Major Spoilers for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ahead.
If you’ve seen “Spider-Man: No Way Home” or just watched the trailers, then you already know the film is bringing back some iconic characters from past iterations of the franchise into the fold.
The story picks up immediately where 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” left off, with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker now outed to the world as Spider-Man. Unable to manage his newfound fame, he seeks help from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who attempts to cast a spell that will make the world forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But Peter makes Strange bungle the spell, and as a result everyone who knew Peter Parker starts falling into Peter’s universe.
This is how we get characters like Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Lizard, Sandman and Electro in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” But if you’re confused about their individual storylines in their previous movies, and how that impacts their actions in “No Way Home,” we’ve got you covered.
Below, we run down the characters’ backstories onscreen to fill in some gaps, and explain how they fit into the plot of “No Way Home.”
Warning: Some spoilers for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” follow below.
Green Goblin – “Spider-Man” (2002)
One could argue that the primary villain of “No Way Home” is Norman Osborn, and it’s truly great to see Willem Dafoe back in the role. He first played the character in 2002’s “Spider-Man,” which helped usher in the current era of superhero movies in the first place. In that film, Norman was a mentor to Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker and the father of Peter’s best friend Harry (played by James Franco). Harry, a scientist, is trying to secure a military contract for a new serum along with a glider and suit, but when he experiments on himself with the serum, it drives him mad. Half the time he’s lucid and normal, but the other half of the time a sinister (and murderous) personality takes over – that of the Green Goblin.
In “No Way Home,” Green Goblin shows up in Holland’s world having just been battling Maguire’s Spidey, but when Norman “comes to” he smashes the Green Goblin mask and seeks help from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) of all people. Norman wants to get better, and it’s he who inspired Holland’s Peter to try and fix these villains before they’re sent back to their own universes.
But Norman doesn’t hold on for long, and once the Goblin takes back over, dire consequences ensue for Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.
In “Spider-Man,” Goblin is killed by his own glider, setting up a storyline of guilt for Peter Parker and a revenge quest for Harry Osborn, who is convinced Spider-Man killed his father.
Doc Ock – “Spider-Man 2” (2004)
The first Spider-Man villain to attack Holland’s Peter Parker is Doc Ock, played by Alfred Molina. This character is from 2004’s “Spider-Man 2,” which starred Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. Dr. Otto Octavius was a nuclear scientist who served as a mentor to Peter Parker in the film, and developed robotic tentacle arms powered by artificial intelligence. But when the microchip that allows Otto to control the arms gets fried, the arms gain minds of their own and Otto becomes angry and rageful, accidentally killing his wife. Thus, “Doc Ock” is born.
In “Spider-Man 2,” during the final battle, Peter convinces Ock to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and he dies. But in “No Way Home,” Doc Ock is transported to the MCU when he’s just about to kill his own Peter Parker, where Holland ventures to cure Ock of his madness by fixing the microchip.
Sandman – “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
One of the many villains in Sam Raimi’s maligned sequel “Spider-Man 3,” Sandman is the most agreeable of the bunch in “No Way Home.” In “Spider-Man 3,” Sandman is first Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), an escaped convict who is seen visiting his wife and sick child while on the run from the police, before he falls into a particle accelerator that turns him into a literal sandman. He is also revealed to be the man who killed Peter’s Uncle Ben, albeit accidentally.
He arrives in “No Way Home” transformed into Sandman, but without a grudge against Spider-Man. He largely stands in the background and makes a nonsensical turn in the third act.
In “Spider-Man 3,” Sandman survives the entire movie. After initially teaming up with Topher Grace’s Venom, Marko turns ally in the end, apologizing for Uncle Ben’s death and ultimately escaping.
Lizard – “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)
Lizard exists in “No Way Home” largely to be the butt of the joke. The comics villain was first introduced in 2012’s reboot “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which starred Andrew Garfield as the webslinger. Lizard was Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans in the film, a scientist at Oscorp and a friend of Peter’s late father. When experimenting with serum to try and regenerate limbs (Connors is missing his arm), something goes wrong and Connors is transformed into a giant lizard, at which point he decides to terrorize the town and attempts to turn New York City’s population into lizard people.
Lizard crosses into “No Way Home” fully formed and, again, really doesn’t do much at all aside from getting dunked on.
At the end of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Lizard is subdued by Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy gives him an antidote that turns him back into a human – but not before fatally wounding Gwen’s father Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). He’s then seen in a post-credits scene teeing up a “Sinister Six” movie that never happened.
Electro – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)
The most recent villain to appear in “No Way Home” is Jamie Foxx’s Electro from 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but he’s wildly different than he was in that film. In that movie he’s introduced as Max Dillon, a cartoonishly nerdy employee of Oscorp who idolizes Spider-Man, but falls into a vat of electric eels and becomes the supervillain Electro. In that film (which starred Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man), Electro was blue and Foxx wore body paint and contact lenses.
But when Electro crosses over into Holland’s universe, he’s pure energy. He draws power from Peter’s Tony Stark-enhanced Spider-suit and gets his body back, with Foxx eschewing his entire look (and really his entire attitude) from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This is the most significant character transformation of the bunch, and feels like a course-correction from the goofiness of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Electro battled Spider-Man at a power plant, and Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) overloaded and killed him.