Doctor Strange has barely arrived in UK cinemas – and only opens in the US today – and already, fans are speculating about what it could mean for the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). While Doctor Strange is a refreshingly standalone affair, it still contains its fair share of references to the MCU, and crucially, plants several seeds almost certain to bear fruit in the films that appear later on in the franchise.
With this in mind, I’m going to draw upon my very own all-seeing Eye of Agamotto to predict the major ways that Doctor Strange will affect the MCU going forward!
Road to Ragnarok
Let’s start by diving in at the deep end: Doctor Strange‘s post-credits scenes.
The first of these sees the welcome return of Thor, who meets with Strange to discuss the threat his brother Loki poses to humanity, while Thor and Loki search Earth for their missing father, Odin. Diehard MCU fans will remember that Loki is likely responsible for Odin’s disappearance – the God of Mischief was last seen masquerading as the All-Father at the end of Thor: The Dark World – however, Thor himself is none the wiser, and he asks Strange to assist him with his investigation. The good Doctor obliges Thor’s request, on the condition that he and Loki leave Earth and return home to Asgard once their father is found, with Strange implying he would like this to be a one-way trip!
This all appears to set the stage for Thor: Ragnarok.
We’ve already been told that much of the action in Ragnarok will take place throughout the wider Nine Realms, not on Earth. Now we know why: because Strange is going to send Thor on a quest throughout the cosmos to find his missing dad. Heck, the Master of the Mystic Arts might even exile the God of Thunder from our world once Odin is found, which could have a knock-on effect for Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel. After all, if Thor isn’t allowed back on Earth, how will he be able to join his superhero teammates when MCU big bad Thanos finally comes to town?
Benedict Cumberbatch has confirmed he’s appearing in Infinity War, so maybe Doctor Strange re-thinks his position when it comes to Thor and Earth. Besides, let’s be honest – if the first Avengers taught us anything, it’s that Thor can always find a way back to our planet, no matter how impossible that seems…
Mordo on a mission
What about the second post-credits scene in Doctor Strange? Here, former good guy Master Mordo reveals his true, villainous colours by stripping minor mystic Pangborn of his magical ability to walk.
Mordo’s rationale for doing this is his newfound conviction that the world has too many sorcerers in it. The obvious implication here is that Mordo plans to cull the number of magical practitioners in the world considerably, no doubt with an eye to taking down former ally Doctor Strange once and for all, too.
Given the Ancient One left the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme vacant at the end of Doctor Strange, it’s a safe bet that when Mordo next appears in the MCU, he’ll be looking to claim this title (and the power that goes with it) for himself… preferably over Strange’s dead body, too.
Infinity (Stones) and beyond!
Many fans theorised it (and Kevin Feige hinted strongly at it in a recent interview) but Doctor Strange finally makes it clear that the Eye of Agamotto amulet worn by Strange does indeed contain an Infinity Stone.
As even the most casual MCU fan knows, the six Infinity Stones are the MacGuffin that ties the overarching franchise together. Objects of immense power, the Stones appear in multiple MCU films and are sought after by Thanos, who – if the comics are any guide, at least – plans to use their immense power to wipe out half of all life in the universe.
Prior to the release of Doctor Strange, the Space, Mind, Reality and Power Stones were already accounted for, leaving the location of the final two Stones open for conjecture. Now that the movie is out, we know that the Eye of Agamotto houses the Time Stone, so fans can begin speculating on which of the remaining MCU films between now and Infinity War will mark the Soul Stone’s debut.
Doctor Strange also contains clues to things even bigger than the Infinity Stones.
Foremost of these is the introduction of the Astral Plane, which suggests we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what the MCU has to offer. Not only do we get to visit the Dark Dimension (and its ruler, the god-like Dormammu) in all its 1960s-Steve-Ditko-pyschadelic-pop-art-inspired-glory, there’s also a sense that the Astral Plane connects all the different realities we’ve seen before, along with much, much more.
Consider what appears to be a brief glimpse of the Quantum Realm first seen in Ant-Man, as well as how the same trippy rainbow effect associated with the Thor’s Bifrost bridge transports Strange along his astral journey. From this, we can theorise that the different dimensions and realms witnessed across the various MCU movies – including in the Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy sub-franchises – are not only interlinked, but part of a much wider, overlapping multiverse just waiting to be explored in future films.
But even more tantalising is Mordo’s brief reference to the Living Tribunal during Strange’s combat training. Sure, it could have been a throwaway reference – a nice nod to the fans of the comics – but it could also be yet another sign that things really are about to go genuinely cosmic. For non-comics readers, the Living Tribunal is the embodiment of cosmic judgement throughout Marvel’s multiverse, and if he (it?) plays a part in Infinity War and/or its sequel, could the other fundamental beings at the heart of the Marvel cosmology (including Eternity and Infinity) be far behind?
With Thanos set to court the very personification of Death itself (if the comics are anything to go by, at least), it’s not outrageous to imagine that we might see a few more abstract, cosmic beings take the stage in Infinity War. This will not only provide Phases 1-3 of the MCU with a truly out of this world finale, but make Phase 4 a whole new ballgame, too!