Doctor Strange’s Deep Dive Into The Multiverse

*Note: The following will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

For anyone who has seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the latest entry from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the film raised many questions and fueled intense speculation for what lies ahead with the MCU and its version of the multiverse or alternate realities.

The MCU has toyed with the concept of the multiverse for some time and further explored it in recent Disney+ TV shows, and even Avengers: Endgame, but the sequel to Doctor Strange is the first MCU film to fully dive into the concept. During the film, the sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) encounters a young woman called America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the ability to travel between universes or the multiverse. She is being hunted by Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who wants to steal her power (and killing her to do so) in order to travel to another reality where her fictional children that she conjured in WandaVision are actually alive. During a confrontation between Strange and the Scarlet Witch, Strange and Chavez wind up traveling through several bizarre universes before arriving in a universe numbered 838. The MCU we know of is designated 616, even though that designation belongs to the regular Marvel Comics universe, which itself designated the MCU 199,999.

Despite the weird worlds Strange and Chavez traveled through, like an animated universe or one where they turned into paint colors, the 838 quickly stood out in the way that society embraced living more harmoniously with nature and with its heroes. Strange met the superhuman team called the Illuminati who deal with the deadliest threats to reality and included alternate MCU heroes and new ones, as well. The most interesting Illuminati members were Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), a What If…? character perfectly realized in live action, Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four (played by John Krasinski, a fan-casting dream come true), a comics-accurate version of Black Bolt (reprised by Anson Mount who originated the role in the Inhumans TV show), and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who was a new version of the Professor X seen in the Fox X-Men films.

As great as it was to see these heroes, some fans were disappointed that the film did not feature more appearances by alternate characters such as a rumored Iron Man played by Tom Cruise, Tobey Maguire returning as Spider-Man or Chris Evans as the Human Torch (a role he played in the first official Fantastic Four films). Sure, it would have been terrific to see more cameos but to do so threatened to take away from the main story of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which had to focus on Strange and his foe. The appearances we got were to merely whet our appetite for things to come, which were clearly outlined in the film. So fear not, this is just the beginning. Before long we’ll have a deep dive into the multiverse.

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Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Is A Wild & Scary Summer Ride

Kicking off the yearly cinematic entries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for 2022 is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the long-awaited sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange. While the first film introduced the supernatural and trippy side of the MCU, the sequel runs wild and amps up the horror elements of the MCU and introduces fantastic new characters and concepts. As with Spider-Man: No Way Home, this film deals with the mind-bending nature of the multiverse and fleshes it out more.

The sequel to Doctor Strange is directed by horror auteur, Sam Raimi, who returns to the world of film adaptations of Marvel Comics superheroes while embracing his horror film background. He replaced the original director and it turned out Marvel Studios made an inspired choice with Raimi, who has the skills and the superhero and horror background to create a splendid fusion of both genres for the MCU.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness brings back the sorcerer, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. He is attending the wedding of his former lover, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) when a nearby attack in the streets of New York City attracts his attention. A giant, cyclopean cephalopod is after a teenage girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and after Strange and fellow sorcerer Wong (Benedict Wong) rescue her, she reveals she is from another universe. America Chavez has the uncontrollable ability to travel through different universes and is on the run from someone who wants to kill her and take her power. The film also features Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who is in grieving after the events of WandaVision. Soon enough her and Strange’s paths cross as he embarks on a mission to protect Chavez. This leads him through the multiverse itself as he struggles to find a way to defeat Gomez’s pursuer and confront his own flaws.

This film works on so many levels that cannot be appreciated immediately by some. It relies heavily on the history of the MCU and has references to Marvel Comics that will delight fans and alienate some non-fans. It walks a fine line between servicing fans with many references and Easter eggs while not going overboard. Despite what the title implies or what over-speculation has led some to believe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness manages to restrain itself while being an effective and fast-paced thriller with many blood-curdling moments. Sam Raimi revels in his horror roots and delivers his best film in years. Unlike some MCU films that lack identity, Raimi is able to inject his own distinctive and bombastic directorial vision in the film. What he presents may alarm some expecting a family-friendly ride, but it is so well done. A lot of the imagery is downright squeamish and disturbing, but Raimi does not go too over the top. Needless to say the special effects are excellent and many of the images look like dreams which came to cinematic life.

