There is a theory that the Illuminati were already introduced in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but this is not confirmed by Marvel Comics or any other source. After months of speculation, the Sam Raimi film delivered big Marvel cameo appearances as part of the Illuminati roster in Doctor Strange 2. A non-multiverse Illuminati team would be able to rectify this issue, as their appearance was short-lived compared to the importance of the Illuminati in Marvel comics.
In the Doctor Strange 2 rumours, Tom Cruise as Iron Man and Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool were frequently mentioned as possible cameos for the film. No Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness cameo was confirmed, but a long-rumoured MCU debut for Professor X and John Krasinski as Mister Fantastic did come to fruition. They had Mordo, Captain Marvel, Captain Carter and Black Bolt on their Illuminati team. However, none of them could stand up to Scarlet Witch.
It’s possible that Doctor Strange on Earth-616 will draw inspiration from Earth-838’s Illuminati’s demise and the multiverse’s continued vulnerability to dangers other than Scarlet Witch in creating the MCU’s actual Illuminati. The notion of an Earth-616 Illuminati team was already laid out in the Shang-Chi mid-credits scene, according to one fan theory (via Reddit).
Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner all showed up at the same time to talk about the ten rings’ origins. While the scene could be interpreted as nothing more than the Avengers helping someone in need, it could also be seen as the beginnings of an Illuminati team: some of the world’s most intelligent and powerful heroes meeting to discuss possible magic or cosmic problem.
Some members of Doctor Strange 2’s Illuminati team appear in Shang-post-credits Chi’s scene, which is odd. On Earth-838, instead of Carol Danvers, it was Maria Rambeau who went by the name of Captain Marvel. Earth-838’s Illuminati did not include Wong.
However, the team did include Doctor Strange and Mordo, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Even though there was no Bruce Banner counterpart on Earth-838’s Illuminati, both Banner and Reed Richards step into the role of highly intelligent scientists with superpowers.
As a part of the Illuminati, a representative from each corner of the Marvel universe was thought to be a good idea in the comics. When it came to the Inhumans, Black Bolt represented them, while Namor embodied Atlantis. Reed Richards, a member of the Fantastic Four, represented the Illuminati in Doctor Strange 2, as did Professor X, an X-Men member. That’s not all; each Illuminated member had a unique set of skills and could be regarded as the best on their ground.
Similar reasoning can be implemented in the Shang-Chi heroes in the post-credits scene. Cap’n Marvel is the MCU’s most powerful cosmic hero, while Wong is the MCU’s Sorcerer Supreme, providing insight into the world of magic. Bruce Banner is the mastermind behind such MCU landmarks as Ultron, Vision, and the equipment used in the Avengers: Endgame time heist. If Earth-616’s Illuminati really begins with those three, then the team has already checked off important boxes for the Illuminati roster.
After the causalities of Iron Man, Black Widow, and Vision, as well as Steve Rogers’ retirement, the future of the Avengers is still up in the air, and the superhero group is in a state of flux. With so many new heroes like Shang-Chi, Kate Bishop, and Ms Marvel emerging in this time of transition, it makes sense for the more experienced Avengers to rely on a small group of people to handle delicate situations like these.
After Rogers’ retirement, the position of leader of the Avengers is still vacant, which may make it easier for the team to break up into smaller groups. Because of this, concepts such as Thunderbolts, the Illuminati, and the East Coast Avengers could all be included in the MCU’s fifth phase. Wong, Bruce Banner, and Captain Marvel’s quick meeting may not lead to Earth-616’s Illuminati formation, but Shang-Chi’s mid-credits scene does establish the concept of a few superheroes interfering in significant matters.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been criticized for not having much of an impact on the story of Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even if that criticism is proven to be correct or incorrect, the events of Doctor Strange 2 could lead to the formation of an Illuminati team on Earth-616. Scarlet Witch was only the starting point of the multiverse’s problems, but Doctor Strange might not want to share all the information he learned during his journey in the film with every member of the Avengers.
Using the Darkhold, other versions of Doctor Strange, and the potential that MCU Strange caused an Incursion are all topics that the hero may prefer to keep to a small group of people – beginning with Wong. Perhaps Strange and Wong could talk about names like Bruce Banner or Captain Marvel, and thus make the Shang-Chi and Legend of Ten Rings mid-credits scene the real birth of Earth-616 Illuminati?