Ever since Spider-Man: No Way Home’s first trailer dropped, the internet has been awash with fan theories. Are Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield going to be in it? Where’s Wong off to? Will the Green Goblin still look like a Power Rangers dropout? A new fan theory has emerged, though, thanks to What If..?, that speculates the Doctor Strange we see in the upcoming MCU movie isn’t who he says he is.
The basic thrust of the fan theory is that Doctor Strange behaves too recklessly in the trailer to be our version of the Sorceror Supreme. During the teaser, we see Wong (Benedict Wong) caution Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that the spell Peter (Tom Holland) wants him to cast – an enchantment that will make Spidey’s identity a secret again – is too dangerous.
Despite the apparent danger of casting this spell, we see Strange goes ahead and does it anyway, with disastrous results, seemingly thanks to Peter’s interference. Normally we’d just dismiss this as typical Doctor Strange arrogance, but the developments in episode 4 of What If…? mean we can’t be so flippant anymore.
‘What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?’ showed us a universe where after the death of Christine Palmer, a misguided Strange turned from the light and started using dark magic in an attempt to bring her back. This alternate version of Strange was incredibly arrogant, dismissing his friend’s warnings about meddling with time, and setting in motion events that ultimately destroyed his universe.
The theory is that the Strange we see in No Way Home is, in fact, this ‘evil’ version of Strange who’s somehow made his way to the MCU proper and is posing as the Bleeker Street magician. This theory also conveniently explains why Strange seemingly knocks Peter out at one point and why he’s wearing the Eye of Amagamotto – despite it being destroyed by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
While we can’t dismiss it outright – No Way Home is going to be about the multiverse after all – we’re sceptical this is an imposter pretending to be Strange. First of all, Strange has been consistently arrogant in every MCU appearance. He played with time while training to be a sorcerer, he gave Thanos an Infinity Stone with the slim hope his plan would work out, and trolled poor Loki despite the danger he posed. It’s well within his character to try something like this, plus it’s worth noting it’s Peter’s interference that disrupts the spell, not Strange’s incompetence.
More than that, though, it would undermine What If…? to bring this parallel version of Strange back as a villain. Last we saw him, he realised the error of his ways after being chastised by The Watcher for his arrogance and was left alone in the small bubble his reality had become. It was a fitting end for a character who was never really bad, just a bit lost.
Now you can never say never with the MCU, and there’s definitely something off with Strange in the teaser. We just don’t think he’s been replaced by his evil doppelganger. Maybe it’s a Skrull? Or perhaps even fan theory favourite Mephisto? He and Spidey have a history in the comics, after all…
Spider-Man: No Way Home swings in theatres on December 17.