A week ago, during some football game or other, Disney and Marvel revealed the official trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. A sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange – and Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Avengers: Endgame, and WandaVision, and pretty much all the Marvel stuff – Multiverse of Madness finds Stephen Strange dealing with the fallout of his dimension meddling with Spidey (presumably, unless there’s some new destructive spell he casts at the beginning of this film), as the multiverse opens up on the MCU and he must team up with Scarlet Witch to stave off the coming evil. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Doctor Strange, along with Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Michael Stuhlbarg from Strange’s last solo movie; they’re joined by Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, along with what looks like some surprise guests. Sam Raimi takes over as director from Scott Derrickson, with a script by Michael Waldron. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6, 2022. Check out the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer below:
If nothing else, they’ve given us a lot to talk about with this one. The Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer assures us a return of the mind-bending visuals from the previous Doctor Strange film and more interdimensional wackiness than we’ve seen yet. All the surviving familiar faces return, and I’m glad that Rachel McAdams is among them; I liked her a lot in the first movie, and she was important to Strange’s character development. And while it’s fuzzy on what role Baron Mordo will be playing, I imagine he’ll grow still more sinister until he takes center stage as the villain down the road. As for Wong, while the trailer doesn’t mention it one way or the other, I hope they drop that stupid plot point from No Way Home where he’s now the Sorcerer Supreme; while it would be lame to treat it as a throwaway joke that didn’t land (and it didn’t), I’d prefer that to making Strange have to reacquire that title in only his second movie.
Now, let’s unpack the cameos, Easter eggs, and various other Marvelly connective tissues that we’re supposed to pretend to dislike nowadays if we want to sit at the cool kids’ table. Wanda is the biggie, mostly because we know it’s her, and she’s got a major role in the film. I loved the MCU’s take on the character right up till the end of WandaVision, where here grievous sins are washed away in an idiotic piece of dialogue from Monica Rambeau (whom I also liked a lot till then). The dialogue in the trailer – which Babbling Collector talked about in her excellent article last week – suggests that not only does Wanda not think she did anything wrong, but she resents that Strange isn’t hated like she is. Well, unless they’re not talking about the No Way Home spells, Strange didn’t knowingly enslave people to soothe his broken heart. If Marvel goes in this direction, it’s a huge mistake on their part and will ruin Scarlet Witch as a heroic figure. What’s even more unfortunate is the potential here; this could be a great story for her, something that explores what grief can do to an otherwise good person and show us a fallen hero striving for redemption. Instead, she comes off as an entitled brat who thinks her powers give her free rein to do whatever she wants, regardless of who she hurts. The only direction to go from there is to make her an all-out villain, but I don’t see them doing that. The moment in the trailer that gives me hope on this score is when Wanda confronts herself in the WandaVision world; maybe they are going to have her face her horrific actions and atone for them.
But we already knew about Wanda; the coolest stuff comes in the reveals we didn’t see coming. Eschewing any more beating around the bush, it was Patrick Stewart’s surprise appearance that brought down the house. I know Sir Patrick is being coy, and any possible role he could be playing is currently undisclosed, but let’s not pretend we don’t know that’s him or that he’s playing Charles Xavier. (If you’re hungry for confirmation, pause the trailer as Strange is brought into the room to face him and take note of the wheelchair before one of the seats.) After No Way Home, we know that the various Marvel movies that preceded – and, in some cases, ran concurrently with – the MCU exist as alternate Earths in the Marvel multiverse, which means the world of Fox’s X-Men movies is one of them. Stewart’s presence here suggests that this is how they’ll introduce the X-Men to the MCU and gives us the possibly false hope that Hugh Jackman can be coaxed back for another stab (not the least bit sorry) at Wolverine. Of course, this isn’t definite; it could also be that Stewart’s Xavier will find the mutants in their MCU guises and form the X-Men with them. (Isn’t the now-defunct Avengers headquarters somewhere in upstate New York? Somewhere like… Westchester?)
But at least as interesting is that this scene looks to me like Marvel is introducing some version of the Illuminati into the MCU. The Illuminati is a group of heroes who shape events behind the curtain, and both Professor Xavier and Doctor Strange are among its six founding members. I say “some version” of the Illuminati because another member is Tony Stark, and he’s all dead and stuff. And since Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing, they’re retiring Black Panther, who is also an Illuminati. Then there’s Reed Richards; it’s possible they could bring back one of the actors from a previous version of the Fantastic Four, but since neither of those was well received, and the MCU is planning its own take on the Four, I think they’ll leave him out of this. Black Bolt was also part of a recent Marvel project, the ABC TV series The Inhumans, but since fewer people saw it than saw Bigfoot, I imagine they’ll ignore that too. The remaining member is Namor, who’s been rumored to appear in the MCU for some time now; maybe this will be his introduction. Apparently, there have been other members in the comics since then, so perhaps a few of them will replace people like Stark and T’Challa, or maybe they’ll just make up their own roster. But I’d love to see what they do with the Illuminati.
Aside from Wanda and Xavier, the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer has Strange being led around by Ultron drones. This could mean a lot of things, but I wonder if it’s a reference to “Age of Ultron” the comic story, which is very different from its cinematic namesake. In that series, the heroes accidentally create a future where Ultron has taken over the world. (It’s actually mostly a morality play about how far a hero should be willing to go to prevent a future disaster, with the dystopian nightmare of Ultron’s rule as the backdrop.) They appear to be acting as Xavier’s – and the Illuminati’s; I’m convinced this is happening – security or police force, so it’s probably not a direct adaptation (unless Ultron is an Illuminati; hmm…). And America Chavez, who is confirmed to be appearing, shows up as well; I’m not familiar with the character, so I have no opinion on that. I have a rather negative opinion of Captain Marvel, though, and that lit-up streaking figure looks like her; we’re just never going to hear the end of who they insist is our new favorite superhero, are we? But, leaving behind the eye-rolls, another surprise is the dark version of Doctor Strange last seen in What If…? That show was a mixed bag, but it had some really good ideas and episodes, and the twisted version of Stephen Strange’s origin was one of the best. However, unless I’m misremembering, didn’t the demonic Doctor Strange turn to good and redeem himself? I hope there’s a compelling reason why he’s evil again if he ends up being the villain. (That would make Benedict Cumberbatch two for two in playing his own nemesis in a Doctor Strange film.) Some are speculating that the multi-armed thing at the end is the evil Doctor Strange, a dark mirror to his actions fighting Thanos in Infinity War; others think it’s longtime Doctor Strange nemesis Nightmare, which would jibe with one of Strange’s lines at the beginning of the trailer. I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out on opening night.
Did you like the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer? What other surprises do you think the film has up its sleeve? Is Bruce Campbell playing the secret mastermind behind the universe-destroying threat? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned to Geeks + Gamers for more superhero speculation!