By Keane Eacobellis
Warning: this article contains mild spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man: No Way Home is several record-breaking weeks into its theatrical run. It’s reached that point in many MCU movies’ lifespan where all the little details, including many that didn’t even make it to the big screen, are beginning to filter out into the Marvel fandom to be snatched up and placed lovingly into the canon.
Warning: If you haven’t seen Spider-Man: No Way Home and don’t want to encounter any spoilers, stop reading now.
So, about that box, the big puzzle-y one Spider-Man and Doctor Strange were fighting over? In the kaleidoscopic other-dimensional Mirror ‘Verse? It turns out to have a back story simplified for the theatrical release. It’s even got a name, The Machina de Kadavus, that references an original Marvel Comics team-up between the Wallcrawler and the Master of the Mystic Arts from the Bronze Age of comics.
In a new interview with Before and Afters, Framestore’s visual effects supervisor Adrien Saint Girons, who contributed VFX to the movie, spoke about the Machina de Kadavus and the design team’s journey in creating the magical artifact. “That was, very bizarrely, one of the things that we spent a lot of time on. You wouldn’t think it, but it was a very time-consuming process. It took a lot of iterations to come up with exactly the right look and the right mechanism for the box,” Girons said. “There was a whole backstory to it that got simplified in the end.”
The box used in filming was markedly different from the one that ended up on the screen, with the actors using a green box that would later be digitally rendered into the final design. According to Girons, “How the box worked actually changed throughout the lifespan of the project. The general idea was always that it was something that Strange is solving and to send the guys back to their worlds. But in this case, in the end, it was to contain the spell that had gone wrong. So, it got a little bit of a hybrid role and transformed in that sense.”
Girons confirmed that the Machina is something of a “Macguffin’ in the movie but is at the same time quite integral to the movie itself. “It’s this massively important piece of the film. I very much enjoyed that design process, as tedious as it was, considering how long it took. A lot of thought and energy went into that, and I think it just adds to making it feel authentic.”
While the box’s backstory didn’t make it into the final cut, longtime comic readers may come to their own conclusions from the name itself. In the traditional Marvel Comics storyline, The Crystal of Kadavus is a skull-shaped crystal first encountered in the pages of 1974s Marvel Team-Up #21 featuring none other than Spider-Man and Doctor Strange themselves. The evil wizard Xandu casts a spell over the Web-Slinger to force him to steal the Crystal from Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Xandu then uses the crystal to re-energize his Wand of Watoomb before the two heroes defeat him. The Wand of Watoomb has been seen in the MCU before, making a small appearance in the first Doctor Strange movie.
There is no telling if we have seen the last of the Machina or, given the current state of affairs in the Marvel Multiverse, whether it will be seen in another installment of Phase Four or beyond. Fans will get their next chance to keep an eye out for it when Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness debuts in theaters in May.