Warning: This post contains huge spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Andrew Garfield denied it. Tom Holland didn't speak about it. Tobey Maguire didn't speak ... at all. But there was no way that all three Spider-Men were going to miss out on teaming up for Spider-Man: No Way Home. Midway through the wall-crawler's third Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure, the Jon Watts-directed movie stages the ultimate Spider-Verse crossover by putting the trio of actors who have worn Spidey's mask over the past two decades in the same frame together. It may have been one of Marvel's worst kept secrets, but it's guaranteed to get your spider sense tingling when it happens.
Here's how the Spider-Man meet-up goes down: With Holland's Peter Parker off the grid following the tragic death of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) at the hands of universe-hopping villain Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), his Scooby Gang cohorts MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) are doing their best to locate him. Having come into possession of Doctor Strange's Sling Ring, Ned is mastering the art of opening portals to wherever he wants to go. And where he wants to go right now is wherever Peter happens to be.
"Find Peter Parker," Ned says, forming a portal with the Sling Ring. Sure enough, on the other side of that yawning portal is a guy dressed in a Spider-Man costume. But it's not the Peter that Ned and MJ know and love — it's the 38-year-old Garfield's angsty Parker from The Amazing Spider-Man movies. "I'm Peter Parker in my world," he tells the two slack-jawed high school seniors.
Having not succeeded the first time, Ned follows the age-old advice to try, try again. Sure enough, yet another Peter Parker steps through a portal — and this one is the O.G. big-screen live action Pete. That's right, almost 15 years after retiring from the superhero game in 2007's Spider-Man 3, the now 46-year-old Tobey Maguire re-appears in that vintage early-2000s suit. And he knows intuitively that the newest wall-crawler is in need of some serious help.
Third time's the charm as MJ directs Ned to use the Sling Ring to open a portal to the roof of their high school, where Peter retreats earlier in the movie. And it's there that the so-called Spider Bros have their big heart-to-heart. After Holland's Peter insists that neither of them understand the loss he's just suffered, both Maguire and Garfield pay tribute to the fallen ones that fuel their journey. For Maguire, it was Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and for Garfield, it was Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who he pointedly refers to as "My MJ." He also says that Gwen's death left him "rageful" and "bitter," to the point where he wasn't sure how to go on with either superhero or civilian life.
That's the fate that both Spider-Men want to ensure that Holland's Peter avoids. To that end, they help him orchestrate the last stand against the quintet of villains that have crossed over into the MCU. That would be the aforementioned Green Goblin, as well as Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Electro (Jaime Foxx) and the Lizard (Rhys Ifans). The Spider-Men vs. Spider-Villains battle royale goes down at the Statue of Liberty, which has been recently reconstructed to hoist aloft an oversized replica of Captain America's shield. (Liberty Island, of course, was also where the climactic battle from the very first X-Men movie took place, but sadly Hugh Jackman's Wolverine doesn't drop by to help the Spider guys out.)
In between the fighting, the trio can't help but trade some in-jokes at each other's expense. For example, Maguire complains about having backaches — a sly reference to the actor's near-firing from the Spider-Man franchise after he claimed to have suffered a back injury. Both Holland and Garfield also repeatedly marvel over Maguire's famously divisive "organic" webbing, wondering how exactly his body produces that sticky stuff. They also wonder if he's ever run out of webbing, which allows Maguire to slyly reference the popular "Spider-Man No More" storyline from Spider-Man 2.
Meanwhile, the perpetually emo Garfield gets some much-needed cheering up. Not only does Maguire make a point of calling him "amazing" multiple times, but Garfield's Peter redeems himself in his own eyes by saving MJ from a high fall — the same kind of fall that claimed Gwen's life.
At the same time that they're getting to know each other on a personal level, the Spider Bros also have to learn how to fight together against the fearsome five. The problem? Two out of three of them have never rumbled as part of a team before. "I was in the Avengers," Holland proudly tells the others, only to be met by blank stares in return. But they do agree that some coordination is necessary so they count off as "Spider-Man 1," "Spider-Man 2" and "Spider-Man 3." The battle promptly resumes and the tide turns in their favor, as they inject each of the villains — save for the already-converted Doc Ock — with a serum that takes their evil away.
