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Doctor Strange 2 incursions explained: What they mean for the MCU

Published May 14th, 2022 2:07PM EDT
Doctor Strange 2 Super Bowl Trailer
Image: Marvel Studios

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Marvel announced Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in late July 2019, and it was immediately clear that it would be pivotal in Phase 4. Now that Doctor Strange 2 is playing in theaters, we know what it brings to the MCU and why it’s so important. The movie gives us a better look at the multiverse than any previous MCU adventures, setting the stage for even bigger crossovers. In particular, Doctor Strange 2 introduces the concept of incursions, something we’d yet to see in the MCU.

But this new MCU phenomenon already carries some problems that aren’t immediately clear when you first watch the movie. The more you think about incursions, the more you realize that Marvel has lots of explaining to do. Before we discuss this further, you should make sure you to see Multiverse of Madness, as big spoilers follow below.

Why Doctor Strange 2 introduces incursions

Doctor Strange 2 advances the arcs of several characters, including Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Wong (Benedict Wong), against the backdrop of the multiverse. But the purpose of the movie is also to introduce the elements that Marvel needs to set up stories that can be as ambitious as Avengers: Endgame.

That’s where the incursions factor in. An incursion occurs when the boundary between universes erodes, and they collide.

Universes on a collision course can lead to the destruction of one or both of them. As a result, the respective superheroes of those universes might have to fight for survival. Marvel comics fans expect the incursions to lead to an adaptation of Secret Wars.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) pushing America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) through a star-shaped portal
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) pushing America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) through a star-shaped portal. Image source: Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange 2 gives us the first Mister Fantastic (John Krasinski) to appear in an MCU movie. It’s not the primary Reed Richards, but it’s the closest we’ve gotten to having the Fantastic Four in the MCU. Richards describes the perils of messing with the multiverse when Doctor Strange meets the Illuminati in the latter half of the movie.

Also interesting is the incursions fall in line with a warning from the main universe’s Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in the first Doctor Strange movie. The bill comes due for the magical actions that mess with the order of things. In this case, those actions include multiverse transgressions from various characters.

Doctor Strange 2 explains the rules of incursion

The Mister Fantastic of Earth-838 explains to Doctor Strange that the latter’s presence in the 838 universe confuses and destabilizes reality. The larger the footprint 616-Strange leaves behind, the greater the risk of an incursion. That’s the first rule of incursions. You can create one by messing with the reality you’re traveling to that’s not your own.

But you don’t have to be physically present in that universe. The 838-Strange (Strange Supreme) used dreamwalking to explore other universes in search of a way to defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin). Dreamwalking is using a Darkhold spell to take over the body of one of your variants from another reality.

He never explained what he did wrong while he was inspecting other universes that way. But 838-Strange caused a chain of events that ultimately got out of hand. That’s what he told the Illuminati. This led to an incursion. And one of the two worlds involved in that phenomenon got wiped completely.

That’s the second rule of incursions. Dreamwalking can cause them.

Wanda in Doctor Strange 2 clip.
Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and her children in new Doctor Strange 2 footage. Image source: Marvel Studios

By the end of Doctor Strange 2, Clea (Charlize Theron) appears in the primary universe, telling the MCU’s Doctor Strange that he had triggered an incursion, and the two of them have to fix it.

It all makes sense. Doctor Strange traveled physically to two universes, including Earth-838, where the Illuminati died. And the devastated world of Sinister Strange where he killed that Strange. Moreover, 616-Strange also dreamwalked into the corpse of Defender Strange, who died in a different part of the multiverse, but ended up on Earth-616.

So Strange’s footprint in other realities was quite large. And he dreamwalked. But that’s when you realize the incursion phenomenon just caused plot hole-grade issues for Marvel.

Why they’re a big problem for the MCU

Considering the rules that Reed Richards explains in Doctor Strange 2, you’ll quickly remember that 616-Strange isn’t the only superhero that can cause incursions.

