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Doctor Strange
Photograph: Marvel Studios

Everything we know about Doctor Strange’s trip to the ‘Multiverse of Madness’

Things are looking strange indeed for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Marvel sequel

Written by
Andy Kryza
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Marvel’s so-called Phase 4 has been pretty straightforward so far, which we fully understand is a ridiculous thing to say considering the most recent film in the 26-and-counting series is a millennia-spanning saga of demigods directed by Nomadland Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao. 

Yet the post-Endgame era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been relatively grounded: both Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings kept the franchise’s shenanigans earthbound, while Eternals’s more cosmic inclinations were relatively blasé. 

That’s about to change. December’s Spider Man: No Way Home is poised to rip the fabric of space, time and corporate synergy asunder by bringing back long-dead villains from previous generations of Spideydom. Thor: Love and Thunder will no-doubt continue goofball auteur Taika Waititi’s quest to transform the God of Thunder into a live-action Heavy Metal riff. And sandwiched between the two is what could be the most mind-bending, colourful and downright surreal offering yet: The long-awaited Doctor Strange sequel, In the Multiverse of Madness

The film marks Benedict Cumberbatch’s first topline Marvel outing since the hero’s 2016 origin story. And it could just prise open the MCU’s blast doors for a universe-shattering series of events that could ripple throughout the MCU. Here’s everything we know so far about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Doctor Strange
Photograph: Marvel Studios

When will Doctor Strange 2 be released?

In the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled to release worldwide May 6, 2022. 

Is there a trailer for Doctor Strange 2?

No footage from the excellently titled sequence has yet been released. It’s possible that’s due to the fact that the movie’s plot line will be affected by the upcoming Spider-Man threequel, which features both Strange and a story that deals with interdimensional gobbledygook. More on all that in a moment. 

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Photograph: Marvel StudiosChiwetel Ejiofor in ‘Doctor Strange’

Who is in Doctor Strange 2?

Benedict Cumberbatch is back in the enchanted cape of Dr Stephen Strange, Marvel’s resident practitioner of the mystical arts. Though In the Multiverse of Madness is only the doc’s second solo outing, this is Cumberbatch’s sixth time playing the hero on the big screen: He showed up briefly in Thor: Ragnarok, played a pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War, threw down in the climactic battle of Avengers: Endgame and will also be appearing in Spider-Man: No Way Home. 

The film will also feature the return of Rachel McAdams as Strange’s colleague/love interest Dr Christine Palmer. Benedict Wong will once again be at Strange’s side as fellow sorcerer Wong, while Chiwetel Ejiofor will make good on his promise to break bad as Mordo, another mystic who flits between friend and foe. 

The biggest confirmed addition to the cast is undoubtedly Elizabeth Olsen, reprising her role as Wanda Maximoff – AKA Scarlet Witch. Olsen is hot on the heels of WandaVision, Disney+’s flagship Marvel series in which the former Avenger found her grief manifesting itself in a magical sitcom reality that, unbeknownst to her, trapped hundreds in a psychological prison. According to pre-release chatter, Maximoff is going to be a huge part of Multiverse, and likely Marvel in general, as the franchise delves deeper and deeper into the realm of alternate realities and magic. 

Finally, the film will feature Xochitl Gomez as Miss America, a dimension-hopping hero who eventually becomes a member of the Young Avengers. That superhero team up seems to be a big part of Marvel’s future: The franchise has not-so-secretly been assembling its heroes by introducing them in bit roles across Loki, Hawkeye, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Miss Marvel

Who is directing Doctor Strange 2?

Original Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson was set to helm In the Multiverse of Madness, promising to combine the first film’s Inception-style aesthetic with the horrors that made him a hot commodity thanks to films like Sinister. Alas, before you could say ‘creative differences,’ Derrickson parted ways with Marvel, reportedly due to a disagreement over how scary the PG-13 comic-book romp should be. That left his version of Doctor Strange 2 as a great ‘what if’ scenario, alongside Edgar Wright’s abandoned Ant-Man

Derrickson’s departure left horror-minded fans disappointed, but those same fans perked up when it was announced that none other than Sam Raimi would be taking on the film. The veteran filmmaker is almost lab-built to strike a balance between comic-book quirks, sci-fi weirdness and slapstick horror. 

Raimi is the man behind the original Spider-Man trilogy, which laid the groundwork for the genre’s dominance of popular entertainment. But he’s also the puckish filmmaker behind the Evil Dead franchise, Drag Me To Hell, Darkman and more. If any director can bring the mischief required to pull off Doctor Strange’s further plunge into the psychedelic nightmares lurking in the universe, it’s Raimi, who’s last feature was 2013’s mostly forgotten Oz the Great and Powerful

Doctor Strange
Photograph: Marvel Studios

What is Doctor Strange 2 about?

When first we met Doctor Stephen Strange, he was granted a full origin story: A gifted physician who lost the use of his hands in a car accident, Strange initially came off as something of a Tony Stark clone, thanks to his arrogance, change of heart and questionable facial hair. 

