It’s been quite some time since the release of the original Doctor Strange movie, as director Sam Raimi’s upcoming Multiverse of Madness sequel is coming about five-and-a-half years after the first. A lot of MCU movies and shows have been released in the meantime, meaning that the landscape of the world and the stakes are wildly different.
This movie now takes place in a “post-snap” universe, but even more than that are the consequences of Peter Parker and Doctor Strange’s actions in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Wanda Maximoff’s in WandaVision. It won’t be long before fans see for themselves, but there’s plenty of info to prep with between things looking to get trippy and bloody as the fabric of the multiverse reaches its breaking point, and Marvel Comics’ mysterious Illuminati stepping in to intervene.
The most recent primer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is, of course, the holiday mega-hit that was Spider-Man: No Way Home. While firmly an intimate Peter Parker tale — as Spider-Man fans would hope — it did so by simultaneously setting up the multiverse as the MCU’s next big frontier after the Infinity Saga. In Peter’s desperate attempt to right his past wrongs, Strange indulged the youngster’s pleas by using a spell to make everyone forget who Spider-Man was.
After Peter messes with the Spell, which Wong admittedly and adamantly warned Strange against using, the multiverse gets fractured and timelines start bleeding into one another. This is what allows said “variants” of Marvel characters to appear and intertwine with the theatrical versions audiences have come to feel familiar with. Of course, No Way Home wasn’t the first to tee up this concept for the MCU. Disney+’s Loki, one of the most inventive projects Marvel Studios put together, heavily leaned into that concept for the series’ premise last summer.
Trailers have already revealed variants of Strange himself will appear in the movie, from Defender Strange to the dark incarnation of the Sorcerer Supreme. However, it was in good part the events of this continuity’s third Spidey film that will push the conflict of Multiverse of Madness forward.
The titular sorcerer is set to face the brunt of the backlash for his botched spell, which leads to one of the most curious collections of Marvel characters set to appear.
In Marvel’s comic books, the Illuminati is a relatively new superhero team. Through a retcon story, they were revealed in writer Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers to have been formed shortly after the devastating “Kree-Skrull War” story arc from the 1970s.
This secret society’s original lineup included the likes of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, and Professor X. And given the reveal of actor Patrick Stewart’s variant of Professor Charles Xavier in promotional material for the movie, this might be a roster to keep in mind as reference material before going into the Multiverse of Madness.
The aftermath of the Kree-Skrull War prompted these heroes — plus Black Panther, who didn’t end up approving — to meet and form the Illuminati as a superheroic version of the United Nations to help prevent large-scale disasters like that from ever happening again. Now, in the soon-to-be live-action version, the Illuminati seems to be spearheaded by a version of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X to keep the multiversal peace across the MCU.
It’s who Strange looks to be meeting and answering to in the trailers for what he did in No Way Home, with even Mordo from the first Doctor Strange working under them. Mordo was one of the sorcerers from the first movie who took Strange in before ultimately developing a bias against him, believing Strange should be stripped of his magical abilities.
It looks like Multiverse of Madness will finally give Mordo the chance to make good on his ominous threat from Doctor Strange‘s post-credits scene.
What looks to be one of the most interesting points of the movie is who will co-star opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s protagonist. Elizabeth Olsen joins the movie as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, but the latter persona looks set to be the most emphasized point after seeing the trailers — and Disney+’s WandaVision series.
This will be the first time fans will see her theatrically as a villain as opposed to an outright hero, with the possibility of seeing variants of the character throughout the movie as well. WandaVision ends with Maximoff finally releasing the town of Westview from her control and the façade that took away the citizens’ free will, going into hiding.
Strange visits Maximoff, per the trailers, where she acknowledges the grim errors she made in her grief. However, the post-credits scene at the end of WandaVision alludes to the Darkhold’s Wanda Maximoff — the Scarlet Witch — will be at least one of the variations of her let loose in the movie. This is poised to be the conflict at the center of Multiverse of Madness‘ plot, with Maximoff seen in promotional clips wreaking bloody havoc at the Illuminati’s doorstep.
Marvel Studios’ projects have been critiqued in recent years for succumbing to a conventional comfort zone, avoiding taking too many risks, and simply sticking to a formula that’s known to sell tickets. But this Phase Four movie — at least on paper — has the makings of venturing into the freaky and ominous.
Many fans will look to who’s filling the director’s chair in excitement for this, as Sam Raimi is helming his first Marvel project since 2007’s Spider-Man 3. That being said, perhaps his most relevant work to look back on for reference will be the likes of Darkman and The Evil Dead.
The former was a gritty original superhero created by Raimi due to being unable to make a Batman or The Shadow movie, which ended up becoming a cult classic anyway. And as for the latter, Raimi has also been known to delve heavily into his love for supernatural horror.
After having seen the surprisingly bleak and violent scenes in the movie’s trailers and clips, watching Sam Raimi’s unique and identifiable vision throughout Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness might be the most exciting atmospheric element to see as Marvel Studios attempt to venture through a potentially more ambitious and uncharted territory.