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How an MCU Phase 4 film might shed light on one of the biggest mysteries left after ‘Endgame’

Published Jan 1st, 2020 9:09PM EST
MCU Phase 4 Movies
Image: Marvel Studios

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Avengers: Endgame

brought us many of the answers we needed after Infinity War while raising other questions that will likely be addressed in the upcoming movies and TV series. But there’s one film in Phase 4 which might shed light on one of the biggest mysteries left after Endgame.

It has to do with the scene on Titan where Doctor Strange stopped to peer through time. He used the Time Stone to look at more than 14 million possible outcomes for the battle ahead, finding a rather disturbing answer: Only one of them would result in victory, and the only way the Avengers would prevail over Thanos involved sacrifices. Endgame, of course, explained what those sacrifices were meant to be, but it didn’t give Doctor Strange nearly enough meaningful scenes. The sequel to his origin story, slated for a 2021 release, might fix all of that.

In the months preceding Endgame, Doctor Strange’s prediction appeared in fan theories time and time again, as many fans believed Strange would influence the past to pave the way for that single future where they’d have a chance to win. At the time, we had no idea that time travel in the MCU will be handled differently. Changing the past in the MCU doesn’t change the future, which happens in movies like Back to the Future. Instead, any modifications would generate a different timeline, where the future might unfold differently. Therefore, Strange couldn’t have fixed the past so they could win in the future.

This doesn’t change the fact that Strange may have spent a lot of time peering through time while on Titan. What had been just a few moments for the Avengers and Guardians who were planning how to handle the incoming Thanos may have been thousands of years for Strange, who could have used the Time Stone to see as many potential futures as possible, while simultaneously fine-tuning his powers.

This brings us to a brand new fan theory that actually inspired my own. In a now-deleted post on Reddit, user gunnersawus said that Mutliverse of Madness has already happened — here’s this person’s claims:

So, rewatching Endgame yesterday and something professor hulk said made me think. ‘If you go back to the past, that becomes your future.’ Nearly all the team ended up going back to different places, even Tony and Cap, go to the army base once they split from Ant-Man. So from one timeline you have;

  • Tony and Cap
  • Ant-Man and Hulk
  • Clint (Nat doesn’t make it)
  • Thor and Rocket
  • Nebula and Rhodey

All have different timelines, go to different pasts and if what Hulk said is true MUST have different futures. All those different versions must create some ‘madness’.

This ignores all the test trips by ant man and Clint and the return of the stones by cap but that could’ve created even more.

I don’t agree with that interpretation. The characters don’t get different timelines. The past becomes their future, which is then followed by the present (2023) which is their new future. But what they do in the past will inevitably spawn other timelines or realities. For example, Tony, Steve, and Scott allow 2012 Loki to escape, which creates a different future for Loki, and a new timeline. Similarly, Nebula’s presence back in 2014 forces that timeline’s Thanos to come to our future where he and all his armies die. That means there’s a timeline starting in 2014 that has no Thanos in it. Also, Steve marrying Peggy in the late 1940s also creates a distinct reality.

What really caught my eye, however, is the title of the fan theory, that Multiverse of Madness has already happened.

I explained the other day that the MCU Phase 4 movies and TV series can be split into two different kinds of stories relative to the new present tense. After Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, the MCU present is 2023. As a result, many of the Phase 4 titles that will introduce new heroes could be prequels, showing origin stories and events that happened well before 2023. The remaining movies and TV series (think Spider-Man 3 and Falcon and the Winter Soldier) will slowly advance the storyline as we get closer to 2023 in real life.

One interesting exception might be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which may be both a prequel and sequel.

Specifically, what the fan theory made me realize is that Marvel could use the movie to show us some of the other 14 million futures that Doctor Strange saw. Let’s face it — we all want to see some of the different futures that Strange saw, and considering that most of them involve realities where Thanos won, it would undoubtedly be madness.

Marvel already confirmed that what happens in the Loki and WandaVision series will tie into Doctor Strange 2. That means Strange will somehow interact with the 2012 Loki that escaped in Endgame, which is an interesting plot detail. There are also rumors claiming that the Doctor Strange sequel might introduce certain X-Men, including Deadpool and Wolverine, which sounds pretty exciting as well.

Now, I’m not saying that everything in Multiverse of Madness happens in the past, back on Titan, while Strange is researching different futures. The film has to deliver new elements that would help build Strange’s story and complete his MCU arc. Let’s not forget that Doctor Strange now lacks his most important weapon against evil, the MCU main timeline’s Time Stone which was turned to dust early in Endgame. So we should see Strange interact with the post-Endgame future as well in the sequel. But it would be incredibly satisfying for Marvel to show us some of the madness he saw in all the other futures where the Avengers didn’t win.

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.