In 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, Peter Parker is faced with a significant dilemma, when the world discovers he is secretly Spider-Man. Keen for everyone to forget this newfound knowledge, he approaches Doctor Strange for help, asking Strange to perform a spell that will induce mass amnesia across the population.
Doctor Strange agrees to Peter’s request, but when Peter begins to make a few changes to the spell, to ensure his friends and family retain knowledge of his secret identity, things go wrong. The spell backfires and different Spidey villains from all over the multiverse are brought into Peter’s world.
According to Strange, the villains that cross over from one universe to the next are those who are privy to Peter’s secret identity. In short: If these villains already know that Peter is Spider-Man in their own universe, then they are dragged into this alternate one.
Problem is, for audiences, this ‘rule’ doesn’t make sense. Why? Because it seems to play a little fast and loose with who does and who doesn’t know Peter’s secret identity.
The villains who are pulled into Peter’s universe are as follows:
- The Green Goblin (from 2002’s Spider-Man)
- Doctor Octopus (from 2004’s Spider-Man 2)
- The Sandman (from 2007’s Spider-Man 3)
- The Lizard (from 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man)
- Electro (from 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Five villains are transported across the multiverse, with each villain being lifted from a different Spider-Man movie from the past. And of these five villains, most know Peter’s secret identity, having learned it in their respective movies… but this isn’t the case for all of the villains.
The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, The Sandman, and The Lizard all know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man; this is something they learn in those older movies. But Electro doesn’t know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and this causes a problem for the ‘rules’ set out in the film.
Electro never learned Peter’s secret in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This is one of the rare cases of a villain in a Spider-Man movie not learning about Peter’s alter-ego, but it happened.
In fact, to make it even clearer that Electro is not in on the secret, there is a scene in Spider-Man: No Way Home in which he specifically addresses who he thought was under the Spidey mask. And for those who have forgotten the scene, Electro did not expect Peter Parker to be the person in the costume.
So, Electro not knowing about Spidey’s identity is a slight wrinkle in the ‘rules’ of this spell. But this is not the only wrinkle.
If villains who know about Peter’s identity are pulled into this universe, then there are a few villains missing – namely Harry Osborn (Spider-Man 1 – 3), Eddie Brock/Venom (Spider-Man 3), Mr. Fiers (The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2), and Harry Osborn Mark II (The Amazing Spider-Man 2). All of these villains are aware of Peter’s secret, but none of them make the jump.
How come? Well, the most likely answer is because the actors – James Franco, Topher Grace, Michael Massee, and Dane DeHaan – were unavailable/unable to reprise their roles for the film. In the case of Massee, the actor passed away in 2016, which explains his absence.
But not including any of these villains doesn’t really help No Way Home to play by its own ‘rules’, does it? Well, no – but there is an explanation that could work in terms of the story for at least two of the characters.
In the film, it is made clear that every villain has been plucked out of their respective universe at different times. In the case of Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Electro, it was just before their deaths.
With Doctor Octopus in particular, it must have been moments before he died, as this is when he learns Peter’s secret. He finds out Peter is Spider-Man, just before he sacrifices himself at the end of Spider-Man 2.
As the Goblin, Octopus, and Electro are taken at different moments, there appears to be no set time for when each villain is plucked from their universe – they simply get taken. So, in the case of the villains from Spider-Man 3, it would seem the reason Sandman makes the jump, when the others don’t, is simply down to a timing issue.
Think back to the events of Spider-Man 3 and you will recall that Eddie Brock/Venom dies following a climactic battle, which also results in the death of Harry Osborn. Following these two deaths, Peter then has a brief exchange with the Sandman, who simply drifts away before Spider-Man 3 comes to a close.
Presumably, it is at this specific moment that the spell plucks the Sandman out of his own universe, just before he turns to sand and drifts off into the breeze. And if this is the moment the spell takes Sandman, then it doesn’t take Harry and Eddie because they have just passed away.
So, the absence of Harry and Eddie/Venom can be explained away due to timing, but there really is no explanation for the no-show of Harry Osborn from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Harry knew Peter’s secret, and he didn’t die during the events of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so where the heck is he?
There’s really no way to explain his absence. Mr. Fiers can be overlooked due to the passing of Michael Massee, and because the villain was a very minor part of The Amazing Spider-Man series (that many audiences would forget), but the lack of Harry Osborn is very noticeable.
And if I’m going to bring up this specific inconsistency, then it’s only right that I also mention another inconsistency: No Way Home’s inclusion of Eddie Brock/Venom, as played by Tom Hardy. Hardy pops up for a brief cameo during a mid-credit scene, to make a guest appearance in the movie, even though this doesn’t stick to the rules either!
As fun as Hardy’s cameo is, it really doesn’t make sense. If the rules state that only those who know about Peter are brought into this universe, then how did this version of Eddie Brock make the trip?
Brock is first brought into this universe via a mid-credit scene in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. This scene is Brock’s first encounter with the MCU, and sees him ‘universe hop’ from one universe to the next.
But this scene also makes it clear this is when Brock learns that Peter is Spider-Man. Prior to this sequence, Brock was unaware of Spidey, Parker, or any major super heroes, so his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home doesn’t fit the rules laid out in the movie.
Now I have previously posted about why I believe there are only five major villains in Spider-Man: No Way Home, so this could go some way to explain why only some villains made the jump, and if you want to read that theory then please follow the link. However, this still doesn’t brush away the inconsistencies, which make it clear that No Way Home abandons its own rules when it wants to.
So, is this abandonment of the rules a huge problem, that causes endless issues for Spider-Man: No Way Home, or is it simply a bunch of plot holes that can be overlooked? Well, for me, it is most certainly the latter.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a fantastic movie regardless of any problems or inconsistencies, and these plot holes do not ruin my enjoyment of the film. However, it is worth noting that these inconsistencies do exist, and that not every part of the film makes complete sense.
Maybe a complex explanation will surface in the fullness of time, or maybe no one will worry about it too much. I guess, only time will tell.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about Spider-Man: No Way Home on Don’t Tell Harry. For more posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.