Does A Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Cameo Confirm Casting For A Future Marvel Franchise?

This post contains major spoilers for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Is a Marvel movie really a Marvel movie without a host of jaw-dropping cameos? Nowadays, Marvel Cinematic Universe films are bursting with reveals, set-ups, and tie-ins to existing IP — and the studio's latest effort, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," continues the trend.

Since the sequel's trailer aired during the Super Bowl in March, fans have been anticipating the return of X-Men leader Professor Charles Xavier, given Sir Patrick Stewart's possible appearance in one key moment in the marketing. Theories about the Illuminati — a secret society of superheroes that Doctor Strange and Xavier helped create — arose in kind. And now that fans can dive into the Multiverse to see for themselves, it's now clear that Stewart's appearance in the film is just the tip of the iceberg.

Yes, that is the back of Professor X's glorious head in "Multiverse of Madness," and he is, in fact, conversing with Doctor Strange at the Illuminati sanctum in another universe (designated 838). And he's not alone: Stewart is joined by MCU vets Hayley Atwell ("Captain America: The First Avenger," "What If...?") as Captain Carter, Anson Mount ("Inhumans") as Black Bolt, and Lashana Lynch ("Captain Marvel") as this alternate universe's Captain Marvel. These four returning players would have been substantial enough on their own, but "Multiverse of Madness" takes it all a step further by introducing another long-awaited hero: Reed Richards, aka Mister Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four.

When fan-casting comes true

Reed Richards is not an unfamiliar character by any means. He's been portrayed on the big screen several times: twice by Ioan Gruffudd in Tim Story's "Fantastic Four" films, and once by Miles Teller in the much-maligned 2015 reboot. Buzz of another reboot for Marvel's first family has been building for years, with Marvel Studios only recently beginning to make good on that promise. But few predicted that we'd be seeing Mister Fantastic so soon, or that he'd be portrayed by John Krasinski of "A Quiet Place," "Jack Ryan," and duh, "The Office" fame.

To be clear, Krasinski has been seen as a potential frontrunner for the role — at least in the minds of Marvel fans — for what feels like forever. But a widely-accepted fancast is very different from the actual casting of said actor, so to see Krasinski pop up in "Multiverse of Madness" is definitely a surprise. Unfortunately, we don't get to see very much of him in action. He's unceremoniously killed — along with every other member of the Illuminati, save Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) — by 616-Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).

Richards is one of the first to face Wanda's wrath, a tough break for a character fans have been waiting for so long to see again. But is that the last we'll ever see of him? Could Krasinski's appearance as 838-Reed Richards be a tease for a much bigger role in the "Fantastic Four" reboot?

Infinite realities, infinite possibilities

The answer, it seems, is not so cut and dry. Krasinski is definitely Reed Richards in the 838 universe, and there's a chance that his iteration of the character is the standard for all other universes, similar to the way all the various Doctor Stranges bore a mostly identical resemblance to 616-Strange. If Marvel wasn't interested in setting up a new Reed for a new Fantastic Four, they could have easily tapped Gruffudd or even Teller to reprise their role as Mister Fantastic: it's what they did for Professor Xavier. My educated speculation: Krasinski is likely the version of Reed Richards in every universe. Introducing a different actor would undoubtedly create confusion, not to mention disappointment for the fans who've been hoping for this moment for years.

That said, Krasinski's cameo could just be just a cheeky bit of fan service. Look no further than "Spider-Man: No Way Home" or the "Loki" series on Disney+ for examples of infinite variants. Of course, in the former, Peter Parker was portrayed only by actors we've seen before. But in "Loki," very few versions of the god of mischief resembled the Loki we know. Notably, there is a female version of Loki, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), not to mention Kid Loki and Classic Loki (Jack Veal and Richard E. Grant, respectively). Heck, Loki was even an alligator in one universe. But those versions of the character were considered apocryphal for one reason or another, so we could argue that Loki is "meant" to look like Tom Hiddleston, and the same logic could be applied to Mister Fantastic.

For now, we wait

Either way, it could be a while before fans get a definitive answer. Reed is super dead in his universe — he essentially got paper shredded by the Scarlet Witch — which prevents the 838 version of his character from making another appearance. But inter-dimensional travel is a possibility now, so who's to say another version of Reed Richards from another universe can't figure it out and pop up in the 616 timeline?

When that time comes, will it be a soulful, bearded Krasinski reprising his role for keeps? We'll just have to wait and see, but it's going to be fun cultivating a theory or two about the Fantastic Four's official MCU debut.