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Marvel producer explains the rules of the MCU multiverse

Published Mar 14th, 2023 8:32PM EDT
Loki Episode 6
Image: Marvel Studios

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The multiverse is a hot topic. Everything Everywhere All at Once crushed the Oscars on Sunday, scoring seven big wins. Then there’s Marvel’s Multiverse Saga, arguably the most popular multiverse story of all time despite the complicated multiverse rules the MCU has established. It’s an ongoing adventure that has plenty of entries left, with Marvel’s Phase 5 having just started.

Unlike Everything Everywhere All at Once, which is a standalone story, Marvel’s multiverse spans several movies and shows. The journey begins with Infinity War and Endgame, but then you have to watch all of MCU Phase 4 to keep up. All the while, Marvel is doing its best to keep the rules consistent, according to producer Stephen Broussard. Mind you, some spoilers might follow.

Why the Multiverse Saga rules are so complicated

Marvel needs the multiverse angle to bring together all the characters it has rights to. Disney bought Fox in 2019, getting the rights for Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Deadpool back to Marvel. We’ll see some of these characters soon, including versions that lived in a different reality, the Fox universe.

The same goes for getting three Spider-Man variants in the same movie in No Way Home. The multiverse made it possible, although Sony retains the rights for Spider-Man in this case.

Because of the need to focus on the multiverse, Marvel created specific rules. It started with Endgame, where we learned that time travel doesn’t exist in the MCU in the same sense as in other movies. Going back to the past will not let you change it. Instead, you’d create an alternative timeline running alongside the primary one.

Doctor Strange in Avengers: Endgame final battle
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Avengers: Endgame final battle. Image source: Marvel Studios

What If…? showed us such reality branches, where one single different decision would impact the entire timeline.

Then Loki taught us that the TVA clips branches that divagate from the Sacred Timeline. The script that a variant of Kang (Jonathan Majors) devised. And we learned of the multiversal wars that forced this Kang to seclude a timeline from everything else, and ensure other Kang variants can’t reappear.

Finally, No Way Home and Multiverse of Madness taught us more about traveling through the multiverse. Doctor Strange 2 introduced the concept of incursions, which happen when two universes collide.

This brings us to the latest Multiverse Saga episode, Ant-Man 3. In Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, we saw that Kang the Conqueror had been stuck in the Quantum Realm for decades, as other Kangs decided to leave him stranded there. Apparently, they didn’t want him to intervene with their multiverse domination plans.

Loki Episode 6
The Sacred Timeline starts branching off in Loki finale.

Marvel doesn’t want to break its own rules

The point is that we’re hardly done with the multiverse, as that’s the central theme of this MCU saga. And as we head to Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, Marvel wants to ensure it keeps the multiverse rules consistent.

Stephen Broussard told D23 Inside Disney that Marvel’s job isn’t to deliver scientifically accurate claims about the multiverse or the Quantum Realm. But the studio aims to respect its own rules, the producer said, responding to a question about Marvel’s internal multiverse meetings.

“Yeah, it’s interesting,” the producer said. “I would say, meetings like that are about trying to be logically consistent within the universe, which I would say is separate from being scientifically consistent.”

Broussard added that he dosen’t think “anyone should look to these films and think they’re gonna walk away with degrees in quantum physics or other scientific pursuits, but that’s okay. I would hope they would walk away with an interest in pursuing those fields and maybe studying them for real.”

Uatu the Watcher in Marvel’s What If…? on Disney+. Image source: Marvel Studios

“We kind of look to be logically consistent across the films,” Broussard continued. “Like are we sticking to our own rules? Whether these rules hold scientific water or not, do they feel like they hold water for the universe at large? And the moments where we might break or kinda bend those rules, the tie always goes to: is it emotionally satisfying? I do think you could maybe pick on some of the logic here or there, no particular examples come to mind.”

The overall story is more important 

For the most part, Marvel has been consistent about its multiverse rules. But there are instances where we need more explaining.

For example, the relationship between the Quantum Realm and the rest of the realities needs a better explanation. As do the various other realms and planes where the soul might go after death. Black Panther, Moon Knight, and Thor 4 have such variations of life-after-death universes.

We then have incursions that don’t have perfectly clear rules. The events in No Way Home somehow do not create an incursion. But those in Doctor Strange 2 do.

Then there are the Eternals. They might be responsible for all life in the universe, having massive power over everything. Yet they reside within a reality that a man like Kang can control.

Kang (Jonathan Majors) in Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania trailer 1.
Kang (Jonathan Majors) in Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania trailer 1. Image source: Marvel Studios

That’s where another key comment from the producer comes in. Marvel doesn’t want you to pay attention to the rules as much as the story.

“We always are emotion first and if it feels like it’s gonna resonate, if it feels like the story’s gonna connect, we know that the audience is gonna go with us,” the producer said. And all movies have what I call sleight of hand.”

“They’re trying to get you to watch the magic trick, and so the job of the movie is to not pay attention to the rules, or not pay attention to how you’re getting there. And I think all movies are kinda judged as successful or not successful based on sleight of hand and how well they’ve hid the magic trick.”

The next MCU adventure that might bring up new multiverse rules is Loki season 2, which should hit Disney Plus later this year.

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.

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