New York City was shown fading to black as that universe's reality began to crumble. Was this the Marvel Cinematic Universe that was shown being destroyed, or one of the realities the Multiversal Spidey villains call home?
There's also the chance that Doctor Strange is investigating the effects of Peter Parker's decision in Spider-Man: No Way Home to change the fate of five Multiversal villains, which may have included erasing an Absolute Point in time.
Fans will find out the consequences of Peter Parker's decisions when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6, 2022.