This MCU article contains MAJOR spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Spider-Man: No Way Home, the latest installment in the Marvel pantheon, has hit theaters, complete with an ending that is sure to reverberate across the MCU—if not because Doctor Strange has left cracks in the multiverse than in the space it will leave in the Avengers where Peter Parker once stood. The movie crams a lot into its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, giving rewarding endings to not one but three Peter Parkers. How does it do it? And what does No Way Home’s ending mean for the future of Spider-Man and the MCU? We break it all down below…
The Peters Cure the Spider-Man Villains
Honestly, the dumbest part of Spider-Man: No Way Home is the concept that villainy can be cured with a gadget or chemical compound. I know that many a superhero villain has been created by falling into a vat of proverbial eels, but the idea that evil-doing is a switch that can be turned on and off is thematically shallow and makes for one of the weakest parts of this story. That being said, Peter does effectively “cure” all of the villains Doctor Strange’s botched spell has dragged into the MCU’s reality: the Green Goblin from 2002’s Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus from 2004’s Spider-Man 2, Sandman from 2007’s Spider-Man 3, the Lizard from 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, and Electro from 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
While, at first, the three Peters struggle to work together to take out the antagonists, they eventually figure it out, swinging around the Statue of Liberty with their high school science lab-made cures in hand to reverse the respective conditions that made each villain villainous. Tobey Maguire’s Spidey may get a little stabbed in the process, but no big deal… it’s not like he hasn’t been stabbed before! Thematically, the scene is meant to hammer home our Peter’s rejection of vengeance in favor of a commitment to helping even those who are actively trying to kill him. Which, sure.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker Saves the Girl
One of the most moving parts of the Spider-Man: No Way Home climax came not in our Peter Parker’s character arc, but in Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker journey. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen, dies during a fight, falling to her death from the top of a clock tower (as superheroes’ girlfriends tend to do). Peter is there, and tries to save her, but he is a second too late, his web catching her, but not before she hits the ground and dies instantly.
In No Way Home, our Peter Parker is almost faced with the same horrific fate when his girlfriend, MJ, falls from the Statue of Liberty during the climactic fight. Holland’s Peter jumps after MJ, trying to catch her, but is taken out by the Green Goblin before he can stop her descent. Luckily, he isn’t the only Peter Parker on the scene. Garfield’s Parker, watching nearby, gets another chance to save the girl and, this time, is able to. Garfield’s Peter is not going to let the superhero’s girlfriend get fridged… not this time.
The Multiverse Cracks Open
The Peter Parkers may effectively take out their villains, but not before one of the Green Goblin’s bombs takes out the confinement box holding Strange’s botched spell. The result is that everyone across the multiverse who knows the identity of Spider-Man (including a fair few villains) are making their way into our universe, and the ‘verse is ripping at its seams.
So Peter comes up with a plan: if everyone forgets who Peter Parker is, full stop, then no one will know he is Spider-Man, and the original spell will be cancelled out. Or something. Honestly, the logic is all a bit wobbly, but the emotions work. Doctor Strange reluctantly agrees, seeing no other way out of the pickle he’s gotten them all into. (Honestly, Stephen Strange is the true villain of this movie, in my opinion.)
The Other Peter Parkers Return to Their Worlds
Before Doctor Strange casts the spell that will change our Peter Parker’s life forever, Peter has a chance to say goodbye to the Spider-Mentors who have helped him save his world, and who have helped him accept the weight of heroism. For three characters who spent relatively little time together, it’s a touching moment. They may not know one another very well, but they understand something about each other that no one else in the multiverse, no matter how close, will ever be able to understand. They have all been thrust into the same insane superhero life, a life they didn’t ask for, and been driven to take that responsibility seriously by great loss. More than that, they have chosen to be good. It’s hard to see the other Peter Parkers go, especially knowing what is in store for our Peter Parker—how alone he is about to become—but, in this brief goodbye moment, these three Peter Parkers have one another.
Are The Other Peter Parkers Forgotten Too?
Honestly, this is an important, unanswered follow-up question. Under the terms of the original spell, anyone who knows any version of Peter Parker is pulled through to our world. It stands to reason that Doctor Strange’s fix-it spell might also affect every other Peter Parker across the multiverse, which… sorry to those Spider-Men. I don’t think this is a logic leap No Way Home is intending us to make, as the film seems eager to give Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parkers happy endings, but it is a logic leap I made nonetheless.
