That is a tall order. Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the most successful superhero films. What started as a direct follow-up to having Spider-Man’s identity being exposed became a multiversal adventure that brought back Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. The fan service was a huge factor to its box office performance.
What can Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness offer that could rival what we saw in Spider-Man: No Way Home? Check out what we know so far below.
Planting his flag
In an interview with Empire Magazine, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness star Benedict Cumberbatch confidently projected the success of the sequel to his 2016 film:
— Doctor Strange (@DrStrange) March 11, 2022
It's a big, big movie. It's going to be an absolute riot. And if it brings off the level of ambition it's got, we're going to have a success on the level of Spidey. There you go, I'll put my flag in the sand.
Big words from Cumberbatch, considering Spider-Man: No Way Home was not just the biggest movie during the pandemic period, but joined the billion dollar club of the biggest films of all time.
Multiverse of Madness director Sam Raimi chimed in with details about one of the new superheroes joining Doctor Strange in the movie, America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez):
Strange is still learning about the Multiverse. And here’s a character that can actually travel through it. He’s such a know-it-all all the time, and to have to learn from a kid probably smarts.
Cumberbatch later elaborated his reasoning for this bold prediction and the character development of the Sorcerer Supreme:
There’s a lot of reckoning. And a lot of self-discovery. Strange is almost a stranger to himself before this film unfolds and reveals what, essentially, is in his nature, that he then has to either confront or resist or fall into or become. There are some very bold ideas, and some extraordinary tests of Strange and encounters. There are some very unexpected conclusions.
With how Strange went from a selfish and egotistical surgeon to Sorcerer Supreme, the journey his character takes is certainly one of the richest in the MCU. But will matching the ambition of the third Tom Holland Spider-Man movie be enough to power the Doctor Strange sequel into the billion dollar club?
Professor X and the Illuminati
If there is one way that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness can match or surpass Spider-Man: No Way Home is in the fan service department. This is undeniable, given that the very brief hint of Professor X played by Patrick Stewart (Picard) being in the movie was the most talked about takeaway from the trailer.
The veteran thespian of genre projects, Patrick Stewart essayed the role of Professor X in almost all the Fox X-Men films, including the alternate timelines from X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and Logan (2017). Although the role of the X-Men’s leader and mentor has also been played by James McAvoy, Stewart is the most familiar and enduring to the fans of the franchise.
Things are about to get seriously Strange. Empire joins #DoctorStrange In The Multiverse Of Madness for a world-exclusive issue, talking to Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Raimi, Elizabeth Olsen and more, with brand new images. On sale Thurs 17 March
— Empire Magazine (@empiremagazine) March 11, 2022
One thing to note, however, is that the Professor X that will be in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness might not be the exact same one from the Fox Studios films. In the Empire interview, producer Richie Palmer was asked about Professor X from the trailer. Palmer answered:
I'll quote the first X-Men movie and say, ‘Are you sure you saw what you saw?' There are infinite versions of these characters, and just because you may have heard something familiar doesn't mean it's someone you have seen before.
This statement implies that it may be Professor X, but not the version fans are familiar with. Given that variants and alternate timelines have already been introduced in the MCU such as in Loki, WandaVision, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, there is precedent for that. However, it would be more satisfying to the fans if it is revealed that this is indeed the Professor X from the 2000s X-Men movies that holds a chair in the Illuminati.
Iron Man return?
Speaking of the Illuminati, another key member of the secretive group that oversees the major events in the Marvel Universe is Iron Man, and one of the other rumored inclusions in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the Golden Avenger himself.
But will it be the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man? After Tony Stark’s final heroic sacrifice defeating Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, it seemed his journey as the Invincible Iron Man was over. RDJ returning to the role, even as a variant, would certainly be a welcome addition and build hype for the movie.
But a different rumor that has been going around the industry and the fandom is that another actor will play the Iron Man who chairs the Illuminati and the biggest name connected to it is Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible) as the Superior Iron Man. Many fans even assumed the glowing figure that Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) was fighting in the trailer was him (which has since been identified as a variant of Captain Marvel).
Producer Richie Palmer again sounds off on this speculation:
As you saw in Spider-Man: No Way Home, some rumors ended up being true, some did not… I would love to see Tony again, but some rumors are just rumors. I will say that I love The Illuminati. But if we ever introduce The Illuminati in the future, it might be more MCU-driven and have some more ties to our characters in the MCU, versus just replicating what's in the comics.
This does not confirm Iron Man’s inclusion, but it does leave the possibility high. Whether or not it will be RDJ, Tom Cruise, or someone else in the Iron Man armor remains to be seen.
The reshoots for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness were reportedly in order to increase the number of other MCU characters to appear. Aside from Stewart’s Professor X and the Superior Iron Man, other rumored appearances include Ioan Gruffud’s Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter (from Marvel’s What If…?), and either or both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield back as their versions of Spider-Man.
While these speculated appearances are still unconfirmed, we do know multiple versions of Doctor Strange will be in the movie. Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing them, including an older Doctor Strange in the Defenders costume and the zombified Master of the Mystic Arts, as seen in the trailers. This certainly fits with how Doctor Strange is being framed as the central Avenger in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Will Cumberbatch’s prediction that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness can match Spider-Man: No Way Home? We will find out when the Marvel Studios sequel hits theaters on May 6, 2022.