The following post contains major SPOILERS for Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s intended to be read after you see the movie and you’ve spent an hour debating how this spell works with your friends.

Marvel and Sony treated everything in Spider-Man: No Way Home as a spoiler. They didn’t reveal the title — just the title! —for months and months, and they never even acknowledged that old Spider-Man villains were returning for the film until the first trailer appeared last summer. And they might have only done that because Alfred Molina confirmed that he was in the movie during an interview.

Pretty much the only part of the movie that they didn’t hide from the beginning was Doctor Strange’s role. From the early stages, it was known that Benedict Cumberbatch would play a key part in the film, and clips and teasers established the basic premise: After the world discovers Peter Parker is Spider-Man at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, he asks Strange to make the world forget his secret. But Strange’s spell doesn’t work and instead begins sucking characters like Molina’s Doctor Octopus into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Strange’s spell is really just a means to an end; the story excuse to get all these vintage Spider-Man characters from other film universes into No Way Home. You’re not really meant to think too intensely about its specifics. If you do think about it, you might find yourself questioning how the spell works, and whether the rules stated in the film actually match up with what we see onscreen. I certainly did — and that’s why I put together this piece that (I think?) explains exactly what was supposed to happen, what happens instead, why it happens, and whether the logic of all of it works. (Generally it does — with one key exception that might be a legitimate plot hole.)

How Doctor Strange’s Spider-Man: No Way Home Spell Works

Spider-Man: No Way Home is in theaters now.

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