Things in the MCU have gotten out of control. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness does more than show Benedict Cumberbatch’s sorcerer exploring other realms and Wanda Maximoff unleashing her anger on the film’s protagonists. Doctor Strange 2 not only brought Marvel Studios’ animation characters to life on the big screen, but it also introduced fans to the franchise’s future heavy hitters. Fans have been anticipating their MCU appearance since Disney acquired the Fox-Verse. While fans were aware that a Fantastic Four film was in the works, the Super Bowl trailer for Doctor Strange 2 indicated that X-Patrick Men’s Stewart will play Professor X and be a member of the Illuminati.
While fans speculated about which Professor X Patrick Stewart was portraying and who else would be joining them (apart from a Multiversal Mordo), they were also anxious about whether they and their counterparts would survive the heartbroken Scarlet Witch. Despite the fact that it was expected, Stewart’s Xavier, as well as Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau as Captain Marvel, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter as possibly What If…Captain ?’s Carter, Anson Mount’s Blackagar Boltagon or Black Bolt, and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four, did not.
As fans come to terms with Wanda’s death and what these Illuminati cameos signify for the MCU as a whole, the screenwriter for Multiverse of Madness is now presenting an explanation for why the film included these major cameos.
Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that establishing Earth-838’s Illuminati and then killing them off in a gruesome manner “was not in my outline,” but was inserted to “discover the lunacy in the multiverse”
“Yeah, that’s a blast. That’s probably my favorite sequence in the movie. The idea for that was not in my outline; I was writing the first draft and I guess I felt like, as I put it, the movie needed to get drunk. It felt like we’re at the point where I need to find the madness in the multiverse here. I had no idea: Would I be able to use these characters? Would this even be possible? But I knew with Sam [Raimi] that if we did it this way, it would be amazing. And so I wrote it in.”
Waldron drew inspiration for the scene from James Cameron’s Aliens, much like Peter Parker in Avengers: Infinity War, because “Aliens goes to great lengths to tell you how badass the space Marines are – and then they just get slaughtered,” and “what I wanted to accomplish with Wanda was to achieve a new level of fear and respect for Xenomorphs”
“I was watching Aliens a lot as I was writing. Because just tonally this movie is a thriller and a [feature-length] chase. I just love how Aliens goes to great lengths to tell you how badass the space Marines are — and then they just get slaughtered. Then you are really scared of the Xenomorphs for the rest of that movie, and that’s what I wanted to accomplish with Wanda. At the end of that Illuminati sequence. I hope you were truly terrified of the Scarlet Witch. It’s been awesome being in the theater hearing the cheers, then the gasps and the groans. I mean, you know, people were feeling something at the movies. That’s good!”
Waldron noted that selecting members of the Illuminati was “a moving target of who’s accessible and who’s right” as well as an endeavor to be “authentic to what kind of people were featured in the Illuminati in the comics”
“The final lineup in that group is beyond my wildest dreams of who we could get — and then dispatch. I never dreamed we’d be able to do that. But the lineup is close to, I think, who was originally in my first draft, which was: ‘Okay, I know it can’t actually be this.’ And then it ended up being close to that. It was just a moving target of who’s available and who’s right. It became, ‘All right, if you’re putting together an Illuminati, who would actually need to be in it?’ You’d have people with certain power sets. And we tried to be true to what kind of characters were represented in the Illuminati in the comics.”
First and foremost, who thought Aliens would be such a pivotal film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Aliens helped writer Michael Waldron overcome a long-standing problem with Wanda Maximoff’s on-screen representations for Multiverse of Madness, making it the second time that Marvel screenwriters have utilized the legendary James Cameron movie as inspiration for scenes.
Wanda’s fast and violent killing of Earth-838’s heroes leaves the audience feeling empty and short-changed, despite the audience’s knowledge that they should feel something other than horror at their deaths. In terms of who was chosen to be a member of the Illuminati, Marvel Studios’ ability to pay homage to the comic books while simultaneously shocking the audience was a tremendous win. It’s difficult to argue that there wasn’t a wider, strategic plan at work.
Reed Richards, on the other hand, is not a wild card like Black Bolt. Fantastic Four is expected to begin filming in 2023 as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and John Krasinski has long been a fan choice to play Richards. It’s unclear whether his role in this picture was a wink at fan casting – or something more – but with a live-action Fantastic Four on the way, Waldron’s usage of the character could take on new importance in the coming months. In fact, when the MCU releases new projects involving these characters, how this scenario is received by fans is likely to shift. As a result, fan reaction to Doctor Strange 2 will, paradoxically, shift with time.
Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness is now in theaters throughout the world.