Here's what Doctor Strange 2 really means for the Fantastic Four
After meeting the Illuminati on Earth-838, will Doctor Strange form his own team now that incursions are a threat?
But who are the Illuminati? And what do the cameos of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness mean for the future of the MCU, now officially designated Earth-616?
Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ahead.
Who are the Illuminati in the MCU?
No, they aren’t a secret society of wealthy weirdos who control everything from the shadows. In the MCU, the Illuminati are revealed to be a de facto Avengers from Earth-838. The history of this Earth isn’t fully known, but we do know that:
- Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was injected with the Super Soldier serum; the whereabouts of this reality’s Steve Rogers is unknown.
- Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was killed after dabbling in dark magic. His death prevented an “incursion,” a cataclysmic event in which two universes grind against each other until one of them collapses.
- Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) is Captain Marvel.
- Black Bolt (Anson Mount) and the Inhumans are a major part of the universe, as opposed to their secretive existence in the mainstream MCU.
- Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is also a major factor in this universe, which means the existence of mutants may be canon.
- Reed Richards (John Krasinski) is introduced as “the smartest man alive.”
- Ultron is a subdued A.I. who’s a glorified security guard rather than a threat to the world.
Of all these changes, the presence of Reed Richards, played by The Office and A Quiet Place star John Krasinski, is perhaps the most notable, so let’s dive into the implications of his role.
Is John Krasinski officially Reed Richards?
For Multiverse of Madness, yes, Krasinski is Reed Richards. But this doesn’t cement Krasinski as the star of Marvel’s upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. Given the nature of the multiverse, there’s a strong possibility Krasinski will not return to play Reed. Reed’s appearance feels like it’s giving fans a fun cameo rather than permanently setting Krasinski up for what Marvel clearly hopes to be a long-running franchise.
The same can be said for Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, who’s played the role for close to two decades and already had a proper send-off in 2017’s Logan. His cameo in Multiverse of Madness was fan service, not confirmation of what’s to come.
Both Krasinski and Stewart could both agree to return as the Earth-616 versions of their characters, but that would depend on just how much the actors want to stick around for many more movies, and if Marvel Studios is interested in keeping them onboard.
What about the rest of the Illuminati?
Because the Illuminati were limited to Earth-838, and because they’re torn up by a vengeful Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), it’s unlikely they’ll influence Earth-616. But there’s always that slim possibility they could, and understanding where the Illuminati comes from in the comics could hint at how they’ll again manifest in the MCU.
Who are the Illuminati?
In the comics, the Illuminati are a secret group of intellectuals and leaders of their respective superhero groups, each a major part of Marvel’s expansive universe. In its original incarnation, the Illuminati were made up of Doctor Strange (representative of magic), Namor (representative of the seas), Tony Stark (representative of the Avengers), Reed Richards (representative of the Fantastic Four), Black Bolt (representative of the Inhumans), and Charles Xavier (representative of the X-Men).
The Illuminati met and worked in secret, unknown to even their allies. Formed after the Kree-Skrull War, the Illuminati were a way for Marvel’s brightest minds to try to prevent another cataclysm.
The Illuminati were first introduced in New Avengers #7, written by Brian Michael Bendis during his epic run on Marvel’s premiere superhero team title. In a 2005 interview with Newsarama, Bendis said he was inspired by the UN Security Council “as well as other closed-door meetings in the White House” that are “off the books.” Ultimately, the dissolution of the Illuminati played a big role in the 2006 crossover Civil War.
Can the Illuminati form in the MCU again?
Perhaps meeting the Illuminati on Earth-838 has given Doctor Strange of Earth-616 ideas. While the Avengers are always needed, they don’t have to be the only super group on active duty.
After Multiverse of Madness teaches Strange about the destruction incursions can cause, it’s possible he could form his own Illuminati to prevent them. The mid-credits teaser featuring Charlize Theron as Clea centers on the threat of incursions, but there’s no way that Strange can stop them alone. Hence, the Illuminati.
Fallen heroes like Tony Stark will have to be ruled out as members, and who knows if Earth-616 even has a Charles Xavier. And we’ll have to wait for this November to learn if Namor is the villain of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as rumored.
What candidates Strange will consider for this theoretical Illuminati of Earth-616 remains to be determined. It could be Reed Richards, but he might not look like the one we’ just met in the MCU. Hey, has anyone seen White Vision?
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.