How Multiverse-Centric 'Doctor Strange' Sequel Can Introduce X-Men to the MCU

Doctor Strange may be the welcome wagon for Marvel's fabled X-Men in Phase 4.

Marvel Studios finally has the perfect avenue through which the studio can introduce the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and more superhero properties the company acquired as part of the Disney-Fox merger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large — and it comes with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The thing to remember about Marvel’s X-Men mutants is that they represent a crucial moment in the history of human evolution, a process that’s incredibly slow. It took eons for homo sapiens to develop bone claws and steel skin, or even the ability to generate hurricanes and cause earthquakes with their minds. And unless it’s 1963 and you’re Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, one does not simply introduce mutants overnight.

With something as big as the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, there has to be a way mutants can have a place in the MCU. Enter: Doctor Strange.

At San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios introduced a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will hit theaters on May 21, 2021. Director Scott Derrickson will return to the director’s chair; also returning are screenwriter C. Robert Cargill and star Benedict Cumberbatch.

That gleeful word jumble, “Multiverse of Madness” is not only a title reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft, but an ominous hint at a new MCU. Audiences today are more comfortable with far-out concepts like a “multiverse” (alternate realities existing in parallel) thanks to movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and TV shows like Stranger Things and The Flash. Now, the MCU will take this idea to the next level — and the studio will probably use it to merge the X-Men into the mainstream MCU.

Doctor Strange X-Men
The X-Men as we knew them may be gone, but they're set to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the distant future. Will their imminent return happen through Doctor Strange?

Doctor Strange’s place in the MCU at the frontlines of Marvel’s supernatural and cosmic realms can be the key to introducing an existing universe of mutants, one that occurred in a parallel reality. Nobody should expect the 20-year X-Men franchise to return; after Dark Phoenix, that sandbox is done and gone, unlikely to return even if Disney decides to burn off the in-limbo The New Mutants on Hulu.

But what if there’s another, existing universe of mutants? What if Stephen Strange makes a whoopsie-daisie and opens/unleashes a new world of mutants onto the rest of the Marvel Universe?

While Multiverse of Madness is said to be a horror-infused film in which Strange deals with, we presume, an unstable multiverse, its ramifications could be that mutants suddenly become a part of the MCU. And true to Marvel’s depiction of mutants as metaphor for prejudice, everyday humans who can’t shoot lasers from their eyeballs might not take kindly to their sudden existence.

So much about Multiverse of Madness and most of Phase 4 is unknown to us and anyone outside Marvel’s offices, so everything here is just wild speculation. But in the same way films like Doctor Strange and even the two Ant-Man films (via the quantum realm) secretly became the most important movies ahead of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, a film like Multiverse of Madness could be a bigger deal than any future Avengers sequel.

Multiverse of Madness is already proving to be revolutionary in one aspect: It will be the first film to have direct ties to a Marvel television series, WandaVision on Disney+. (In the five years since Marvel has made TV, not once have the films acknowledged events in the shows. Doctor Strange will.) The specifics remain as vague as one of Strange’s incantations. All we know is that there’ll be some definitive crossover elements.

We likely won’t know more until next year, but Marvel Studios already has the perfect answer to incorporating mutants into the MCU.


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be released in theaters on May 21, 2021.

Media via 20th Century Fox, Inverse, Marvel Entertainment