Your essential guide to all the references, callbacks, and teases in the Marvel sequel.
Editor's Note: The following contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Typically, every comic-book movie is littered with Easter eggs for hardcore fans to find, but when you've got a comic-book movie that takes place throughout an exploding multiverse where literally anything is possible, you wind up with more obscure references, fist-pumping callbacks, and tantalizing teases than you can shake an Amulet of Agamotto at. So it's not exactly a surprise that director Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sixth featuring Benedict Cumberbatch's Sorcerer Supreme, contains a good number of Easter eggs. We've included as many as we could find right here in this comprehensive list.
The various trailers and promotional materials for Multiverse of Madness have been steadily teasing this movie's version of the Illuminati -- a group of Marvel superheroes who work behind the scenes to help keep world order. The film reveals that the MCU Illuminati are a small group of heroes from Earth-838, one of the parallel universes Stephen visits during the film. Intent on protecting their world, the Illuminati feature their universe's best and brightest. Among their roster are alternate versions of five Marvel characters whose faces we recognize: Doctor Strange's friend-turned-nemesis Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor); Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), the 838 variant of Peggy Carter who, much like her What If...? counterpart, ended up receiving the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers; Black Bolt (Anson Mount), the Attilan ruler with a voice that can literally kill who last appeared on the ill-fated Marvel TV series Inhumans; Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Carol Danvers' BFF who became Captain Marvel in this world; and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the telepathic leader of FOX's X-Men movies. The sixth member of the Illuminati, however, is a brand new MCU version of the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards, played here by John Krasinski (The Office), who Marvel Studios almost cast as Captain America way back when and has long been a fan-favorite for the role. Does this mean that Krasinski will also be playing Richards in Marvel's upcoming Fantastic Four movie (and possibly bringing his real-life wife Emily Blunt along for the ride)? Or is this just Marvel poking the fans by casting Krasinski as a Reed variant for an amusing one-off? Time will tell.
If you're going to bring back several Marvel characters from the MCU and beyond, you might as well have some fun with them. So in Multiverse of Madness, we don't just get Professor Xavier, we get a version of him that rides around in a hover-chair that looks like it popped straight out of the popular animated X-Men TV series that ran from 1992 to 1997 (and that Disney+ will soon be reviving). His telepathic powers are also visually realized in a way that's extremely similar to how they've always looked in cartoon and comic form. Meanwhile, Black Bolt gets an upgrade to his costume that might look silly to casual viewers but will no doubt make comic-book fans very happy. The Illuminati have a close working relationship with the Baxter Foundation, which is clearly a nod to the Fantastic Four's business and scientific affairs across a bunch of other media. If those robot troops the Illuminati use as guards look familiar that's because they're pretty clearly an alternate version of the Ultron bots from Avengers: Age of Ultron. And, best of all, it turns out Peggy didn't just inherit Cap's shield and powers in this universe. She also inherited his catchphrase, confidently telling an attacking Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), "I can do this all day."
There are two different books that play a key role in the film's plot. The first is the Darkhold, a powerful tome written by the Elder God Chthon (who gets name-dropped in the movie) that is full of dark-magic spells and can corrupt the mind of the sorcerer or witch who dares to use it. In the comics, the Darkhold has been a highly coveted mystical artifact since Marvel first introduced it way back in 1972. It made its first live-action appearance in Marvel TV's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where its power was used to craft an elaborate virtual reality. It then showed up as a plot point on the Runaways, a Marvel TV series that streams on Hulu. Your mileage may vary on whether those things count as MCU canon. Regardless, the book next showed up in Agatha Harkness' lair at the end of WandaVision, but Wanda absconded with it at the end of the series and uses it in Multiverse of Madness to attempt to reunite with her children. The movie also features The Book of Vishanti, another book with a long comic history dating back to the 1960s that is the "white magic" counterpart to the Darkhold.
There are a couple of references to locations and characters that should ring a bell for long-time fans of Marvel Comics. A majority of the film's climax takes place at Mount Wundagore, a foreboding location where the spells inside the Darkhold were originally carved into the walls. In the comics, Wundagore is actually Wanda's birthplace, so it's not surprising that the movie version of the Mountain also seems to be a place built to worship the Scarlet Witch. The creatures that guard the Mountain are unique in appearance but play a role similar to the comics' Knights of Wundagore. Meanwhile, the tentacled, one-eyed creature that Strange battles at the beginning of the film is named Gargantos after a minor Namor the Sub-Mariner villain, though it might have more in common with Shuma-Gorath, a Lovecraftian beastie that's a longtime Strange nemesis. We also learn about "incursions" in this movie, a calamitous event when two realities slam into each other, destroying both. Incursions have been a plot point on the page in both New Avengers and Secret Wars storylines. Reed mentions his children, which means, at least on Earth-838, Franklin and Valeria are around. The centaur-like, bull-headed dude who helps guard Kamar-Taj is Rintrah, who first appeared in the pages of the Doctor Strange comic in the '80s. And that torch-looking thing Christine (Rachel McAdams) uses to fight off the lost souls is the Brazier of Bom'Galiath.
During the film, Doctor Strange visits two other alternate universes: Earth-838, where the Illuminati protect the people and red lights mean go, and another darker reality where an incursion has left the place in apocalyptic limbo. (Strange asks who did this, but the answer never comes. Hmmm). We also learn that those who track the multiverse have the MCU's Earth labeled as Earth-616, which is also the designation of "Prime Earth" and the main continuity from Marvel Comics. If you're wondering where you've heard this before, it's because in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) also identifies the Earth of the MCU as "Earth-616." But the funny part is Mysterio was just completely making shit up at the time. So what are the odds that he actually got it right?
There are two brief but hard-to-miss musical callbacks in Multiverse of Madness. During an early scene featuring Wanda and her children, Billy and Tommy, the motif that recurs throughout WandaVision's various theme songs makes an appearance. And when Professional Charles Xavier first enters the Illuminati chambers in his hover-chair, it's not the X-Men movie theme that plays on the soundtrack, but rather the iconic theme song from the animated X-Men TV series. So plan on having that earworm stuck in your head the rest of the day.
During a scene set in an alternate reality, Wanda's kids are seen watching an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon. Don't know who Oswald is? That's because, in the real world, Oswald was an early Walt Disney creation who, because of rights issues, was eventually replaced by Mickey Mouse. But apparently in Earth-838, things turned out differently, and it's quite possible that Oswald -- and not Mickey -- became the face of Disney.
Not every Sam Raimi movie features a cameo from his Evil Dead leading man, Bruce Campbell. But most of them do, and since he so memorably cameoed in all three of Raimi's Spider-Man movies, most expected him to show up again here. Those people will not go home disappointed, as Campbell plays a sidewalk food vendor in Earth-838. Instead of hot dogs, Campbell sells pizza balls (it's an Earth-838 thing) and soon learns you don't heckle a former Sorcerer Supreme. Strange puts a hex on him, which leads to Campbell punching himself in the face -- a gag that recalls a similar fight Campbell had with his own hand in Evil Dead 2 and extends all the way to the film's second post-credits scene.
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Robert Brian Taylor is a writer and journalist living in Pittsburgh, PA. Throughout his career, his work has appeared in an eclectic combination of newspapers, magazines, books and websites. He wrote the short film “Uninvited Guests,” which screened at the Oaks Theater as part of the 2019 Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Project. His fiction has been featured at Shotgun Honey, and his short-film script “Dig” was named an official selection of the 2017 Carnegie Screenwriters Script and Screen Festival. He is a training editor and features writer at Collider and also writes and podcasts about film and TV at CultSpark.com.
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