Marvel fans caught their first glimpse of the multiverse — which encompasses an untold number of alternate realities — in 2016's Doctor Strange. So it's only appropriate that Benedict Cumberbatch's Sorcerer Supreme is back for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which fully turns the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse.
The Jon Watts-directed film finds our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Tom Holland) facing off against a quintet of villains who hail from universes you may remember from the wall-crawler's previous incarnations, including Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin from 2002's Spider-Man and Jamie Foxx's Electro from 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
But let's allow Holland to explain the concept better than we ever could. "For anyone that doesn't understand, the multiverse is a concept in which alongside our universe is an infinite amount of alternate realities that are running at the same time," the 25-year-old actor outlines. (Watch our video interview above.) "Because of a spell that Peter Parker has asked Dr. Strange to do … to stop the world remembering that he is Spider-Man, he unfortunately has opened up portals to those alternate dimensions where some very, very scary villains from films that we have all seen make their way into our universe for a very, very fun action, packed movie."
Sounds simple enough, but some No Way Home cast members admit that they're still having trouble wrapping their minds around the whole multiverse concept. "I still don't really know entirely what the hell that is," confesses Marisa Tomei, who returns as Peter's beloved Aunt May. "I think Mr. Watts explained it to me at least five times, but you know — learning curves! I got there eventually."
And No Way Home is far from the last we'll see of the multiverse: Dr. Strange remains entangled in alternate realities in the upcoming sequel, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, is confident that audiences will be able to follow along thanks to films like No Way Home and the Oscar-winning animated hit, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. "The audience is well-versed now in that conceit in large part because of the articles from science magazines that pop up every couple of weeks about the theories and movies like [Spider-Verse] really helped drive the conceit into people's heads."
As for what's next for Spidey himself, there's obviously no way that Feige or his fellow producer, Amy Pascal, are spoiling where Holland goes after No Way Home. Pascal recently suggested that the actor would continue his web-slinging ways in a new trilogy, although there are certain hurdles to jump — like getting him to sign a new contract — in order to make that happen. "I'm a producer, so I always think everything is gonna work out," Pascal says. "He's Spider-Man, and I want to make movies with Spider-Man."
Adds Feige: "I think the goal is to keep telling these amazing stories from the comics for as long as audiences will be interested in it. Tom is spectacular, as this character, and we hope to see him many more times. We have a great relationship now between Marvel Studios and Disney and Sony, and are already talking about the next one."
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently playing in theaters