The post-credits scene in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ provided our first lengthy look at ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.’ What did we learn about Marvel’s upcoming movie?
After Doctor Strange uses the Time Stone to defy the laws of nature and strike a bargain with Dormammu at the end of 2016’s Doctor Strange, the world is saved from yet another universe-threatening entity. But Mordo—the sorcerer who lost faith in the Masters of the Mystic Arts’ mission after learning that the Ancient One had lied about her own transgressions against the natural order of life—reminds the good doctor that the ends don’t always justify the means when it comes to the manipulation of time and space. “You still think there will be no consequences, Strange?” Mordo asks him with contempt. “No price to pay? We broke our rules, just like her. The bill comes due—always. A reckoning.”
Several years (and many doomsday events) have passed since Mordo decided to follow a path of his own, and yet Doctor Strange has all but seemed to forget his ominous warning. During the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange attempts to brainwash the entire world—all so that Peter Parker and his friends can go to school together at MIT after a rough college admissions process. As revealed by the new trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which debuted after the credits (and Venom-centric mid-credits scene) of No Way Home, a reckoning is coming for the architect of the biggest admissions scandal since Operation Varsity Blues.
Multiverse of Madness, directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Evil Dead) and written by Michael Waldron (Loki) and Jade Halley Bartlett, is primed to be a major crossover event that will build off of the conclusion of No Way Home, as well as the events of Loki, WandaVision, and even the animated anthology series What If…? It’s been more than 10 years since Marvel Studios has released a full trailer in place of one of its standard post-credits scenes, and there’s a lot packed into this two-minute preview for the May 2022 film.
The trailer begins with echoes of Wong’s warnings to Strange in No Way Home—as the new Sorcerer Supreme tried stopping Strange from casting the dangerous spell that would eventually bring in all the enemies and friends from across the Spider-Verse—and Mordo declaring that Strange’s “desecration” of the space-time continuum “will not go unpunished.” What follows is a quick succession of shots that establish some of the chaos that looms ahead for Strange in the film: New York City in ruins (in what appears to be the Mirror Dimension), Wong in peril, an introduction to MCU newcomer America Chavez, and Dr. Christine Palmer seemingly marrying someone other than Strange. (It’s been a tough stretch for Strange after vanishing for five years thanks to Thanos—the guy has lost his job and almost ripped apart the universe to help a teenager get into college, and now he might be losing the love of his life, too.)
The longest sequence in the trailer features Strange paying a visit to Wanda Maximoff, who has isolated herself from the world following her actions in WandaVision. “I knew sooner or later you’d show up,” Wanda says to him. “I made mistakes, and people were hurt.” But Strange is not there to bring her to justice for her crimes against the people of Westview–he’s there to seek help, asking her, “What do you know about the multiverse?”
When WandaVision concluded earlier this year, the Emmy-nominated series repositioned a minor character as one of the most important figures in the entire MCU: the Scarlet Witch. In the show’s action-packed season finale, Agatha Harkness told Wanda that her power “exceeded that of the Sorcerer Supreme,” and that it was her “destiny to destroy the world.” She discovered that she has the unique ability to produce Chaos Magic—granting her the gift of spontaneous creation—and one of the show’s after-credits scenes shows her learning how to travel to the astral plane, like Doctor Strange, while reading a powerful book of dark magic called the Darkhold. The stinger seemed to suggest that Wanda could follow this dark path to realize a world-ending prophecy in Multiverse of Madness as she looked for a way to revive her twin boys. But now, with Strange seeking out Wanda’s help (while completely ignoring the fact that she just terrorized an entire town as part of her very unhealthy grieving process), it seems as if she will serve as an ally and a potential guide to Strange into the vast multiverse.
