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Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Release Date, Cast, Villain

The Sorcerer Supreme's long awaited sequel is finally on its way, and Marvel Studios has released a new Easter-egg-packed trailer that has left fans theorizing about what's to come and excited about what's already been revealed. For one thing, after years of hinting, "Spider-Man: No Way Home" finally provided much-anticipated confirmation that the multiverse, "a concept about which we know frighteningly little," is real.

Given that Doctor Strange has been fairly integral to several projects in Marvel's current phase, it's easy to forget that this is actually the first solo Strange movie since the original "Doctor Strange" in 2016. At San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, Benedict Cumberbatch explained that this film will stray somewhat from the typical Marvel mold, maintaining the franchise's particular brand of humor but with an added "twist of horror." But what do we know about the movie for sure? We've broken down the trailers and compiled all known information surrounding the release date, cast, predictions, and suspected villains for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," so strap in, because it's pretty wild out there.

This article contains spoilers for "Spider-Man: No Way Home," "WandaVision," and "Loki."

Breaking the boundaries of the multiverse

There are many theories as to what might be behind the problems with the multiverse in the new "Doctor Strange" film. The ending of Marvel's first Disney+ series, "WandaVision," which sees Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) use chaos magic to inadvertently rewrite reality, revealed that Wanda's powers surpass those of the Sorcerer Supreme, and that it is her destiny to destroy the world. Kevin Feige confirmed at the 2019 Comic-Con panel that the events of "WandaVision" will "tie directly into" the new "Doctor Strange" project, so it's possible Wanda's actions have something to do with the situation. But then there's "Loki," another Disney+ show in which the protagonists' climactic confrontation with "He Who Remains," aka Kang the Conqueror, results in new branches of reality splitting from the primary timeline, potentially allowing the multiverse to take shape.

And of course, there's Doctor Strange himself, who makes several ill-advised decisions in "Spider-Man: No Way Home," beginning with a spell that accidentally summons both interdimensional villains and various Peters Parker and ending with another spell that makes everyone forget Spider-Man's secret identity. Strange gaslighting the entire human race seems likely to have a dangerous outcome, and the new trailer certainly seems to indicate that he's directly responsible for, at the very least, "open[ing] the doorway between universes."

It's finally making its way to theaters in May 2022

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" will be released in theaters on May 6, 2022. Kevin Feige had initially announced that the sequel was set to release a year earlier, but it ended up getting delayed due to reshoots and other production issues, in addition to COVID-19 interruptions. "Thor: Love and Thunder," "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," "The Marvels," and "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" were also pushed back due to the COVID pandemic, but "Multiverse of Madness" had other setbacks, including a change in filmmakers.

In fact, according to one source, new director Sam Raimi and new writer Michael Waldron were brought on to essentially "create a whole new movie." While MCU fans have been getting impatient for the new Doctor Strange vehicle, those who enjoy the darker side of cinema will likely be happier with the end result, as Raimi and Waldron reportedly used their delayed timetable to "push it in a slightly scarier direction." 

Sam Raimi takes over

Sam Raimi is no stranger to either superheroes or horror — his previous work includes the original "Spider-Man" trilogy, the "Evil Dead" trilogy, and many other horror films and comic-inspired projects. In a 2022 Empire interview, Feige explained that when searching for a director, their team thought scoring Raimi "would be incredible," but didn't think there was any chance of it happening. However, Raimi ultimately agreed to set up a meeting and the enthusiasm he had for the project made the choice a no-brainer on both sides.

Horror filmmaker Scott Derrickson, who directed the first "Doctor Strange" film, was originally going to return for the sequel before leaving in January 2020 (he remains an executive producer on "Multiverse of Madness"). "We love Scott and I think Scott feels the same," Feige told Empire. "Nobody believes it, but it was just creative differences." Neither Marvel nor Derrickson himself seem to harbor any ill will around this decision, and both appear excited to see the project come together with Raimi in the director's chair.

Elizabeth Olsen is back as Wanda Maximoff

With Wanda Maximoff having officially gaining the moniker of the Scarlet Witch, fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Elizabeth Olsen to Marvel's big screen. Olsen was among a small group of stars that were the first to confirm their involvement in the sequel, leading to heaps of speculation as to what her part in this story would be. Most importantly, would Wanda be among the film's heroes ... or its villain? The Scarlet Witch wields immense power, but has been given very little knowledge on how to apply it — though by the end of "WandaVision," she certainly seems to be learning. She has also suffered immense loss, both before and during the mental breakdown that culminated in the creation of the Hex, and her puppeting of the people of Westview wasn't exactly the most morally upstanding of actions.

