Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios says rebooting Spider-Man meant going where no Sony Spider-Man movie had gone before: into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since swinging into a civil war between the Avengers in 2016, the Peter Parker (Tom Holland) of the MCU exclusively faced foes that Spidey predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield never battled on the big screen. This wall-crawler grounded the Vulture (Michael Keaton) in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, joined Earth's mightiest heroes to thwart Thanos (Josh Brolin) in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, and overcame Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home.
But it's not until Spider-Man: No Way Home that this web-slinger meets classic comic book enemies Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), multiversal villains unwittingly unleashed by the magic of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). In a behind-the-scenes featurette from Sony Pictures, Feige explains how the Multiverse made it possible to do what Marvel had never done before: bring back sinister supervillains who had faced Spider-Man before — in other universes.
"When we had the chance to bring Spider-Man into the MCU with Homecoming, it was really exploring two things that had never been explored before in the Spidey movies," Feige said. "One was making him much younger, that he's in his early years of high school and dealing with what it's like to be that young and to have these powers, and to really relish the high school setting. And the other one was that it's set within the broader Marvel universe and that there are other heroes there. So for the first few films, it was always, 'How do we do things that have never been done before?'"
The answer: avoid villains who had debuted before in the twice-rebooted live-action Spider-Man franchise.
"It did not occur to us to do a new Goblin story, or to do an Oscorp story, or to do Doc Ock, or anyone that had been done before, which is why Vulture and Mysterio were really the key characters," Feige explained. "Even as we were doing that — and I had been saying for years, even before anybody asked me what I thought — that you can't get better than Alfred Molina as Doc Ock."
Not only did the tentacled threat die by drowning in 2004's Spider-Man 2, but he was also from another reality entirely. Instead of redoing Doc Ock with a different actor, No Way Home has a magic spell gone awry bring returning villains from the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb universes into the MCU: Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman (Spider-Man 3's Thomas Haden Church), the Lizard (The Amazing Spider-Man's Rhys Ifans), and Electro (The Amazing Spider-Man 2's Jamie Foxx).
"[I said] stepping into those shoes would be very, very difficult. And wouldn't it be fun to find a way, if you were ever going to bring Doc Ock back, it would have to be Alfred Molina," said Feige, an executive producer of Raimi's Spider-Man 2. "And in early development on this third Homecoming movie, we realized that thanks to the MCU, there was a way to do that."