Even if you’re up to date on your Marvel media, the recent advances in Phase Four of the MCU can be a bit tricky to keep track of. Our confusing culprit? The Multiverse–that tricky, layered, interwoven fabric of countless realities, timelines, realms, dimensions, and planes that is central to the newest films and shows in the MCU. The latest release, Spider-Man: No Way Home, was followed by a teaser trailer for the Doctor Strange sequel–and between that, the events in NWH, the repercussions of Loki, and the actions of the Scarlet Witch in WandaVision, there are a lot of tangled threads for us to decipher.
The long-awaited sneak peek of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gives us several important glimpses into what we can expect from the MCU’s take on the concept of the multiverse (not the comic version, mind you…I think that is a very different beast deserving of its own post). And of course, Stephen Strange–and his love of doing spells he shouldn’t–is at the very center of it all.
For anyone unaware, the plot of NWH centers around a spell gone wrong. Desperate for the return of some anonymity, Peter Parker has asked Doctor Strange to make it so that no one knows he is Spider-Man. But he hasn’t thought it through, and mid-casting, asks for some changes. And then some more changes. The spell becomes fractured, and while Strange is able to contain it, there are small cracks in their reality that allow certain things and people from other universes to slip through. (Sort of like the crack in Amy Pond’s bedroom wall, if you will.) Toward the end of the movie, the cracks expand to an even more dangerous degree, threatening the safety of the Earth as we know it. (Note from K: The Spidey NWH review is coming, I swear!)
The film ends with the assumption that Strange has fixed the problem. Nobody knows who Peter Parker is, and the cracks have healed. Or have they? At the end of Loki we learned that with the death of He Who Remains, newly branched timelines can be created at the drop of a hat. At the end of WandaVision we saw that Wanda is in possession of the Darkhold, a sinister book of dangerous magic from the Dark Dimension, and is learning its secrets. And in the teaser for Multiverse of Madness, it’s quickly understood that tampering with the stability of spacetime (especially if, like, a bunch of people are doing it at once) has serious consequences and that Strange’s quick fix is akin to putting a bandaid over a gaping wound.
Your desecration of reality will not go unpunished.Mordo
Karl Mordo, who was once Strange’s friend and fellow sorcerer, makes a reappearance in the trailer after not being seen on screen since the end of Doctor Strange. He will likely be an antagonist in Multiverse of Madness, since he has left the Masters of the Mystic Arts and vowed to stop rogue sorcerers…and while Strange is one of our heroes, he’s never been one for following the rules. We can only imagine how angry Mordo must be after finding out that Strange has been meddling with spacetime (again) and this time has broken reality.
It seems safe to assume that, based on both Mordo’s words and what we see of a crumbling mirror dimension, conditions are starting to worsen after the last spell at the end of NWH. But does Strange even remember why he had to cast it? If he doesn’t remember Peter Parker, what memory has filled in the gaps? And more importantly, have there been other visitors to their version of Earth since then?
What do you know about the Multiverse?Doctor Strange
Strange seeks out Wanda Maximoff, but is quick to explain that he doesn’t care what happened in Westview. He seems (mildly) desperate to see what she knows or doesn’t know about the Multiverse. This implies that Strange is aware that Wanda has the Darkhold–whether he wants to out her to the Masters of the Mystic Arts remains to be seen. In the comics, the Darkhold is a tome that contains ancient demonic spells from the god Chthon and is not something to be tampered with. While we have yet to discover if the MCU version of the Darkhold is as dangerous as its comic counterpart, it is certain that Wanda’s increasing powers and knowledge from the Darkhold contain secrets of the Multiverse…secrets that Strange needs in order to help fix his mistakes.
It is also important to note that in the comics, Wanda is the Nexus Being for Earth-616 (yeah she is the strongest Avenger), and can affect probability and the future. (The MCU’s Earth is Earth-199999, but it seems to follow many of the same major plot points as the original comic Earth, so it stands to reason that she is still Earth’s Nexus Being). However, since the TVA no longer exists as of the finale of Loki, and the timeline is branched, Wanda is pretty much the only being who can, canonically, control this particular plane of reality in the Multiverse. It’s not a surprise that Doctor Strange would seek her out for help.
There have been some theories, like this one from ScreenRant, which speculate that Wanda may become a pawn of the Darkhold–that the real villain of the film will be Chthon who is using the recent tears in the layers of the Multiverse to break through and become Earth’s new ruler. While there doesn’t seem to be anything in the trailer that indicates this, we do know that Wanda uses Chaos Magic (and so does Chthon). We also know that there are ancient beings in space and other dimensions with long histories and insane amounts of power, such as the Celestials from Eternals and Dormammu from Doctor Strange. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for another primordial being like Chthon to make an appearance.
Things just got out of hand.Alternate reality Doctor Strange (What If…?)
Perhaps the most intriguing moment in the trailer is at the very end. Fans of What If…? will immediately have recognized an alternate reality version of Strange from episode 4 of the animated series, wherein Strange loses Christine in the car accident instead of the use of his hands. This version of Strange becomes obsessed with using magic to bring her back, and while he tries time and time again it is impossible to change the outcome of a fixed point without completely obliterating his layer of the Multiverse.
This incredibly powerful and mad variant of Strange not only exists in the MCU thanks to the TVA no longer pruning timelines, but is able to travel across the realities and into our Earth–another indicator that the bandaid from NWH isn’t just insufficient but has been ripped to shreds under the pressure of the crumbling barriers between worlds. What is it that has drawn Alternate Strange to this universe? Will we see other versions of him as well? Is he here because of America Chavez, who has the ability to create portals across the Multiverse? Will he continue in his mission to be reunited with Christine, who is alive and well in this universe, or does he have another evil purpose?
A reminder that America, who we see for the first time in this trailer, is part of the Young Avengers–a group that includes Kate Bishop, Cassie Lang, and Billy and Tommy Maximoff…if they aren’t setting this team up, I’ll eat my hat. I would also wager that we’ll get a Loki and/or Sylvie cameo in this film, even though there has yet to be any hint of this besides what the duo was up to at the end of Loki.
What do you think we will see in Multiverse of Madness? Let us know in the comments, or over on Twitter.