A criticism with The Batman was that it was a bit too indulgent and went on too long. With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it is the opposite. Its main problem is that it could have used a few extra minutes to allow it to breath and let many emotional moments sink in. It’s very fast paced, but tetters on the brink of losing control as the film jumps from one plot point to another. Raimi has said that his original cut of the film was about a half hour longer but Marvel Studios made him cut the film to fit a two-hour run time. Hopefully this footage will turn up later on to let us judge them. But the film still holds itself together thanks to the terrifc talent both behind and in front of the camera.

Benedict Cumberbatch once again turns in a fine performance as a self-deluding, arrogant hero who has to admit some hard truths about himself in order to succeed. The other actors have ample amount of screen time to leave an impression, including Xochitl Gomez. As the newest superhero of the MCU, Gomez’s America Chavez is full of heart and spunk, but is never obnoxious or overbearing. Plus, she has an engaging sub plot as she struggles to deal with her past and grow.

Elizabeth Olsen delivers an excellent performance as Wanda as we feel her pain and can certainly empathize with her situation over having lost her children during WandaVision. Then there many new characters who have small but significant appearances in the film. As mentioned earlier, beware of over speculating about who appears and dampen expectations. In the end, this works for the film and keeps it from having the same failed fate of Iron Man 2 or Avengers: Age of Ultron where those films tried to cram in too much to set up other films. Even though Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has many characters and moving parts, the core of the film is still on Strange. More importantly, the film does not hesitate to shine a light on his character flaws, which are not admirable.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is another strong win for the MCU and Marvel Studios, which leaves one begging for a followup. Thankfully, the end title card promises that Doctor Strange will return. Let’s hope it does not take six more years for a third Doctor Strange film.

José Soto

Spider-Man: No Way Home—Spider-Man’s Endgame

Despite a global pandemic and naysayers, Spider-Man: No Way Home (NWH) defied expectations and is a mammoth box office hit. With the success comes discussion over what lies ahead for future Spider-Man films and the ramifications of the events of NWH. Be aware the following will include spoilers about Spider-Man: No Way Home and related films.

The Complex Film Web

Spider-Man’s film history and its development has always been rocky. Before the first Spider-Man in 2002, it took years and armies of lawyers to develop a Spider-Man film thanks to the Marvel Comics superhero’s complex film rights. As it now stands Sony Pictures holds the film rights to Spider-Man, not The Walt Disney Company or Marvel Studios. While Sony had great success with the early Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man films, they struggled with their rebooted film duology, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The film studio tried to start their own film universe based on Spider-Man and related property to rival Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But those films were not as successful as the Raimi films nor were they well received. This forced Sony to scuttle further planned films and work with Marvel Studios to integrate the superhero into the MCU. This paid off tremendously as the MCU Spider-Man films were beloved and very profitable.

The partnership between Sony and Disney hit a large hurdle in 2019 shortly after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film which ended on a cliffhanger. The two companies could not come to terms and Sony took back the film rights, effectively ending all appearances by Spider-Man in the MCU. After some time, cooler heads prevailed and Spidey was allowed to have at least one more appearance in the MCU, which was Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film that celebrated all the Spider-Man live-action films as the actors who performed Spider-Man in the older films, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprised their iconic roles. Many theorized that based on the film’s plot line dealing with alternate realities that the superhero would transition away from the MCU and into his own reality that was populated by other characters such as Venom and Morbius.

Across a Multiverse

According to executives from both film companies, Spider-Man will remain in the MCU for the time being. Producer Amy Pascal even went as far as to announce that a new MCU Spider-Man was in development and perhaps more. He is also supposed to appear in one other MCU film as a feature character like he did in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films. It would be terrific if he could show up in the MCU reboot of the Fantastic Four since the two properties have a shared early history and the director of the MCU Spider-Man films, Jon Watts, has been selected to direct the FF reboot.

Spider-Man remaining in the MCU is welcome news for fans who love the MCU version of Spider-Man. No one can say for certain if this actually happens, but given the huge success of the MCU Spider-Man films, it would be in the best interests of both film studios to continue the arrangement. On the other hand, if this does not come to pass, at least the cliffhanger was resolved and the last film in the trilogy brought this Spidey’s story to a conclusion and a new chapter in his life.

Supposing Spider-Man were to remain in the MCU what would he face next? One clue is the alien symbiote that created Venom. At the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Venom was transported to the MCU, however he did not play a vital role in NWH. Instead, Venom and his host Eddie Brock hung out in a bar in Mexico and was transported back to his own reality in a mid-credit scene in NWH. The scene was quite funny, but some were disappointed that Venom did not help out the Spider-Men or join the Sinister Six. But a small fragment of the symbiote was left behind in the MCU. So this could be what Peter faces next.

