Everything We Know

Everything We Know About Doctor Strange in the Multiverse Of Madness

The multiverse has blown wide open, and based on interviews, trailers, comics history, and what we've seen in Phase Four so far, here's what we can expect.

by | March 24, 2022 | Comments

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From the moment it received its title in 2019, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been the most mysterious and compelling of Marvel Studios’ Phase Four films. Besides being the long-awaited sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, it will pull together various story threads from around the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just as studio president Kevin Feige promised on the Comic-Con and D23 Expo stages three years ago.

But what does that mean for the film itself? And will it be worth the seemingly extended wait for a Doctor Strange sequel? Let’s dig into everything we know about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and see what we can discover about the first 2022 film from the MCU.

The Plot Of The Multiverse

Tom Holland and Benedict Cumberbatch in Spider-Man: No Way Home

(Photo by Matt Kennedy/©Sony Pictures Releasing)

From the moment the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) tutored Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) on the finer points of divergent timelines in Avengers: Endgame, it was clear alternative versions of the MCU would matter in Phase Four. Indeed, by revealing the Multiverse of Madness subtitle in the summer of 2019, Marvel made it clear this idea would be a strong component of their storytelling. And from the two trailers released for the film so far, it seems the plot will concern a breakdown of the Multiverse in the wake of Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) actions in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

At least, that’s the assumption, as the first Multiverse trailer played as a post-credit stinger at the end of No Way Home and featured Strange saying he “had to do” what he did. Of course, it is always possible Strange continued to explore the Multiverse after helping out Spider-Man, and a subsequent spell led to the problems he will face in the upcoming film.

Still from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

No matter when it happened, Strange’s actions have opened a fissure in the Multiversal structure and everyone from Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to a governing council above the Multiverse want Strange to atone for his crimes.

That may explain why he turns to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for some guidance. Although, judging by the trailers, Wanda’s journey to becoming the Scarlet Witch contains much of the chaos Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) claimed it would back in 2021’s WandaVision. Knowing how Doctor Strange stories work, we can surmise Strange will have to deal with the crisis he himself caused while helping Wanda through the dark patch in her studies. But just to prove Strange really is his own worst enemy, a Dark Strange – seemingly the same one from the animated What If…? series – appears to have designs of his own on the Multiverse.

The Multiverse As A Setting

Sophia Di Martino and Tom Hiddleston in Loki

(Photo by Disney+)

It is worth pointing out the Mutliverse is a concept of which we know frighteningly little, as Strange himself tells Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in No Way Home, but we can make some guesses based on what we’ve seen in Phase Four so far.

According to Loki, the Multiverse was previously a group of cosmoses in great despair as realities went to war with other realities for all the petty reasons nations go to war in our reality. Things were bleak until one scientist was able to merge the Multiverse down into one Sacred Timeline. This being, identified as “He Who Remains” (Jonathan Majors), held things in check for an immeasurable time, pruning divergences in the timeline (via the Time Variance Authority) until two variants of Loki (Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino) ruined everything. Now the Multiverse exists once again as a realm where every decision spawns an infinite number of outcomes and realities.

Or, at least, that is the way it seems to appear at the end of Loki, with the lingering threat that a variant of He Who Remains will prove to be worse than the entity the Lokis encountered.

Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, and Tobey Maguire at a photo shoot for Spider-Man: No Way Home

(Photo by Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Arguably, No Way Home introduced more nuance to the Multiverse than simply a framework of realities where every conceivable outcome exists. Instead, there is latitude for realities in which Peter Parker became Spider-Man in 2002 or 2012. That is more than just free will producing other quantum states; it also means the Multiverse allows for realities where people are born earlier (or later) than they were in the MCU and, perhaps, wildly different universes that look uncannily like films made with Marvel characters, but not the participation of Marvel Studios.

It is in the shifting landscape that Strange’s next adventure takes place. Although, we imagine it will start in Manhattan and probably make a quick trip to the Kamar-Taj, where Wong (Benedict Wong) reigns as the Sorcerer Supreme. After that, surprises are in store for our hero as reality itself folds and history changes.

The Returning Strange Cast

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

As is tradition for most Marvel Studios films, the majority of Doctor Strange’s cast returns for Multiverse of Madness. Cumberbatch, of course, headlines as Strange. The character has been through a great deal since the first film, including the time he allowed himself to be snapped out of existence to ensure a future in which Thanos (Josh Brolin) would ultimately be defeated. Multiverse will explore, in some way, the lingering personal effects of the Blip on Strange and how it relates to his subsequent actions. Cumberbatch will also reportedly play a number of Strange variants beyond the dark one glimpsed in the trailers.

