Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness promises to be a crossover event worthy of Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man: No Way Home comparisons. Aside from being a sequel to 2016's Doctor Strange, Multiverse of Madness will bring legacy characters from franchises outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon into the fold.
Doctor Strange 2's second trailer confirmed a year's worth of speculation with the vocal appearance of Patrick Stewart's Professor X. While Charles Xavier is just one character, his appearance opens the door for further cameos across the vast Multiverse.
Those cameos are not limited to the third dimension either. One frame of the Multiverse of Madness Super Bowl trailer showcases Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange drifting into an animated universe, further emphasizing how weird this film is going to get.
That cartoon crossover validated rumors of connections with What If...?, Marvel Studios' animated anthology that explored alternate MCU timelines, while other theories were shut down by this trailer. Subtitles revealed the evil Doctor Strange Variant to be "Sinister Strange," not What If...?'s Strange Supreme.
What is and is not being borrowed from What If...? for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness remains largely unknown, but one of the film's producers has addressed the potential connections.
Doctor Strange 2's Ties to What If...?
And if you think he's evil, just wait 'til you meet his Variants.
In the Spring 2022 issue of Disney’s D23 Magazine obtained by The Direct, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness producer Richie Palmer noted that regardless of all the Multiversal cameos, this film is ultimately about Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange "reckoning with himself":
"After all the decisions he's made over the years, this movie really shows Stephen reckoning with himself."
That self-judgement won't just be an inner monologue either, as the MCU's Strange will be faced with immoral versions of himself in the flesh. This was similarly explored in What If...? Episode 4, where viewers follow a Stephen Strange who loses his love in his infamous car wreck.
As evidenced by What If...?, a desperate Strange is a dangerous Strange, which Palmer hopes to do "justice" by in Multiverse of Madness:
"Things get pretty trippy. We love that episode of What If...?, and we hope to do it justice. It shows another version of Doctor Strange - one who let the universe he lived in be destroyed because of his love for Christine. If he was capable of that, for a selfish reason, is that something that our Stephen would be capable of doing, too? We'd like to think, 'No, our guy's the hero,' but you never know."
Multiverse of Madness' Animated Inspiration
While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is sure to have a couple of What If...? connections, the animated anthology's Episode 4 seems more like inspiration rather than an actual tie-in.
Palmer's focus on doing "justice" by What If...? feels more like wanting to retain the show's vibe of an evil Strange rather than picking up where it left off. That said, Doctor Strange 2 does not have to be a carbon copy of what the cartoon accomplished.
What If...?'s Strange Supreme was rooted in a human reality. His lust for power came from a place of longing for a lost loved one, which only emphasized that no matter how disfigured he became, Strange was still a real person with real emotion deep down inside. His fall from grace was birthed out of a "selfish" motive, not purely evil intent.
Sinister Strange looks to be dipping into the wicked for wicked's sake. The best villains are those who see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, but the scariest ones are those who are absent of humanity. If that's the direction Multiverse of Madness is heading, the good doctor is in for the fight of his life.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6.