Doctor Strange has made some mistakes recently. Obviously he can be proud of the fact that he, along with the other Avengers, managed to stop Thanos and save half the universe, but he screws up in some major ways during the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. He has torn some significant holes in the thin fabric of the multiverse, and while Peter Parker helped alleviate some of the issues with his awesome sacrifice, there are still major issues that need to be addressed – and thus far all signs point to this being the big starting place for the upcoming Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness.
As depicted in the latest trailer for the new blockbuster, not only is the master of the mystic arts going to have to deal with all kinds of chaos that breaks loose from his tampering with the multiverse, but it appears that he may also be facing the equivalent of legal scrutiny on a cosmic scale. The footage sees Doctor Strange put in shackles and brought in front of some kind of mysterious panel, and while it’s not made precisely clear who exactly is a part of this shadowy board, what’s presented sets our brains on fire with speculation.
The dominant theory? Doctor Strange is getting set to be chastised by the mysterious group from the comics known as the Illuminati – the big twist being that the members are going to be versions of familiar heroes from other branches of the multiverse.
The primary piece of evidence supporting this idea is the not-overly-subtle cameo featured in the Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness trailer. We don’t see his face, but that is very clearly Patrick Stewart in the footage saying the line, “We should tell him the truth,” which openly suggests (but doesn’t confirm) that we will once again see him playing Professor Charles Xavier.
If it is Professor X, it’s entirely possible that he will be a wholly different version of the character than the one we know from the various X-Men movies, but that only intensifies our curiosity about who he is sitting with up on that dais.
In the comics, Professor X is a founding member of the Illuminati – which is a secret group of heroes who make big, world-changing decisions quietly as a means of working efficiently and circumventing bureaucracy. Joining Xavier in the team at first is Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, Namor the Submariner, and Doctor Strange, and while it’s unlikely that roster will be copied exactly for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (there isn’t anywhere near enough diversity), it’s a great starting place for our imaginations.
Could Ultron Guards Point To A New Iron Man In Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness?
One of the big names that jumps out looking at that list of fellow Illuminati members is Tony Stark, and it’s not solely because the character has had such a substantial role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It’s hard not to notice that the robots escorting the shackled Doctor Strange look a hell of a lot like Ultrons, suggesting that they may be from a universe where Stark’s “suit of armor around the world” plan actually worked:
If this actually is the case, it creates two possibilities: either Robert Downey Jr. will be back to play a completely different version of Iron Man than the one we got to know between Iron Man and Avengers: Endgame, or he will be played by a completely different actor. There has been plenty of speculation online about it possibly being Tom Cruise in the role, as he was rumored at one time to be the first actor to play a live-action incarnation of Tony Stark, and the casting would be both a fun Easter egg and make for a mind-blowing cameo.
Of course, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves here. It’s totally possible that those robots are just robots, and even if they are Ultrons, it might not be Tony Stark who created them (comic readers will remember that it was Hank Pym a.k.a. Ant-Man who created the A.I. program when the villain was introduced in the comics, not Iron Man).
As for who else could be a part of a multiverse Illuminati, the possibilities are numerous. If you pick from non-MCU Marvel movies, there are options like Eric Bana’s Hulk, David Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury, or Ioan Gruffudd's Reed Richards. If you look at casting “what ifs,” there are potentials like Emily Blunt as Black Widow or Amandla Stenberg as Shuri. The opportunities for getting awesome talent involved and blowing the minds of fans are impressive.
For now, Marvel is clearly trying to keep the whole situation as close to the vest as possible. The studio is well known for producing trailers that edit out and/or hide elements that they want to maintain as big screen surprises, and the latest trailer for Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness looks like it is the latest example of that practice. It’s a bit odd that we can’t really see the characters who are briefly featured on the dais in the footage (it looks like there may be some digital silhouette work in play), but even odder is the fact that there are seven chairs and only three figures featured. I wonder if perhaps the body shapes of some Marvel characters are a touch too familiar to be hidden with simple shading, and thus they have been removed entirely from the scene.
The potential involvement of the Illuminati in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness will surely be a heavily covered topic of conversation between now and the film’s release date, and the talks will surely only intensify as more footage from the movie is released. Thankfully, the wait for the Marvel blockbuster will come to an end soon. Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, and perhaps many more big stars, the feature will be in theaters exclusively on May 6.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.