Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is shaping up to be the Avengers movie of Phase 4. When Marvel Studios announced the slate for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2019, Avengers 5 was noticeably absent. This was understandable to a point - the MCU just made the two biggest Avengers films yet and need to give some space before the next major team-up - but the interconnected storylines of Phase 4 are unavoidable. Movies will connect to other movies or Disney+ shows (and vice versa) and it is apparent that the multiverse will play a big role in this narrative throughline.
The presence of the multiverse in Phase 4 of the MCU was known to factor into the story from the moment the title Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was revealed. Fans were immediately excited about the possibilities that existed to explore the multiverse in Doctor Strange 2, but we now know that other Phase 4 properties will deal with it too. WandaVision is confirmed to set up the sequel, Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 will include Doctor Strange, and Loki will include the guards of the multiverse in the Time Variance Authority.
These multiple stories might culminate with the arrival of Doctor Strange 2, giving the sequel a similar position in Phase 4 as the Avengers films have filled in the past. There are several defining characteristics of an Avengers film. In addition to paying off multiple stories that were set up earlier in the Phase, they always have major team-ups between MCU heroes and a massive threat that could change the future of the universe as we know it. This is even why Captain America: Civil War is often referred to as Avengers 2.5 and could see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness become known as Avengers 4.5.
To break down Doctor Strange 2's Avengers-like status in Phase 4, let's first look at the team-up aspect. The movie will be a Doctor Strange solo film and feature the returns of several characters from the first film, but other Marvel characters will be there too. Scarlet Witch is confirmed to appear in the series after the events of WandaVision, and there is plenty of speculation that Loki, Spider-Man, and even past versions of Marvel characters could appear in the Doctor Strange sequel. With rumors of several high-profile characters (like Brother Voodoo, Clea, and America Chavez) making their debuts, the team-up aspect of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is clear.
Marvel hasn't confirmed who or what the threat facing Doctor Strange and company will be, but the tease of a multiverse-level threat or even the multiverse collapsing is arguably even bigger stakes than Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame dealt with. Fans have theorized that Scarlet Witch could be the villain of the movie if it continues Phase 4's possible loose adaptation of 'House of M'. Meanwhile, there is also the possibility of Kang the Conqueror, Dormammu, or a new magical being creating the havoc the heroes have to deal with.
The multiverse aspect of Doctor Strange 2 will also allow the film to continue or finish storylines set up in the aforementioned Phase 4 projects. WandaVision could see Scarlet Witch crack open the multiverse, Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 might bring Jamie Foxx's Electro over from another dimension, and Loki is set in an alternate universe already. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness can follow all of these stories thanks to the current Phase 4 slate. We could see a multi-project arc where the madness of the multiverse begins in WandaVision, brings threats into Peter Parker's life, and maybe even finds an alternate version of Loki re-appearing in the main MCU timeline, all before Doctor Strange 2 presumably fixes what has gone wrong with the multiverse. So, if there is an Avengers-level movie in Phase 4, all of the evidence suggests Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be it.
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