Wanda's chaos magic is the stuff of myth and legend, a degree of power that could potentially destroy her own reality (and possibly others). She certainly appears to be on the side of the angels in the "Multiverse of Madness" trailer, but there are also numerous hints that she might not stay there. Hopefully this won't be Wanda's final descent into darkness, but if it is, at least we get to see Olsen go full evil!

The origins of America Chavez

Xochitl Gomez makes her Marvel debut as America Chavez in "Multiverse of Madness," and while we might not know much her exact role in the MCU, we do have some significant background information on her character from the comics. America boasts superhuman strength, speed, and durability, as well as flight, but her signature power is the ability to open star-shaped portals that allow her to travel instantly across the multiverse, which makes sense considering the movie in which she's being introduced. She's been a member of various incarnations of the Avengers as well as other teams like the Ultimates.

America originally believed herself to have been born in an extradimensional paradise called the Utopian Parallel, which was responsible for giving her superpowers and which her mothers sacrificed themselves to save. Recently, however, this story was been called into question with the appearance of America's previously unknown sister, who told America that the Utopian Parallel was actually a private island research facility on Earth, and America's powers are actually the result of genetic experimentation (we're guessing "Multiverse of Madness" will go with the better-known version of the backstory, but you never know).

Regardless, America brings some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation to the MCU, as she is a lesbian and appears to be sporting a gay pride pin on her costume in the trailers, as well as the words "amor es amor" scribbled on her infamous American flag jean jacket.

Patrick Stewart will (hopefully) appear as Charles Xavier

In the newest "Multiverse of Madness" trailer, fans were quick to recognize a familiar voice: that of Patrick Stewart, who played Professor Charles Xavier in 20th Century Fox's "X-Men" film franchise. As the founder of the X-Men, a comic book property recently reclaimed by Marvel Studios, Xavier's presence would be explicit confirmation that mutants have finally made their way to the MCU, and what better way to explain their arrival than with multiversal shenanigans?

Stewart himself has been careful with his words when asked about the upcoming Marvel project. "All I can say to you is we'll have to see," he told Rolling Stone. "But bear in mind that Professor Xavier has already died twice." (Of course, it seems likely that Stewart would be playing an alternate universe version of the character, rendering those other deaths moot.) In a recent interview with Jake Hamilton, however, Stewart seemed to confirm his involvement in the upcoming movie. "I actually didn't recognize my own voice" he said of the "Multiverse of Madness" trailer. "It sounded different. Whether I had a cold or something at the time, I don't know." He also recalled being "astonished" that fans would realize it was him, since "all they saw was the back of my shoulder and I think my earlobe." That certainly makes it sound like Stewart is in the movie, at least — whether he's actually reprising his role as the mutant master of telepathy remains to be seen.

Introducing mutants to the MCU

In March 2019, after Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, Marvel Studios obtained the film rights to the X-Men as well as the Fantastic Four. Neither have yet been integrated into the MCU, but if Patrick Stewart really is returning as Charles Xavier, the door for the mutants' arrival has potentially been kicked wide open, leading to all sorts of possibilities. Fans have theorized, for example, about Evan Peters returning as Quicksilver (aka Wanda's brother, Pietro). Peters, who played Quicksilver in the Fox films, had previously shown up as in "WandaVision" as a red herring — the MCU version of Pietro, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, was killed in "Avengers: Age of Ultron — but if we've learned anything from Marvel Studios' past work, it's that every little detail is intentional.

Eagle-eyed fans were also quick to point out a possible Easter egg related to Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool in the newest promotional poster for "Multiverse of Madness." Among the shards of glass surrounding Doctor Strange, there is one that contains what looks like Deadpool doing his iconic "shush" pose. While this might just be the Marvel team's way of having some fun with the idea of the multiverse, this theory actually holds some weight. In 2021, Kevin Feige made headlines when he confirmed that the next Deadpool film will be part of the MCU. Whether or not this means he'll join the Avengers on the big screen, fans are waiting with bated breath for what's next.

