If there’s one thing that Spider-Man: No Way Home has already confirmed, it’s that the upcoming film is all about the villains. The movie’s new trailer, released this week, shows Tom Holland’s Peter Parker facing the effects of a botched spell performed by Doctor Strange. The hex, originally intended to restore Peter’s secret identity, brings five well-known foes from past films into his universe.
Holland has assured fans that No Way Home will be unlike any ordeal his Spidey has faced, with difficult choices to make all around. Even now, it seems like Peter will have to make a massive sacrifice -- one that could introduce a different adversary to the Marvel Cinematic Universe without any help from Doctor Strange.
In a pivotal scene in the trailer, Peter rushes to save his girlfriend, MJ, from falling off a scaffolded building. This mirrors a classic trope for nearly every one of Spider-Man’s love interests. It’s also become a recurring fear of Peter’s, one first introduced in a Mysterio-induced illusion in Spider-Man: Far From Home. While many fans hope that MJ will be spared from that fate, others are beginning to notice that Peter’s best friend, Ned Leeds, is left dangling from the same building as Peter dives for MJ.
If Marvel’s secrecy surrounding the project is any indication, nothing featured in No Way Home’s trailer can be taken at face value. In another closely-scrutinized scene, Peter declares that he “can’t save everyone.” Many at first thought this was about the film’s returning villains since Doctor Strange insists that they are meant to die, and the guilt Spidey feels about their fate. But the sentiment must also extend to his friends and family -- often the most vulnerable players in any Spider-Man film.
It’s entirely possible that MJ’s fall has been used in the trailer as a misdirect, and the person Peter is actually unable to save is Ned. Another rumor surrounding No Way Home even suggests that this will set Ned up as the villain he becomes in the comics: Hobgoblin.
Ned briefly took on the Hobgoblin mantle in the Amazing Spider-Man series, and it was only because he was brainwashed by the real villain, Roderick Kingsley. Kingsley, in turn, lifted his persona from the real Green Goblin after stumbling upon his discarded equipment. Ned’s stint as the Hobgoblin was short-lived and eventually lead to his murder -- which makes his appearance in the new Spider-Man films as a happy-go-lucky tech nerd a bit bizarre.
Ned Leeds’ MCU counterpart has always been a bit of an anomaly. While he shares his name with one of Peter Parker’s friends-turned-nemeses, some argue that the character in the films (played by Jacob Batalon) more closely resembles Ganke Lee: the ally of another Spider-Man, Miles Morales. This makes Ned an interesting blend of influences and casts a bit of doubt on any possible turn to villainy. So much would need to be set up before his turn, and it would undoubtedly be a surprising remix to anything fans are expecting from the comics.
Even so, Batalon has already put forth his eagerness to play Hobgoblin. “I’m saying it outright all the time and no one’s taking me seriously,” the actor told Fandom in 2019. Additionally, some have even attributed his weight loss between Far From Home and No Way Home to his preparation for the new role. The presence of Willem Dafoe’s original Green Goblin could also help set up Ned’s copycat version of the villain, cutting out Kingsley as the catalyst altogether.
If Ned becomes a casualty in the new film -- whether through death or a disappearance -- it’s likely he could return as the MCU’s own take on the Green Goblin. No Way Home might feel too crowded with an additional villain in the mix (despite the hope that another villain will help form the Sinister Six), so Ned’s Hobgoblin may not be introduced for some time.
To find out what’s really in store for Ned, catch Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters on Dec. 17.
KEEP READING: Spider-Man: No Way Home's Trailer May Tease a Secret Villain... But It's Weird
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