Will Doctor Strange Remember Peter?
While Doctor Strange’s movie-ending spell was to ensure that no one would remember Peter, it seems possible that the caster might be immune to those effects. (We don’t actually know that much about how the MCU’s magic works.) While there is nothing in No Way Home to suggest that Stephen will remember Peter, stranger things have happened and, with the Doctor Strange sequel right around the corner, and Stephen messing with multiversal madness in the film, who’s to say what kind of just-forgotten memories he might stir up by movie’s end?
Peter Chooses Not to Tell MJ & Ned the Truth
Before Doctor Strange casts the spell that will make everyone forget Peter, our hero has the chance to say goodbye—and he takes it, telling both MJ and Ned that they are about to forget him. A distraught MJ makes Peter promise that she will find him and remind her who he is, and Peter seemingly intends to keep that promise. In a subsequent scene, we see him approaching the diner where MJ works, rehearing what he is going to say to explain the situation to MJ (and presumably Ned).
However, he changes his mind after seeing the bandaid on MJ’s forehead. Peter gets a glimpse of what their life looks like without them: perhaps safer, and without the weight of the world and/or multiverse on their shoulders. He sees Ned and MJ joke about their upcoming time at MIT and when he asks MJ if she is excited, she says that she is and it seems simple… easy. In that moment, Peter makes the decision to stay out of their lives. (Which, honestly, not cool, given that MJ made it clear that she would want to know. But also understandable. How does one even go about explaining a magic spell?)
Who Dies in Spider-Man: No Way Home?
Honestly, this film has a relatively low death count, especially given the stakes. That being said, there is one major death that occurs halfway through the film, serving as a catalyst for Peter’s vengeance. I am talking, of course, about the death of Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May, who is killed by the Green Goblin. Before she dies, she delivers the iconic Spider-Man line: “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” It’s the lesson every feature film Spider-Man has experienced as part of their character journey, and I supposed Holland’s Peter is lucky he got as much time with his Aunt May as he did.
In what feels like a callback to the Spider-Man films that predate the MCU, No Way Home’s ending isn’t complete without Peter Parker standing over a grave—in this case, Aunt May’s. While there, he sees Happy Hogan, who of course doesn’t remember him. Still, they share a lovely moment, reflecting on how much May helped others. (And, yes, the epitaph on her gravestone hammers home the point: “When you help someone, you help everyone.”) Happy wonders if all the good that May did in the world has gone with May, but Peter is confident in his belief that it is not. It carries on through everyone she helped, he tells Happy. Even though Peter has been left without his support system, literally forgotten by everyone he knows and loves, we have never seen him quite so sure in his mission. He will carry on, helping others, just like May taught him. He will be the legacy she left behind.
Peter Parker Becomes Our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
A side effect of literally everyone Peter has ever known forgetting who he is that he is no longer an Avenger. He will no longer be called upon to team up with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes when the fate of the universe is at stake. Instead, he is a humble, local superhero who can focus on his home city and borough, something we have rarely seen for our MCU’s Spider-Man. In the final moments of the film, we see Peter heading out of his apartment’s window, wearing a classic, homemade costume, presumably inspired by the standard Spidey costumes he saw the other Spideys wearing.
Will Tom Holland Be in More Spider-Man Movies?
The Spider-Man: No Way Home ending works as a jaw-dropping consequence to Doctor Strange’s magical ambitions, but it also works on a pragmatic level, as Holland’s contract to play Spider-Man is fulfilled after No Way Home. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be extended, but the fact that the entire world has forgotten Peter Parker does give Marvel and/or Holland an out, should either party decide not to move forward with this incarnation of Spider-Man. It’s hard to imagine that happening, given that Holland is one of the younger members of the Avengers, and has a lot of potential to continue on as a legacy character within the superhero team, but the messy behind-the-scenes rights situation surrounding Spider-Man does make things much more complicated than most other MCU characters.
That being said, Sony producer Amy Pascal recently told Fandango that there are plans for more of Holland’s Peter in the MCU, saying: “This is not the last movie that we are going to make with Marvel – [this is not] the last Spider-Man movie. We are getting ready to make the next Spider-Man movie with Tom Holland and Marvel. We’re thinking of this as three films, and now we’re going to go onto the next three. This is not the last of our MCU movies.”
What questions did you have about the Spider-Man: No Way Home ending? Did it work for you? Let us know in the comments below…