The last to get the jab is Norman, and he nearly takes one more victim with him before his makeover, stabbing Maguire with part of his Goblin glider. But as the thick-skinned Spidey jokes to his new friends: "I've been stabbed before." The last we see of the Spider Bros, they're sharing a three-way hug before Maguire and Garfield are teleported back to their respective realities — carrying with them the knowledge that they're no longer alone in the larger Spider-Verse.
As for the MCU's corner of the Spider-Verse ... well, that's where things get complicated. Here are some of our answers to your burning questions about where things stand at the end of No Way Home.
What's next for Peter Parker?
He may not be MIT-bound at the end of No Way Home, but Peter definitely graduates to adult life in a major way. In order to undo the effects of Dr. Strange's multiversal spell, the high school senior asks the sorcerer to make the world collectively forget that he's Spider-Man. And unlike at the start of the movie when he tries to add some exceptions to that request — and, as a result, caused all this mess in the first place — this time he really means everybody. As the film ends, Peter is a non-person to everyone in his life, including MJ, Ned, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and even Strange himself.
With his old life gone, the 17-year-old anonymous hero dedicates himself to building a new one. To that end, Peter rents a tiny Manhattan apartment and replaces his Stark Industries-made Spider gear with a home-sewn outfit that could have come straight out of the comics pages. That's only appropriate since he's now returned to his comic book roots as New York City's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, dedicated to fighting crime at a street level instead of messing around with Infinity Stones and magic. Franchise co-producers Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal have already talked about bringing the 25-year-old Holland back for another trilogy, and those movies could fast-forward the timeline to a twentysomething Spidey that's dealing with paying the bills as well as fighting bad guys. You know ... just like his big brother, Tobey Maguire.
What's next for Doctor Strange?
First off, let's all stop referring to Stephen Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme. In a bombshell revelation early on in No Way Home, it turns out that his partner-in-magic Wong (Benedict Wong) is the sorcerer that leveled up to that title after Thanos's finger-snap blipped Strange into non-existence for five years. So it's just plain ol' Doctor Strange for the time being — although his life is about to be anything but plain. That's because No Way Home's post-credits scene isn't a single scene; it's an entire teaser trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, directed by none other than Sam Raimi, who helmed all three of Maguire's Spidey adventures.
Having already broken the multiverse barrier in the course of this movie, Stephen's next adventure seems like it might shatter it completely, and he's going to need some extra help to fix things. The trailer features our first glimpses of a post-WandaVision Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), as well as our introduction to America Chavez aka Miss America, the openly gay Latinx heroine who becomes an integral part of the Young Avengers team. And where there's a multiverse, there's obviously going to be multiple non-supreme sorcerers. We see teasing glimpse of different Stephen Strange's from other realities, some of whom seem like the less-than-friendly types you wouldn't want making house calls.
Let there be Venom?
Topher Grace's Venom from Spider-Man 3 is nowhere to be found in No Way Home. But another version of the Spider-Man hating alien symbiote is having his own MCU misadventures off-screen. A post-credits sequence from Venom: Let There Be Carnage transported the odd couple of Eddie Brock and Venom (both played by Tom Hardy) from a rundown motel room in his reality to a deluxe hotel room with a beach view in mainline Marvel continuity, where he sees a news report about Spider-Man on his television screen. Now, No Way Home includes a mid-credits scene that shows us what he's been up to while Peter has been meeting the Spider Bros.
Turns out he hasn't been doing all that much, actually. Eddie's mainly been hanging around the bar at his hotel, chatting with the bartender (Ted Lasso's Cristo Fernández) about the various heroes and villains populating the dimension he's suddenly found himself in. "Maybe I should go to New York," he remarks after hearing about Spider-Man's exploits. He also questions why an all-powerful alien like Thanos would be so interested in a bunch of stones. "Aliens don't like stones," he observes, prompted by the alien who lives in his head.
Those hoping for an immediate Spider-Man/Venom brawl will be disappointed, though: The scene ends with Brock being banished back to his own dimension. But don't be surprised if Holland and Hardy meet face-to-face in the future. "I hope and strongly, with both hands, push, eagerly, towards that potential, and would do anything to make that happen," the Venom star remarked in a recent interview about the chances of another Spider-Verse crossover. We can't wait to see the carnage that might ensue when Spidey and Venom meet.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently playing in theaters.