It’s becoming increasingly evidence that Spider-Man 3 is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Flash is to the DC Extended Universe. We got our first real hint this was coming when it was revealed earlier this month that Jamie Foxx would be reprising his role as Electro from the non-MCU The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Now, another MCU character getting caught the tangled web of Spider-Man 3 all but confirms it, as Benedict Cumberbatch is reportedly appearing as Doctor Strange.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Cumberbatch’s Strange will fill the mentor/adult role held by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the previous MCU Spidey films, Homecoming and Far From Home, respectively. But considering the upcoming Doctor Strange standalone sequel is entitled In the Multiverse of Madness, the implications of the good Doctor’s involvement in Spider-Man 3 are far greater.
All of it is playing into the idea that Marvel and Sony are really going for a live-action Spider-Verse. We know about the MCU multiverse thanks to Avengers: Endgame and the upcoming Loki Disney+ series. Foxx’s return as Electro certainly implied this would extend beyond the Marvel-made movies, as did a cameo from Michael Keaton (the Vulture in Homecoming) in Sony’s Morbius trailer. On top of that, rumors have started stirring that Kirsten Dunst and Dan DeHaan are being courted by Marvel to reprise their respective roles as Mary-Jane Watson from the original Spider-Man trilogy and Harry Osbourne/The Green Goblin from Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In fact, Sam Raimi helmed the Tobey Maguire-starring trilogy and is now set to direct Doctor Strange 2. He’s even said in the past he’d loved to get Dunst involved as MJ. And we can even get more meta with this and point out that there’s a Doctor Strange joke in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 from 2004: When J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, who cameoed as the character again at the end of Far From Home) is trying to come up with a name for Doctor Octopus, one suggestion is Doctor Strange. “Taken,” says Jameson.
Taken all together, this really is starting to feel like Disney and Sony are combining their respective Marvel-related universes into one, interdimensional superhero macrocosm.
Of course, Marvel/Disney and Sony aren’t commenting on any of this speculation as of yet. The DCEU has made it very clear they’re opening up their own multiverse in The Flash, having cast both Keaton and Ben Affleck as two different Batmen and confirmed the popular Flashpoint storyline. It would seem Marvel following a similar path would be something they’d avoid, but the tense deal with Sony regarding the Spider-Man rights may have forced their hand.
After Far From Home, Sony was reluctant to extend its contract to lease Spider-Man back to Marvel. The current web-head Tom Holland reportedly stepped in to convince the two sides to come to an agreement. So now Marvel gets two more films with Spider-man — one standalone and one crossover — and it certainly seems like they’ll be used to set up Sony’s eventual reclamation of the character.
Either way, we’ll find out what this all means when Spider-Man 3 (Spider-Man: Homeworld?) arrives on December 17th, 2021, barring any pandemic-related delays. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has faced a number of those, and is currently set for a March 25th, 2022 debut.