Doctor Strange’s assistance to Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home may appear weird at first, but it makes perfect sense. In reality, during Phases 3 and 4, the relocation advances two significant storylines within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe: Dr. Strange’s character development and the inexorable growth of the cosmos.
From the start, Dr. Stephen Strange is selfish and reckless, prepared to push any limits or break any regulations in the relentless pursuit of his ambitions. These are the same skills that made him a successful neurosurgeon at the start of his MCU arc, and they’re the same qualities that helped him to become a Master of Mystic Arts in such a short period. Wong’s caution in the Spider-Man: No Way Home teaser trailer not to cast a sophisticated and risky spell to aid Spider-Man is proof sure that Strange still has this unquenchable desire – along with a dash of arrogance.
Indeed, the sorcerer’s ability to pull off the impossible, crafting a plan to defeat Thanos and restore half of all life throughout the cosmos in Avengers: Endgame, may have exacerbated these tendencies.
Stephen Strange’s on-again, off-again friendship with Peter Parker is also a factor. During their brief time together in Avengers: Infinity War, the two formed a kinship, and that shared experience provides the good doctor more than enough cause to ignore his natural impulse to throw caution to the wind. It also gives the perfect opportunity to continue the mentor plotline in this Spider-Man trilogy, which sees a new father-like person aid guide the young superhero on his developmental journey to manhood in each episode.
Doctor Strange is not only capable of following in the footsteps of Iron Man, Nick Fury, and Mysterio, but his swaggering demeanor may also serve as the best, last illustration of the role of personal responsibility and the law of unintended consequences for Spider-Man.
Strange, not just Parker, can learn something from Strange’s role in No Way Home. The parallel between Stephen Strange and Tony Stark has been drawn from the beginning, and it can be continued in this film; the end of Iron Man’s arc was all about deconstructing Tony Stark’s ego and narcissism and increasing his sense of humility, getting him to the point where he was more than ready and willing to sacrifice himself for the rest of the universe.
Tony’s relationship with Peter was a big part of that transformation, preparing him for real fatherhood and responsibilities, and Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme is about to embark on his next solo adventure, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, early next year.
That sequel will likewise contribute to Marvel Studios’ burgeoning multiverse storytelling, but it will be in a better position to do so thanks to Spider-Man: No Way Home. Endgame may have hinted at the existence of the multiverse, and WandaVision may have teased a multi-studio crossover (leading viewers to believe that Quicksilver from Fox’s X-Men franchise was hopping into the MCU), but Spider-Man: No Way Home will actively show audiences multiple timelines from multiple filmmakers from multiple decades.
There’s even a chance that He Who Remains from the recently concluded Loki could make an appearance, paving the way for Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, thanks to Doctor Strange’s arrogant meddling.