Warning: Spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
While Spider-Man: No Way Home was released six months prior in the backend of 2021, fans now are starting to believe that the movie is set after the events of Doctor Strange 2, thanks to the climactic twist ending in Multiverse of Madness.
As the film draws to a close, we learn that 616 Stephen Strange has succumbed to the Darkhold, with the effects taking its toll on him, as a third eye protrudes from his forehead. The Darkhold’s seductions on a Strange variant turned an otherwise well-meaning sorcerer into a bitter and twisted monster, incapable of thinking clearly and fighting a war within himself.
Audiences questioned why Strange performed the spell he did at the beginning of No Way Home, believing it to be highly dangerous and out of character. Before the threequel came out, fans speculated it was Mephisto, as they always do.
Now, a theory posited by Redditor /u/StoneGoldX says that the original release schedule for the two films plays into the events – and that Darkhold Strange is in control for No Way Home.
It’s true Multiverse of Madness was due to release before Spider-Man, with America Chavez seen in concept art for No Way Home. However, the theory falls apart slightly as Strange in No Way Home does not have the damaged cloak he has at the end of Multiverse of Madness, nor does he show any real signs of mental decay. Also missing is the third eye, which would have given the game away.
A neat theory nonetheless, it’s an excellent fan retcon attempt — and perhaps there is truth in this that we have not been awoken to just yet. Doctor Strange 2 is currently in cinemas.