Wanda must have been dreamwalking for a long time to find America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), the only being in the multiverse that can portal to other realities. And then she used the same trick to invade Earth-838. Not to mention that she killed up to 5 Illuminati members in that reality. Her footprint was quite large, although we can’t measure that objectively.

But it’s not Doctor Strange 2 that contains actions that can trigger incursions.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Blu-ray announcement
Spider-Man: No Way Home Blu-ray announcement: The Spidey meme recreation. Image source: Sony

All the Spider-Men and their villains

Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) mess in No Way Home forced the arrival of several superheroes and villains from other realities to Earth-616. One can argue that the presence of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man variants might be enough to trigger incursions. They’ve certainly impacted this reality significantly. The same goes for all the baddies that visited Earth.

Sure, you can technically blame Strange for all of this. But it wouldn’t be necessarily fair. Then again, we don’t know all the true rules of incursions. This reminds me of another big multiverse movie in the MCU: Endgame.

The Avengers, Steve Rogers, and 2014-Thanos

The last Avengers movie messed with the multiverse in a big way. We had 10 Avengers who traveled to alternate timelines to steal Infinity Stones. Initially, they never planned to bring the stones back, but then they learned that sort of action could destroy those timelines. That’s why they fixed everything at the end, after defeating 2014-Thanos. In this case, 2014 refers to the year of the reality that Thanos came from.

You can argue that the Avengers did not leave a massive footprint on those realities. Nor did they dreamwalk. But then, a certain Captain America (Chris Evans) decided to retire to a different reality where he could marry the love of his life. If that’s not something that leaves a massive footprint on a different reality, then I don’t know what is. Steve Rogers should be at the top of the list for causing incursions.

Avengers Endgame
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) dancing with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in Endgame finale. Image source: Marvel

Getting back to Endgame, 2014-Thanos decided to take his entire ship and crew and travel to a different time to steal the Infinity Stones from the Avengers. The ensuing fight must be the kind of event that triggers an incursion. It fits the first rule, as laid out in Doctor Strange 2. Would Thanos’s death eliminate the incursion risk? We have no idea.

The other incursions

Finally, the events in the final episodes of What If…? could certainly trigger incursions themselves. Especially since Infinity Ultron is capable of moving between realities.

One easy way to fix this Doctor Strange 2 plot hole

Looking at all the multiverse stories that impacted the MCU so far, you’d realize that the incursion concept can quickly turn into a significant Doctor Strange 2 plot hole. Why would 616-Strange’s action cause an incursion if the other activities above didn’t? Rogers living in another reality or Thanos invading a different universe must qualify.

The good news in all of this is that there’s an easy way out. We don’t know the rules. We’re yet to determine precisely what leads to an incursion and how you fix it. It’s clear that Clea wants to fix an incursion because, apparently, you can.

Doctor Strange 2 Super Bowl Trailer
The face you make when you hear Patrick Stewart’s voice in a Multiverse of Madness trailer. Image source: Marvel Studios

It’s also clear that Reed Richards might have no idea what he’s talking about when he explains incursions. The Illuminati might mock 616-Strange for being more arrogant than their own Strange. But the whole lot of them, maybe except for Professor X (Patrick Stewart), are plenty arrogant themselves.

You can see the smugness come out when Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch) minimizes the Wanda threat. Or when Reed Richards tells Wanda how Black Bolt (Anson Mount) can kill her with a whisper. Wanda kills them right after that.

These are the Avengers who defeated their Thanos on Titan. So they do feel like they know what they’re doing. But that sort of attitude might lead to making the wrong assumptions and drawing the wrong conclusions.

Maybe 838-Richards doesn’t know the first thing about incursions. And that’s how you fix this potential Doctor Strange 2 plot hole.

Marvel has plenty of time to explain incursions adequately. When it’ll happen? We have no idea.

More Marvel coverage: For more MCU news, visit our Marvel guide.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.