We're probably getting the Illuminati

In a brief shot during the "Multiverse of Madness" trailer, Doctor Strange is handcuffed and escorted to a room by Ultron-style robots. Once he reaches this room, there's a council of six individuals seated before him. This is when viewers heard the voice of Patrick Stewart and instantly connected the dots on what this group could be: the Illuminati. In the comics, the Illuminati is a secret organization made up of some of the most intelligent and powerful individuals in the Marvel Universe: Tony Stark, Charles Xavier, Reed Richards, Stephen Strange, Black Bolt, and Namor. The members of the Illuminati act as overseers of the superhuman world, sharing ideas and strategy on how to govern super-powered people, despite their conflicting aspirations.

If, as punishment for his "desecration of reality," Doctor Strange really is being brought before the Illuminati, it opens up vast new worlds of possibility. Who else will be a part of this organization? Could we finally be getting an introduction to the MCU's Reed Richards, who many have theorized to be John Krasinski? Could we be getting Namor, or another version of Tony Stark who's still alive? What role will the Illuminati play in the future of the MCU — the second season of "Loki," for example? And most importantly, would even "Multiverse of Madness" dare to reference the ill-fated "Inhumans" show? Whatever the answers turn out to be, the potential addition of the Illuminati to the MCU is an undeniably exciting development.

Strange variants

If we've learned anything from "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "Loki," it's that it can be quite disorienting to come face-to-face with another version of yourself. The newest trailer for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," as well as some newly released Funko Pop figurines, seem to confirm the inclusion of many variants of our lead protagonist, including "Sinister Strange," "Defender Strange," "Supreme Strange," and "Zombie Strange." Sinister Strange will most likely prove to be an adversary to our trusted Sorcerer Supreme. Defender Strange is seen with striped hair pulled back into a ponytail and appears to be working alongside America Chavez as a protector. Supreme Strange dons the same high-necked cape that has grown to be synonymous with Doctor Strange, but colored blue instead of red (he also doesn't have a goatee). Finally, Zombie Strange appears as an undead version of the superhero, strikingly similar to the same character from Disney+ series, "What If...?"

There's also at least one alternate version of Wanda, shown confronting her other self in what appears to be their wrecked Westview home. This could be a sign of Wanda's consciousness breaking into two following the traumatic events of "WandaVision," but a variant is probably more likely. The fact that there's a version of Wanda in street clothes confronting the fully-costumed Scarlet Witch suggests the possibility of there being an evil version of our favorite antihero, possibly one that was corrupted by the Darkhold — and that might be the best possible outcome.

The evolution of the Scarlet Witch

The end of "WandaVision" saw Wanda Maximoff finally take her place as the Scarlet Witch, complete with iconic red suit and magic powers. However, throughout the "Multiverse of Madness" trailer, there are several changes made to her costume that are hard to miss. Her red suit appears to be growing darker, bordering on black, even appearing to have black scratches throughout it. Her sleeves have now completely covered her arms and there seems to be black at the tips of her fingers, much like that of Agatha Harkness when using dark magic in "WandaVision." Are these changes merely aesthetic, or could they symbolize her upcoming descent into darkness?

It should also be noted that in the comics, Wanda is a "Nexus being" — individuals described as "keystones of the Multiverse," with the ability to affect probability and the future. They are a constant "anchor" in their respective universes, their presence essential to the multiverse's stability, and no two Nexus beings can exist on the same plane of reality. This concept doesn't yet exist in the MCU, but if introduced, it raises tons of new questions (particularly about the two Wandas interacting in the trailer) and reinforces the idea that, hero or villain, the Scarlet Witch is, at the very least, a keystone of "Multiverse of Madness."

Unexpected villains

It's the overarching question hanging above "Multiverse of Madness": Who is the ultimate villain of the story? Wanda Maximoff herself (or a variant of her) is the obvious answer, but there definitely seems to be at least one evil Doctor Strange in the trailer, an idea that harkens back to "What If...?" There's also Kang the Conqueror, of course, who invented the Time Variance Authority in order to maintain the "proper" flow of the Sacred Timeline, and who promised that other versions of himself would come invade the multiverse after his death. Another possibility is Chthon, the original author of the Darkhold in the comics, who might be among the shards of glass in the poster and has a comic book connection to the Scarlet Witch.

And then there's Nightmare, the original Doctor Strange villain, who rules the Nightmare Realm and feeds off the fear of mortal sleepers. In the trailer, Doctor Strange explains that he is having the same nightmare every night, and original director Scott Derrickson was very interested in including Nightmare in the story going forward and even tried to include him in the first film. Despite rewrites and reshoots, it's always possible that Sam Raimi kept Nightmare as the central villain when he took over on "Multiverse of Madness."