As to how this fragment remained while everyone else not part of the MCU were transported back to their own realities, well, because plot holes. On that note, where were the other characters from other realities that knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, such as the Raimi version of Venom, or the Harry Osborns in the other films or Peter’s love interests? The real-world answer is that having them show up would have made the film too crowded. It already had the two previous versions of Spider-Man and the main villains from those films, plus the Venom and Matt Murdock appearances. It is possible they arrived much later in NWH and were quickly whisked back before they could do anything. Or maybe they were about to come through in the scene near the end where the dimensional rift threatened to rip open wider. In that moment, audiences could make out the forms of other Spider-Man villains like Kraven the Hunter and Scorpion, so other characters who knew Spider-Man’s secret identity were bound to come through, also.

For now, it seems as if Venom will have his own universe that is populated by at least one other Spider-Man villain, Morbius. There are hints that this universe is part of the film universe of The Amazing Spider-Man films. These include the font for the Daily Bugle newspaper seen in Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius is similar to that seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Another is the Oscorp Building featured in those films turned up in a recent trailer for Morbius. That film references Venom and the trailers featured Michael Keaton as presumably the Vulture, an MCU Spider-Man villain. How can this be? Simple, this version of the version is similar to the MCU version seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The way that actor J.K. Simmons reprised his role as J. Jonah Jameson in NWH being that he played the same character in the Raimi Spider-Man films also applies in this case with the Vulture. In other words, his appearance in Morbius does not mean the film takes place in the MCU. As to the apprent absence of Spider-Man in the Venom films to date (post-credits scenes aside), well, they could have taken place before The Amazing Spider-Man films.

There are plans to create a film based on Kraven the Hunter with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the famous Spidey villain. This film could be interesting, but would feel hollow without Spider-Man’s presence. More than Venom or Morbius, Kraven was driven and defined by Spider-Man. He was obssessed by besting his ultimate prey in the comic books. This culminated in the classic story line “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and it is hard to imagine such a story being filmed without Spider-Man. If the Kraven film takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man films perhaps it can include Andrew Garfield’s version of Spider-Man.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home Is The Strongest, Most Emotional Spider-Man MCU Film

Usually the third film in a trilogy is considered the weakest entry even it it is a solid effort. The latest Spider-Man film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Spider-Man: No Way Home, proves otherwise and is actually the strongest entry.

Given the content of the film, it will be nearly impossible to discuss it without going into not just spoilers, but heavy spoilers. So, to be fair to anyone who has not seen this instant classic, this review will only cover broad generalities with more in-depth analysis to follow some other time. There will be some spoilers but only in the broad sense and covers what was revealed in the trailers.

Spider-Man: No Way Home picks ups immediately after the end of the previous MCU Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home where Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) secret identity of Peter Parker was revealed to the world. The aftermath of the revelation is devastating to Peter and those closest to him like his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

The loss of privacy and the intrusive nature of the outside world eventually drives Peter to seek magical help from the sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He asks Doctor Strange to cast a spell to make the world forget that he is Spider-Man, and the sorcerer agrees to do it. However, during the casting of the spell, Peter distracts Doctor Strange, which causes the spell to be corrupted.

The result is that Spider-Man villains from alternate film universes are brought to the MCU, in other words, the foes from the earlier, non-MCU Spider-Man films. These include Doctor Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Electro/Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), the Sandman/Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), and the Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

Spider-Man quickly finds out that tackling with the not-quite Sinister Six and his decisions comes with severe consequences that not only imperil him and those around him, but the fabric of the multiverse itself. These developments force him to recognize that with great power comes great responsibility…and sacrifice.

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Non MCU Marvel Characters Who Should Return

alternate MCU Avengers

Based on what we know about the next Doctor Strange film and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will be deluged with characters who are non-MCU Marvel heroes and foes.

For example the third MCU Spider-Man film, will return Al Molina as Doctor Octopus (last seen in Spider-Man 2) and Jamie Foxx as Electro (seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). These two villains were part of defunct film universes which has led to speculation that Spider-Man: No Way Home might loosely adapt the Spider-Verse storyline from the Marvel Comics and even the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Meanwhile, the title of the second Doctor Strange film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, clearly gives away that the good sorcerer will be grappling with the multiverse and other characters from extinct film universes will appear. The film will even feature the Marvel Comics superhero America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the ability to punch her way through the multiverse. It’s an ability that Doctor Strange will find useful when he teams up with her. 

