Marvel's Phase 4 includes a number of interesting movies, but the most exciting by far is Doctor Strange 2. The film was officially confirmed as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as part of Marvel's San Diego Comic-Con 2019 reveals, with the long-awaited MCU sequel set to be released on May 7, 2021.
The MCU's Phase 4 is an enticing mix of movies and TV shows, with more unknown quantities such as The Eternals and Shang-Chi being joined by big hitters like Thor 4, all of which should appeal to Marvel fans. There's no Iron Man, Captain America, or Avengers, but the Phase 4 slate gives a good indicator of what the MCU looks like after Avengers: Endgame, and Doctor Strange 2 is right at the heart of it.
With Scott Derrickson once again directing, Benedict Cumberbatch returning to star, and Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch also slated to appear, Doctor Strange 2 has a lot of talent involved, but what's really exciting is just where it can take those characters, what the Multiverse of Madness might mean, and how it could impact the whole MCU.
Doctor Strange Is More Important After Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame
After being introduced in 2016's Doctor Strange and then cameoing in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, the Master of the Mystic Arts made his Avengers debut in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, where he played a crucial role in the fight against Thanos. He was part of the team who ended up fighting on Titan, and although Doctor Strange was a victim of the Snap, it was all part of his plan, which eventually came to fruition in Avengers: Endgame.
Doctor Strange saw 14,000,605 possible outcomes for the fight against Thanos, but only one of them the Avengers would win, and that's what he set into motion at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. When he returned during the final battle in Avengers: Endgame, it was to help complete the plan. Doctor Strange was already important because he possessed the Time Stone, but the two Avengers movies made him even more crucial to the MCU, with the defeat of Thanos resting on his visions of the future.
At the same time, it also established a deep connection between Doctor Strange and Iron Man; the parallels between Stephen Strange and Tony Stark were already clear from their solo movies, but this further suggested that Strange could be the one to replace Iron Man in the MCU. Spider-Man: Far From Home already explored Peter Parker's potential as the new Iron Man, but Doctor Strange is older, wiser, richer, and both more powerful and more arrogant, leaving him well-placed now to fulfill that kind of role in the MCU. With four movie appearances under his belt already, and Cumberbatch in the lead role, he's one of the biggest and most recognizable heroes in the MCU heading into Phase 4.
Doctor Strange 2 Is Marvel's Most Overdue Sequel
Although they haven't always stuck to it, Marvel's general rule with sequels has been to release them three years after the original. Avengers: Age of Ultron was three years after The Avengers; Avengers: Infinity War another three years later and so on, so when the credits rolled on Doctor Strange and a title card read that 'Doctor Strange will return', it seemed like a fair assumption we'd be seeing Doctor Strange 2 in 2019.
Of course, that isn't going to happen now, but what was even more curious was Marvel stayed so quiet about the project. There were occasional vague suggestions or affirmations that Doctor Strange 2 would happen, but for two-and-a-half-years after Doctor Strange's release, nothing was confirmed. That's despite the movie being well-received by fans and critics, performing well at the box-office, and Doctor Strange having clear setup for more films.
Now that it's set for release in 2021, it'll have been almost five full years since the release of the first film by the time Doctor Strange 2 comes out. That's the longest gap yet between MCU sequels, and given just how fascinating, powerful, and important the character is, and how good the original was, that makes it long overdue, and the fact it's finally happening even more exciting.
The Multiverse Of Madness Is Phase 4's Boldest Move
So far, Marvel has only toyed with the idea of the multiverse: we saw the Dark Dimension in Doctor Strange and the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man, the latter of which proved crucial to Avengers: Endgame, but despite creating some alternate timelines it's never fully committed to the multiverse concept - until now. As revealed at SDCC, the full title of Doctor Strange 2 is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which opens the door to all kinds of possibilities.
This isn't just going to hint at the multiverse, but fully explore it in a way no Marvel movie has done before. Given how great the scene in the Dark Dimension with Dormammu was in Doctor Strange, then having those kinds of trippy visuals and general weirdness across a whole movie would be extremely bold. The title also suggests something of a strong Lovecraftian influence on Doctor Strange 2, which should further add to the scope of what we can see on screen. With Nightmare rumored to be Doctor Strange 2's villain, then we should be seeing the Dream Dimension, and that's going to allow for near-boundless imagination in crafting a nightmarish, multiverse fever dream where just about anything can happen.
That makes it the perfect setting for the MCU's first full horror movie, which is what Doctor Strange 2 has been confirmed as. The MCU always works best when it's playing around in other genres but with some superhero trappings, and seeing a superhero film that goes full horror, with the possibilities afforded by Doctor Strange's dimensions, should guarantee that this is unlike any other superhero movie we've seen before. All of the other Phase 4 projects have some semblance of familiarity. We've seen cosmic adventures and grounded martial arts films. But there's never been a superhero movie that's also been a Lovecraftian nightmare horror, and that makes it Phase 4's boldest and most thrilling move.
Doctor Strange 2 Could Completely Change The MCU
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness isn't just another part of Phase 4's slate, but it's clearly situated as the big event film, coming in the all-important springtime release slot and as the penultimate movie of the phase, which is something usually reserved for Avengers movies. That alone should be a big indication of how important Doctor Strange 2 is to the MCU, as does the addition of Scarlet Witch.
Although WandaVision's release date isn't confirmed, it will be in spring 2021, and likely not long before Doctor Strange 2. That means there's some connection between the two projects, and that Scarlet Witch will then have an impact on Doctor Strange 2. Considering these are two of the most powerful characters in the entire MCU, then it's yet another area where there's almost no limit to what they could do with them together.
It's positioning as the key film of Phase 4, then, suggests that whatever Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch do in Doctor Strange 2 isn't just going to be great to watch, but will have a major impact on the MCU as a whole. It could be that Doctor Strange 2 is responsible for introducing mutants to the MCU, or with Blade on the horizon it could be vampires. It might even be that the multiverse is leading to that much-discussed Secret Wars movie. But whatever it is, Doctor Strange 2 is going to change the MCU, and be a scary, mind-bending, visual dream of a film at the same time. Nothing else on Marvel's slate can compete.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021