Benedict Wong also returns as Wong (and a variant or two), who continues to serve as the Sorcerer Supreme (as established in No Way Home). We presume he will continue to be his pithy self, doubting Strange’s intellect and, perhaps, lending aid to that Multiversal Illuminati — a group seemingly confirmed to appear in the film and tasked with maintaining order in an increasingly mad universe. Back in the comics, the Illuminati included Strange, Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, and the X-Men’s Charles Xavier among its members, and the roster could indicate a number of potential cameos in the film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

Despite the seeming emphasis on the ongoing MCU storylines, Multiverse of Madness will make time for Mordo to make good on his promise from the end of the first film. It is easy to see how the breakdown of reality would feed into his belief that magic is too dangerous to be wielded by people like Strange. Whether or not that means he gets to be a full antagonist this time around remains to be seen. Also unclear is what Mordo might do when faced with a more benevolent (or even an outwardly malevolent) variant of himself.

And much to the surprise of most Marvel fans, Rachel McAdams returns as Dr. Christine Palmer, Strange’s nominal love interest in the first film, though, as seen in the more recent trailer, she is getting married to someone who is decidedly not Strange. Nevertheless, McAdams will also be playing variants of Christine. It is unclear how that will play out, but it is worth noting that Dark Strange went dark in that episode of What If…? because he could not create a reality in which she lived. Or, more to the point, lived with him. Will MCU Strange’s willingness to let her go be part of the conflict with Dark Strange?

The film will also see Michael Stuhlbarg return as Dr. Nicodemus West, although it is unclear how much screen time he will have. Considering his comic book counterpart’s history, it would be interesting if Strange runs into a West who became Sorcerer Supreme in another universe. Additionally, Topo Wresniwiro and Mark Anthony Brighton return as Mystic Arts practitioners Hamir and Daniel Drumm.

New Additions To Strange’s World

Elizabeth Olsen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

There are several established MCU characters stopping by to take part in the madness. As Feige revealed back in 2019, Olsen joins the cast as Wanda Maximoff and the Scarlet Witch; thanks to the conclusion of WandaVision, it is tough to say if the two names refer to one person, variants of Wanda, or something else. The connection between the Disney+ series and the Doctor Strange sequel was a selling point Feige made while introducing the Phase Four television shows three years back. How it will play out – and whether or not the Darkhold Wanda spirited away at the end of the series will somehow allow her to snatch her children from a universe where they were real – is one of the narrative thrills awaiting fans.

Reportedly, she is not the only Disney+ star to make a Multiverse of Madness appearance. Last summer, word indicated Tom Hiddleston will also pop in as Loki. Marvel never confirmed if this is true, but it makes sense as, seemingly, the TVA (or an organization very much like it) will whisk Strange away at some point in the film. To see the Loki from Loki in that same interdimensional facility would be no surprise. But what information he shares with Strange could prove quite the bombshell.

Patrick Stewart in X-Men 2

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

Another Marvel actor seemingly returning for the film is Patrick Stewart. His voice is clearly heard in the second trailer, but it is unclear who he is playing. Thanks to No Way Home and its use of the previous Spider-Man actors, it is easy to assume Stewart will once again be Charles Xavier – a move that would finally bring Mutants to the MCU. But there’s always the possibility he could be another character or a variant of Xavier that is markedly different from the one in the X-Men film cycle.

Meanwhile, the film will see the debut of one new live-action character: America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). Created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta, the character is capable of jumping around the Multiverse under her own power. We imagine this will be useful to Strange as events unfold, even if some reports indicate her use of the ability will “madden” Strange and Wong. We also imagine America will find a good reason to stick around the MCU and appear in subsequent films and shows. And considering her comic book counterpart has a fascination with Kate Bishop (played by Hailee Steinfeld on Hawkeye), we imagine the two will meet sooner than later.

Other character introductions include Rintrah — a mystic from another world who happens to resemble a Minotaur — and an entity called Gargantos for the film, but readers of Marvel Comics will know as Shuma-Gorath. In a strange twist of fate, the name is legally the property of a company other than Marvel, making its use financially unrewarding.

The Multiverse Of Filmmakers

Sam Raimi on the set of Drag Me to Hell

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

Although Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson was meant to return, a disagreement in the direction of the story led to him and writer Jade Halley Bartlett leaving the project in early 2020. They were replaced with Spider-Mans Sam Raimi and Loki head writer Michael Waldron; presumably, the latter’s participation means stronger ties to the events of Loki than originally planned. But the arrival of Raimi – a man who often said he was done with superhero movies after the painful production of Spider-Man 3 – suggests Derrickson’s stated intent to make a scarier Marvel movie may still be the case. Perhaps just not as scary as Derrickson, director of films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, would have liked.

Other crew include director of photography John Mathieson (Logan, Batgirl), production designer Charles Wood – a veteran of many Marvel productions like the first Doctor Strange and Endgame – and editors Bob Murawski and Tia Nolan. And, of course, would it be a Sam Rami movie without a score from Danny Elfman? He is also on board to give the Multiverse his special musical talents.

When Does The Madness Begin?

Poster for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

Like most of the Phase 4 films, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was delayed an entire year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will arrive in theaters on May 6 and, presumably, offer one or two tangible answers about the Multiverse, the One Who Remains variant waiting in the wings, and the X-Men.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters on May 6, 2022.

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