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How Marvel's What If...? Might Have Foreshadowed Spider-Man: No Way Home

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" is the first live-action film post-"Avengers: Endgame" to feature Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange. The Master of the Mystic Arts plays a key role in another upcoming Phase 4 MCU movie, "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness," whose release date has been pushed to May 2022. The very fabric of the Marvel Universe will be undergoing major changes as it moves forward, with Disney+ shows including "Loki" and "Marvel's What If...?" setting the stage and providing connective tissue that "Multiverse of Madness" and other movies will pick up on in their narratives.

"Marvel's What If...?" may be more immediately vital to fans than they realize. The latest trailer for "Spider-Man: No Way Home" has been creating a conversation amongst fans since it dropped in mid-November. We were able to see a plethora of new details, including the confirmation of a few villains, like Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx's Electro. Not only that but, Doctor Strange is also heard confirming these villains are not from the main Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity we've grown familiar with over the years. According to Strange, they are "visitors" from other universes. This revelation is further corroborated when Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) unmasks Tom Holland's Spider-Man and states, "You're not Peter Parker," later in the trailer.

The shattering of the boundaries between different universes and the convergence of multiple "Spider-Man" villains in one movie is shocking enough, but it's possible these events were foreshadowed to a degree in "Marvel's What If...?" Episode 4, "What If...Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?" (via IMDb).

Marvel's What If...? reveals the seriousness of an absolute point in time

Doctor Strange (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is the central figure of "Marvel's What If..?" Episode 4. In the episode, Strange tries to reverse Christine Palmer's (Rachel McAdams) death in the car accident which, in 2016's live-action "Doctor Strange," changes the course of the doctor's life forever. As Strange grieves, The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) appears and reveals Christine's death is "an absolute point in time," a fixed event in time that serves as the turning point for what comes after it.

There is a moment in the most recent "Spider-Man: No Way Home" trailer where Doctor Strange tells Peter Parker (Tom Holland) that it is the "fate" of the villains who've crossed over into his world to die fighting Spider-Man (crucial note: it's not specific if they're meant to die fighting the Holland version). With "What If...?" Episode 4 in mind, is Peter now tampering with an absolute point?

From what we can gather from Strange and Peter's "No Way Home" trailer interactions, the sorcerer's attempt at a spell to make the world forget Peter is Spider-Man goes wrong when Peter voices a desire for only a few special people to know. It seems no damage is done until villains from other universes appear (via YouTube). At one point, Strange appears to fight Peter and also push him into his astral form in order to keep the young superhero from saving them.

The big lesson from What If...? Episode 4 connects to the fate of No Way Home's villains

"Marvel's What If...?" makes it clear why Doctor Strange is so adamant about Peter Parker not saving these villains. Due to the Strange's mistake in breaking open his universe after centuries of study trying to discern how to break and reorder the flow of time, it's clear by the end of the episode that Christine Palmer's death is one of that universe's absolute points. Based on this logic, Strange's "fate" comment in the "Spider-Man: No Way Home" trailer could reveal it's an absolute point that these Spider-Man villains must die — and perhaps more than one Spider-Man must kill them — or else the world Holland's Peter Parker lives in will be destroyed.

It is likely that there are always multiple absolute points in any Marvel universe, as we have witnessed in "Marvel's What If...?" A small action or decision can change everything, but we only learn through the Doctor Strange-focused Episode 4 that, no matter what, some things must happen to preserve the safety of a particular universe if it is deemed an absolute point.

It's hard to tell if Doctor Strange will even succeed in preventing the villains from coming to the MCU based on the end of the trailer for "No Way Home," as he appears visibly distraught, stating they are all starting to come through and he can't stop them. Peter even pleads that there has to be another way, and Strange says there isn't, further teasing this event as a possible absolute point. Not to mention, Strange has proven he will look at every opportunity possible to succeed, as he found the one possibility for the Avengers to win in "Avengers: Infinity War."

It will be interesting to see if these villains do in fact serve as absolute points when "Spider-Man: No Way Home" hits theaters on December 17.