We’ve been teased with the concept of the multiverse as it was mentioned in Spider-Man: Far From Home and with the appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver in the WandaVision TV show. Though Peters’ appearance turned out to be stunt casting (SPOILER: he actually was not Quicksilver), we were teased with the concept of a multiverse during the post-credits scene of the final episode when Wanda Maximoff hears the cries of her children who no longer exist in the MCU. 

The people behind the MCU films have been tight-lipped about who will appear in these two films. This has fed  rampant speculation among fans, with the popular theory that former Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will turn up in some capacity in Spider-Man: No Way Home, while the speculation has exploded as to who will appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

It is fun to speculate and theorize about this since in some way the appearances of these non-MCU Marvel characters support the concept that those abandoned film universes are still valid for us. Of course, fans of those films and characters do not need new film appearances to validate the love they have for those films which are forever treasured. Still, it is a nifty possibility that they will make some kind of comeback. 

Who should appear in the upcoming MCU films that deal with the multiverse? There are plenty of characters to choose from including some we never saw based on casting considerations at one time. Here is a list to ponder…

10. Tom Hiddleston as Thor Odinson

Most fans of the Thor films know that Tom Hiddleston, who rose to fame playing Loki, originally tested for the God of Thunder himself. Supposedly he impressed the filmmakers of Thor enough to be offered the role of Loki as a consolation. 

9. Dougray Scott as Wolverine/Logan

We all know Scott was originally cast as Wolverine in the first X-Men until an accident during the filming of Mission Impossible II forced the character to be recast with Hugh Jackman. While we all breathed a sigh of relief it will be fun to see how Scott would have seemed as Wolverine if he turns up in the next Doctor Strange film. 

8. Emma Stone as Spider-Gwen/Gwen Stacy

There are rumors that Miles Morales will at least cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and although that would be terrific, it would be just as much fun to see other Spider-Verse characters like Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and especially Spider-Gwen who must be played by Emma Stone since she did so well playing Gwen Stacy.

7. Robert Downey, Jr. as Doctor Strange/Tony Stark or Stephen Strange

It was recently revealed there was a cut scene in Avengers: Infinity War where Tony Stark and Stephen Strange swapped outfits. This led to an intriguing thought of having Downey, Jr. portraying Stephen Strange or at least the Sorcerer Supreme as seen in an alternate version in the comic books. 

6. Sairose Ronan as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

Ronan was director Joss Whedon’s first choice for playing Wanda Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Imagine how the role would have been like if she wound up playing Wanda instead of Elizabeth Olsen? Ronan’s appearance would bridge WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness perfectly.

5. Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Stephen Strange

The actor who owned the role of the Joker actually turned down the role of the Marvel wizard in Doctor Strange, mostly because he wanted to avoid a multi-film commitment. For Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Phoenix showing up as Stephen Strange would be a fun meta joke as the two doctors meet.

4. Emily Blunt as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff

Before Scarlett Johansson was cast as the Russian super spy, Blunt was the original choice to play the hero. Now, she is the fan favorite to play Sue Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. If that happens, seeing her as Black Widow will be a blast.

3. Chris Evans as the Human Torch/Johnny Storm

The much-maligned, early Fantastic Four films need to be represented somehow. Plus, Chris Evans’ role as Johnny Storm not only stole the films, but helped launch his career. It would be even better if Evans could portray both the Human Torch and Captain America at the same time!

2. Tom Cruise as Iron Man/Tony Stark

As outrageous as it now sounds, Tom Cruise would probably have been able to pull off a very decent version of billionaire playboy Tony Stark if an Iron Man film was done much earlier. There isn’t any way to tell unless we see Cruise appear as Stark in the next Doctor Strange film as is rumored.

1. John Krasinsky as Captain America/Steve Rogers

When it came down to the finalists to play Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger, Chris Evans beat out John Krasinsky, who is now a fan favorite to play Reed Richards in the MCU version of the Fantastic Four. As great as Evans was as Captain America, no one can deny wondering how Krasinsky would have pulled off the iconic superhero. The multiverse-centric MCU films is the best way to let us see this casting.

Do any of you have any alternate castings of Marvel superheroes that you think should appear at some point? How about the Marvel Netflix heroes or those from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Drop a comment!