What does the title for the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, really mean? Director Scott Derrickson has confirmed that the follow-up film will be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first horror movie, but said nothing of the movie’s storyline or what type of horror audiences should expect.
While the character of Doctor Strange is a sorcerer, his adventures would be more appropriately shelved next to Stephen King’s IT than J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in a bookstore. The stories crafted by artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee harken back to the days of the pulps and Weird Tales magazine. While the word “weird” has come to refer to anything unusual in modern times, it properly refers to the supernatural and the otherworldly, with creatures that human minds can barely comprehend.
This weird brand of horror was the stock-in-trade of writer H.P. Lovecraft, who seems to be a source of inspiration for the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel. The subtitle “In The Multiverse of Madness” seems to be a nod to one of Lovecraft’s most famous novellas, At The Mountains of Madness, which detailed a disastrous expedition into the uncharted wilds of Antarctica which uncovered evidence of a fallen civilization and alien monsters. While never directly adapted for film, At The Mountains of Madness did inspire aspects of the movies Alien and The Thing. Guillermo del Toro worked on an adaptation of the story for several years, but it ultimately became one of his 17 abandoned movies.
Much of Lovecraft’s work, which has now fallen into the public domain in the United States, has been directly referenced in the cosmology of Marvel Comics. Eldritch beings created by Lovecraft, such as Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep, have appeared alongside creatures inspired by his writing and menaced the likes of Thanos. Chief among these is the Old One Shuma-Gorath, who made his first appearance in an issue of Marvel Premiere centered around Doctor Strange and went on to become a playable character in the Marvel Vs. Capcom games.
Between the original Cthulhu Mythos and all the stories inspired by it in books by Marvel Comics, there is a wealth of material for the Doctor Strange sequel to draw upon. But what of the other half of the title and the mention of a multiverse? Moviegoers are already familiar with the concept after both Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Far From Home, which had Mysterio spin a story of having come from another Earth as part of his faked background. But while Mysterio may have been lying, that doesn’t mean that an MCU multiverse doesn’t exist, and Doctor Strange would be the ideal character to explore it.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could have considerable crossover potential with the rest of the MCU’s Phase 4. It has already been confirmed that Elizabeth Olsen will star in Doctor Strange 2 as Scarlet Witch, and that the film will connect directly to her upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision. It could also tie into the upcoming What If…? show, which is based around the idea of alternate realities diverging from the main Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. The only certainty in all of this is that the possibilities are as infinite as reality itself when it comes to the future adventures of Doctor Strange.
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