Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could be the biggest movie in MCU Phase 4, and Shang-Chi has just as smoothly helped Marvel in doing so. We have a few theories on what binds the two movies together.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the upcoming instalment in Marvel’s Phase 4 followed by Spider-Man: No Way Home. After Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ theatrical success, Marvel seems to have it easy in making it big. It helps that the movie features a huge and apparently vital connection to Doctor Strange 2.
Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi becomes Marvel’s first striking superhero in the kung fu bracket. Like other MCU heroes, we have reasons to believe that this is not a solo performance. Shang-Chi’s debut as a hero did appear as distinct from Avengers and other Marvel heroes, but there were still many connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that did not go unnoticed.
These include a shot of Black Widow from the Red Room, acknowledging a snake from Avengers: Infinity War, certain representatives of the Avengers, and more such shots. In fact, the storyline of the movie was heavily based on an unsettled and intriguing point from the Iron Man trilogy, Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, who was controlled by the nefarious Ten Rings organisation. MCU elaborately clears the mysterious plotline of the Mandarin in Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi features another key character of the MCU who was seen only once, and briefly, in an action sequence in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. The Abomination, who was a previous enemy of The Hulk makes an appearance in the movie. Besides him, the same scene shows Wong (Benedict Wong), who was Doctor Strange’s fellow sorcerer. The mere involvement of Wong in Shang-Chi’s two scenes shows that there is a possible connection between Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange. However, that’s not all. The links to making Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a significant project are quite extensive.
The Doctor Strange sequel is set to be a movie that glues all the upcoming Phase 4 movies and shows. The setup for the movie began with WandaVision. The power that is harnessed as a Chaos Magic successor by Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff will determine her role as the Scarlet Witch in MCU. Later, Loki played out a scenario that was equally significant for understanding how the multiverse and various timelines would function. Loki ends with He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) warning Loki and Slyvie about the havoc waiting to gradually untangle. This, in fact, could be Marvel’s attempt at laying the groundwork for Doctor Strange 2, as the movie could emerge as a result of the conflict that arises following the events of the series.
Next in time is Marvel’s ongoing series, What If…?. The series is narrated by Uatu the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), and while still airing, is on its path to unfurling more realities and multiversal characters that are present in the MCU. Subsequently, Spider-Man: No Way Home is scheduled to release a couple of months before Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. While fans believe that the movie is just the beginning of a whole new dimension of a story, it is true that Spider-Man: No Way Home will play a big role in the setup for the latter.
We know so far that Doctor Strange will be assisting Spider-Man (Tom Holland) with his identity reveal, which will lead to overcoming a catastrophe that involves the multiverse. It is safe to believe that the way the movie ends could have a greater influence on the sequel than its being let out, as there could be a number of possible hostilities still remaining for Doctor Strange to deal with.
Following in the footsteps of Marvel’s Loki and What If…?, we see various references from the MCU in Shang-Chi’s trip to Ta Lo, and in the scene about Ten Rings during the mid-credits. Morris’ instructions led Shang-Chi and company from a forest maze to an entirely different universe, which explicitly states the existence of a multiverse. Albeit in another realm, Ta Lo made it possible for an MCU Earth doorway to open. YingNan (Michelle Yoon) supports this theory in a scene where she describes Shang-Chi’s origin place as “your universe”.
The original Marvel comic called Shang-Chi’s Ta Lo to be a pocket dimension in the sense that it was connected to the multiverse in some way. The mid-credits scene again points out such presence when Wong recognised a signal from the Ten Rings being passed on, which ultimately pulsates throughout the multiverse. This makes it possible for a future Marvel installment to answer to the signal after discovering it in the main MCU timeline.
Thus proving that any particular moment taking place in the main timeline with MCU heroes is responsible for any consequences that occur in the multiverse. The Sorcerer Supreme could, hence, have to deal with an unknown power in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Because if it is possible for Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings to transmit signals between two worlds, then it is possible for other powerful instruments as well.
We hope to see a Shang-Chi character in Doctor Strange 2. Besides, Wong has already been introduced to Shang-Chi and is meant to make his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home. So it is mandatory for him to be seen saving the universe alongside Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch. Doctor Strange could also be accompanied by characters from the first movie, like Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Marvel has been promoting the movie at a big scale and for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to meet the audiences’ expectations, it would take an entire journey filled with spectacle made by some of MCU’s favorite heroes. These could also include the cherished stars from Marvel’s Loki, with Loki’s variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), and TVA’s Mobius (Owen Wilson).
MCU Phase 4’s first impactful movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features Wong and takes it one step closer to the Doctor Strange sequel. Marvel has never before made so many links to set up one movie, and that only adds weight to the significance of the movie when looking at it from a broader perspective. In Loki’s final episode, we see how even the slightest shift in the events can cause the multiverse to wreck. Which paves the way for Doctor Strange to bring about a bigger and grander story, that changes everything for the MCU.
If the movie follows Loki’s ending, it would have to face a mishap that occurs throughout the multiverse. And there is a faint possibility of witnessing a disaster as shocking as Thanos’ genocidal snap. Not only that, the movie could lead up to the institution of a new MCU team of heroes, with Strange in the center. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could give birth to new characters, like America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and more.
With that said, there is a wide scope for MCU Phase 4 to incorporate a range of new and exciting characters. And with the ever so expanding multiverse, it would be fun to see these characters grow in different timelines.
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