The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to turn on its head next month, with the release of the studio's fourteenth film in their growing library of superhero films. Over the course of the past nine years, Marvel has taken audiences from the caves of the Middle East in Iron Man to the farthest reaches of space in Guardians of the Galaxy. Now they are prepared to take audiences into the hidden world of magic and mysticism, with Doctor Strange.
Marvel recently had the premiere for Doctor Strange and there has been a growing buzz that the film may be another home run for the studio. Many of the journalists who were attendance at the premiere have claimed that the movie has some of the best visuals and action sequences in any MCU film - something that should only increase anticipation for the Sorcerer Supreme.
At a subsequent press conference in Los Angeles, the Doctor Strange cast, director Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige were on hand to answer questions about Doctor Strange and the greater MCU. When Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch was asked about the possibility of seeing the Illuminati in Avengers: Infinity War, he chose to deflect the question to Feige, who then offered this juicy tease:
Well, what's fun about the Illuminati is that there are certain characters interacting with other certain characters, so I don't know about that particular storyline, but certainly some of those characters you will see on screen in the next Avengers.
In the comics, the Illuminati are a clandestine organization that's run by some of the most powerful and brilliant minds in the Marvel Comics' universe. The members have included Iron Man, Professor X, Black Panther, Namor, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, and of course Doctor Strange. The group was initially the brainchild of Tony Stark, who enlisted the help of Black Panther (who would eventually withdraw his participation) to assemble the heads of various superhero teams into a cohesive unit, in response to extraterrestrial threats. It morphed into a secret society of Marvel leaders, who would ultimately influence the future of the planet.
Marvel is known for taking inspiration from their source material, but also for not replicating their stories beat for beat on-screen. Huge comic storylines such as "Age of Ultron" and "Civil War" have made their way to movie theaters, albeit in much different forms than they are found on the page. It's no secret that Marvel Studios doesn't own the theatrical rights to many of the members of the Illuminati in the comics (for now). So we certainly shouldn't expect to see Professor X or Mr. Fantastic appear in Avengers: Infinity War. However, the pieces (Tony Stark, T'Challa, and Stephen Strange) are there for directors Anthony and Joe Russo to play with, if needed.
It's unclear where Stark will be mentally by the time Infinity War arrives, though he has never been afraid to be proactive. Judging from Feige's quote, its easy to imagine how a conversation with Strange in Avengers: Infinity War would expand Stark's mind (and paranoia) for the larger unseen threats coming to the MCU. Since Black Panther's first solo film will have been released before Infinity War arrives, his significance in the MCU should be amplified by then too. Unless we are introduced to a new member of the MCU like Black Bolt or Namor soon, the comments seem to indicate that we can expect to see some combination of Strange, T'Challa, and Stark, sharing a scene.