Multiverse Of Madness Will Feature Sinister Strange, Defender Strange, And Zombie Strange Variants

Once the character of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016 with his Scott Derrickson-directed solo movie, it was only a matter of time before exploring the multiverse became the next big focal point in the franchise. Arguably, another superhero movie in a completely different franchise altogether beat Marvel to the punch — 2018's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," which went a long way toward making general audiences familiar with the "rules" of this gloriously comic-booky concept. The next year, "Avengers: Endgame" leaned further into the multiverse and the 2021 Disney+ series "Loki" doubled down even more, throwing important multiverse-related terms like "variants" and the so-called "sacred timeline" into the fray.

It's likely that "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" will still make perfect sense to those who haven't necessarily been keeping up with shows like "Loki" or "WandaVision" (though that background knowledge would sure help), but it's also clear that the Sam Raimi-directed sequel will be building upon the foundation laid by previous installments in the MCU. Those who eagerly watched the newest "Doctor Strange" trailer couldn't possibly have missed the presence of several mysterious variants of Stephen Strange himself scattered throughout the footage. Now, thanks to the latest issue of Empire Magazine, we're getting a better and more detailed breakdown of exactly how those variants — and a few other surprises — factor into the sequel's plot. 

'There are some very unexpected conclusions'

A surprising amount of newer Marvel movies and shows have become something of a guessing game as to whether the characters we see are truly who they seem to be at first glance. After "Captain Marvel," pretty much anyone could be a Skrull shapeshifter in disguise. Similarly, the "Multiverse of Madness" footage we've seen raises the question of whether the characters we're seeing are the original versions we've seen before, like Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer or Chiwetel Ejiofor's Karl Mordo, or if they're actually various, er, variants on display. The May 2022 issue of Empire clears some of that up, explaining that the title character "comes face-to-face with variants of Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), his old friend-turned-foe Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Wong (Benedict Wong), his old flame Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and even himself." 

The vengeance-driven Mordo we see in the trailer, then, may not be precisely the same one who ended the 2016 "Doctor Strange" movie in an overtly villainous tease. Elsewhere in the magazine, however, we receive confirmation that the Christine we see getting married in the trailer is actually the original, setting up an uncomfortable subplot that sees Stephen moping around about the ex that he treated so cruelly in the past.

Meanwhile, we saw a few of the downright strange (sorry, you can't escape my articles without at least one groanworthy pun) Stephen Strange variants previously, including three that Empire describes as "a corrupted, corroded version called Sinister Strange; a seemingly heroic variant based on the character's run in the comic-book supergroup, The Defenders; and a zombified Strange." While teasing the still-unseen appearances of an additional one or two Doctor Strange variants out there, fans should also expect the Sorcerer Supreme to have his hands full between the possible presence of the MCU's Illuminati (which may or may not feature a familiar X-Men character), an increasingly antagonistic Wanda Maximoff, and even an appearance by Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" comes to theaters on May 6, 2022. The May 2022 issue of Empire Magazine will hit shelves on Thursday, March 17, 2022.