Along with the Scarlet Witch, Strange appears to have another ally in America Chavez, a new hero who may play a central role in the MCU in the future. We see only a few glimpses of her in the film’s trailer, but her jean jacket with a lone star emblazoned across the back provides our introduction to the hero from the comics known as Miss America. And her emergence in Multiverse of Madness makes sense given her comic book origins: Chavez was born in a realm that defies the conventions of space and time called the Utopian Parallel, and—in addition to her superhuman strength, speed, and power of flight—she can create portals that allow her to travel to alternate dimensions across the multiverse. She might have only a minor role in the Doctor Strange sequel, but Chavez also becomes the latest Young Avengers member to make her debut in a Phase 4 project, another sign pointing toward a potential film or Disney+ series that would bring a new team of Earth’s mightiest (and youngest) heroes together for a crossover event.
In addition to spotlighting Strange’s new allies, the Multiverse of Madness teaser reveals some of the threats he’s set to face in his multiversal journey. Beyond Mordo, who has apparently been growing out his hair while soul-searching for a new purpose in life, Strange will have to deal with a massive, one-eyed, tentacled monster. It’s unclear how this creature finds its way to the streets of New York and why it’s hurling a bus at Doctor Strange and America Chavez, but it’s as good an indication as any that this interdimensional movie is ready to get a little weird. (The squidlike Leviathan could be either Shuma-Gorath or Gargantos from the comics, or whatever that tentacle thing was from the What If … ? premiere; to me, it just looks like a big one-eyed octopus is voicing its displeasure with New York’s public transportation system.) But in the final moments of the trailer, Mordo tells Strange that “the greatest threat to our universe is you,” as an evil variant of Strange steps forward to deliver the teaser’s final line: “Things just got out of hand.”
For those watching who were unfamiliar with What If … ?, the figure reserved for the biggest shock of the trailer probably looked like little more than a version of Benedict Cumberbatch who wears darker clothing and heavy eyeliner and has a dire need for some time in the sun. But he’s actually a key character who first appeared in this past summer’s animated anthology series. The evil variant of Strange was introduced in What If’s fourth episode, “What If … Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?,” which reimagines his journey to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme as part of an effort to resurrect Christine after she dies in a car crash. In this alternate universe, Strange’s quest to save Christine blinds him to his greater duties to protect the world from interdimensional threats. He sacrifices his own humanity to find a way to bring her back, and though he succeeds, he not only becomes a monster, but also accidentally sacrifices their entire world:
The hype surrounding Multiverse of Madness has been growing for years, which is partly a product of its release date being shuffled around and delayed several times due to pandemic-related production stoppages. When it was announced at Comic-Con in 2019, the film was supposed to arrive ahead of Loki and What If … ?; not only was No Way Home not yet announced, but Spider-Man’s entire future in the MCU was in doubt thanks to Sony and Disney’s continued squabbles over the rights to the beloved web-slinger. Multiverse of Madness has since switched directors (after Scott Derrickson stepped down due to a classic case of “creative differences” with Disney) and undergone significant script rewrites to work in tandem with Marvel’s other on-screen projects. The movie no longer bears the burden of introducing or explaining the multiverse; instead, it’s tasked with exploring more of its many implications and possibilities.
Multiverse of Madness will be the MCU’s first major crossover event in Phase 4, not including No Way Home’s inclusion of characters from almost 20 years of Sony-produced Spidey movies. It’s Marvel’s first real attempt to blend existing story lines from its Disney+ series with its big-screen properties. And as evidenced by some of the creepy imagery in the new teaser, Multiverse of Madness—with Raimi, whose resurrected Spider-Man characters starred in No Way Home, now attached to direct—is expected to separate itself from other Marvel projects even further by weaving in horror elements, making good on Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige’s promise that the film would be “thrilling, scary, and mind-bending.”
Over half a decade after Doctor Strange became the first MCU movie to mention the existence of the multiverse, the concept has become Marvel Studios’ go-to source for storytelling. No Way Home just brought a multiverse of villains to Peter Parker’s doorstep, and legions of viewers to theaters to the tune of a COVID-defying $587.2 million opening weekend worldwide. Come May 2022, Multiverse of Madness will take Doctor Strange and his friends to other alternate universes, as Marvel Studios continues to test how far interdimensional travel can carry it toward its ambitious financial and narrative targets.