Spider-Man: No Way Home Was Originally Going To Be Sold As Spidey Vs. Doctor Strange

The cats, or in this case, octopus and goblin and such, are long since out of the bag regarding the villains of "Spider-Man: No Way Home." If nothing else, we've known definitively since the first official trailer that Alfred Molina was returning via the mighty Marvel multiverse to reprise his role as Doctor Octopus from "Spider-Man 2."

The most recent trailer and subsequent character posters have put the villains of "No Way Home" right out front, showing us Molina as Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin in his old Power Ranger armor (from Sam Raimi's first "Spider-Man"), and Jamie Foxx's Electro (from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"") in a new, non-blue costume.

Spidey himself, Tom Holland, has occasionally been known to let spoilers slip during his movie promotions. While he and his co-star, Zendaya, were speaking to Yahoo Movies UK, Holland acknowledged, "We're pretty tired of constantly lying and deceiving people. I feel like conscience is weighing on me now. It's tough."

Holland also revealed that the original marketing plan for "No Way Home" would have de-emphasized the villains in favor of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He said, "The initial plan was to make the film seem like a civil war between myself and Doctor Strange and they were gonna keep everything a secret. That is impossible."

The Not-So-Mysterious Mystery Box of Villains

With "Spider-Man: No Way Home," it's actually refreshing to see Marvel forego the whole secretive song-and-dance that it and other studios have done with their blockbuster villains. Cumberbatch, if you remember, was once tapped to play a villain named "John Harrison" in "Star Trek Into Darkness," and look what happened there.

We all suspected he was really going to play Khan Noonien Singh, the classic baddie from "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan," but while promoting "Into Darkness," people involved with the movie swore up and down that this was not the case. Then, the movie came out, and lo and behold, it revealed Cumberbatch as Khan, surprising no one.

J.J. Abrams directed "Star Trek Into Darkness," and years before everyone started saying "Thank you for coming to my TED Talk," Abrams gave an actual TED Talk where he outlined his famous (or infamous) "mystery box" philosophy. The gist of it is that it's better not knowing what's in the mystery box sometimes because of the way that the build-up or anticipation for something fires the imagination.

When applied to movie marketing, however, this can backfire, as we saw with Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness," not to mention Christoph Waltz's not-so-mysterious baddie, Franz Oberhauser, aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in the James Bond film, "Spectre," a few years later. It feels like it's gotten to the point where studios might as well just be upfront about who the villains are going to be in their tentpoles.

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" undoubtedly still has surprises in store for us, but instead of burying the lede with its villains, it's using them as a hook. The movie opens in theaters this Friday, December 17, 2021.