He fell under the tutelage of Tilda Swinton’s whitewashed mystic, the Ancient One, and eventually became the Sorcerer Supreme, standing sentinel over all things enchanted. That included what was eventually revealed to be the Time Stone, a key component of the luxurious Infinity-bedazzled bling that ‘Mad Titan’ Thanos used to snap out half the life in the universe. 

Since taking up the dark arts, Strange has taken full advantage of his ability to bend time and experience multiple realities: Between the climactic fight in Doctor Strange and his run-in with Thanos, Doctor Strange was able to hit reset repeatedly in order to see multiple outcomes, essentially going full Groundhog Day millions of times in order to save billions of lives (and dying millions of times in the process). 

What Strange likely didn’t realise, and what will likely come into play this time around, is that those realities represent various branches of the multiverse: A seemingly infinite tapestry of parallel realities that exist interdimensionally. Those realities don’t just disappear when a sorcerer is done futzing about: They continue on, with any meddling affecting future events. 

And look, we’re not about to get all twisted up here explaining what that means. Ninety percent of the internet is already dedicated to trying to explain multiverses to casual fans. Marvel has spent the past year doing the same: WandaVision touched on alternate realities. Loki spent most of its first season explaining variants, sacred timelines and ripple effects, before doubling down with a finale that mostly consisted of Jonathan Majors’s new villain Kang full-on explaining this stuff in monologue. Spider-Man: No Way Home is going to cut through time, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse dealt with similar overlapping realities. If those aren’t enough, go back and watch Back to the Future or Looper or Timecrimes or any number of films that do a much better job at explaining it. 

What we do know is that we’re likely to dip into multiple realities, duplicate dimensions and timelines. The film will certainly concern Strange’s further experimentation with the Time Stone. The logline also states ‘an old friend-turned-enemy shows up, messing with the plan and causing him “to unleash an unspeakable evil”’. 

So there’s that.

WandaVision
Photograph: Marvel StudiosElizabeth Olsen in Marvel's ‘WandaVision’

Wait, so who is the villain this time?

The ‘old friend turned enemy’ line almost certainly points to Ejiofor’s Mordo, who began to fulfil his comics destiny during the end credits of Doctor Strange by starting his shift toward supervillainy. He certainly fits the bill of a frenemy to Strange, making him the obvious choice. 

But Marvel’s never been shy about zigzagging away from the obvious choice. Many fans suspect that the actual villain could be Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff, who was last seen in WandaVision honing her magic skills in isolation and in possession of the Darkhold, a book of black magic she took after besting rival witch Agatha Harkness in battle. Raimi, it seems, really has a thing for evil ancient books. 

Wanda is now considered one of the most powerful beings in Marvel, but WandaVision showed that the sometimes-Avenger is very susceptible to emotional manipulation. Now that she’s further embedded in the cosmic world of sorcerers and split dimensions, fans are predicting that Wanda could be tricked into tearing the fabric of the universe wide open. 

Whether said puppetmaster is revealed to be Marvel’s Satan analogue Mephisto – a character fans began theorising about within ten seconds of WandaVision’s first episode – it’s looking increasingly like Wanda’s increased power could lead to a catastrophe. And said crisis could pit Strange against his ever-more-powerful former teammate… potentially with the help of rival magician Mordo. Or a variation of Mordo that comes spilling out of a tear in the space-time continuum. Or another version of himself. 

This is getting exhausting. 

Eagle-eyed fans at Resetera also spotted merchandise art depicting the Sorcerer Supreme wrapped up in battle with a famous and famously weird foe from comics past: Shuma-Gorath, a giant one-eyed squid-monster in the Lovecraft mold. So get ready for some tentacles, too. 

Oh, and of course there’s the possibility that Doctor Strange will be fighting… Doctor Strange. That is, an evil variation of Doctor Strange from another timeline. Much like demons, comic books and unholy books, Raimi has extensive experience with doppelganger combat, having staged multiple bouts of Bruce Campbell vs Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness. Again, Raimi is very uniquely qualified here. 

Do I need to see any other movies to understand this one?

Yeah, you probably do. The good news is, you probably don’t need to rewatch every Marvel movie to understand this one, though a revisit of Doctor Strange will probably be worth it, if only to get refreshed on the series’s delightfully trippy aesthetics. 

The Scarlet Witch herself has said it’s all but essential to catch up on Disney+’s WandaVision in order to fully understand what In the Multiverse of Madness has in store. Olsen recently told The Wrap, ‘Without WandaVision, Doctor Strange wouldn’t make sense. I do feel like it fully leads into where we find her. It feels totally connected to the series.’

The Loki series could also be viewed as extra credit, as the Tom Hiddleston-starring show might as well be subtitled ‘Multiverses 101.’ And while we’ve yet to see what unfolds in the next Spider-Man adventure, the presence of Cumberbatch’s Doctor (or his doppleganger) in the trailers and marketing make it seem like that trilogy capper leads directly to the events of Multiverse.

Don’t worry. It will all make sense when Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness releases May 22, 2022. And even if it doesn’t, it sounds like Raimi is cooking up something looney enough that you won’t need an undergrad in comic-book logic to have fun.

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