Because the Marvel Cinematic Universe can't let Spider-Man be his own hero, Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange will appear in the third, untitled Spider-Man movie as yet another bearded, genius mentor. But the inclusion of the Sorcerer Supreme also hints at a possible candidate of one of Spidey's most infamous villains: Morlun.
What Happened? — On October 8, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Benedict Cumberbatch will star as Doctor Strange in Spider-Man 3 (actual title still unknown) from Sony and Marvel Studios. The movie is dated for December 17, 2021, however, delays are possible due to Covid-19.
Doctor Strange himself is in a, ahem, strange place in the MCU at the moment. In the aftermath of the big battle in Avengers: Endgame, the spellbinding superhero will be at the forefront of the Marvel "multiverse," the parallel realities that exist alongside the universe where these movies take place so far. The March 2022 Doctor Strange sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be a horror-esque exploration of the multiverse. The movie will also have direct ties to the Disney+ series WandaVision (coming later this year).
Into the Spider-Verse — Meanwhile, over in the Spider-Man side of the Marvel movie franchise, fans believe there is a multiverse story brewing. First, the 2019 movie Spider-Man: Far From Home introduced the concept of the multiverse, though it turned out to be a ruse by Jake Gyllenhaal's trickster villain Mysterio.
When the multiverse started to feel real was when, on October 1, The Hollywood Reporter (again) broke the news that Jamie Foxx will reprise his role of Electro, a villain Foxx played in the 2014 movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
That's right: The third Spider-Man movie in the MCU will feature some links to the abandoned Amazing Spider-Man films from 2012-2014 that starred Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. But the only way that's possible is acknowledging that those movies existed in a different universe, as they bore no connection to the MCU.
Further supporting the multiverse are Sony's own movies, 2018's Venom, and the movies Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius (both delayed due to Covid-19) that will also tap into the multiverse in some way. It's not clear how, but the movies — which were thought to inhabit their own canon — will tie back to the MCU, based on a cameo featuring Michael Keaton as his Spider-Man: Homecoming villain, the Vulture, appearing in the trailer for Morbius.
For the cherry on top of all of this: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be directed by Sam Raimi, who directed the first three popular Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire.
What's happening to Spider-Man is not unlike what's going on with the DC franchise as multiple Batman actors, including Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck, sign on to return for the 2022 movie The Flash. The geek news cycle is one "Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield return for Spider-Man 3" headline away from basically imploding.
Meet Morlun — All of the above was a long-winded explanation to introduce a comic book character that is probably the villain for Spider-Man 3: Morlun.
Created by Babylon 5 and Sense8 showrunner J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr., Morlun is a Spider-Man villain who appears whenever the Spider-Man comics delve into the multiverse. Resembling a gothic Dracula, Morlun is a psychic vampire who — along with his family, the Inheritors — hunts for spiders throughout the multiverse.
Morlun was the villain of Dan Slott's 2014 story Spider-Verse. In that comic, which inspired the 2018 Oscar-winning film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man teamed up with the multiverse's spider-heroes to fight Morlun and the Inheritors.
With the third Spider-Man movie maybe exploring the multiverse with Doctor Strange (of all superheroes involved), it is more than likely that Spider-Man will face Morlun in what is shaping up to be a multiverse Spider-Man movie.
Though Doctor Strange has never crossed paths with Morlun in the comics, Spider-Man did consult with Strange during one of Spider-Man's encounters with Morlun in the 2005 storyline, The Other.
The Inverse Analysis — It should be mentioned that this is purely speculation and that the villain of Spider-Man 3 could be someone, or something, completely different. And sure, Jamie Foxx is literally playing a villain from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which effectively makes him "the" villain in Spider-Man 3 for now. But as a lowly electrical worker with electric superpowers, Electro alone isn't a big enough character to anchor a multiverse story.
Given the increasing scope of the Marvel Universe, a multiverse-traversing baddie like Morlun is a strong candidate for an appearance in the next movie. At the same time, the MCU has never been beholden to the comics and isn't shy about changing characters and stories at will. Who knows? Maybe Electro really has more powers than we think.
The untitled third Spider-Man will be released in theaters on December 17, 2021.