“Don’t cast that spell.”
The end of 2021 was marked with a game-changer in the moviegoing world. When Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) debuted exclusively in theaters it dominated the global box office and is currently streaming towards a third-place spot on the highest-grossing domestic movies of all time, usurping James Cameron’s Avatar (2009).
Led by Hollywood favorite, Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Spider-Man: No Way Home, while seemingly ending one Marvel Universe franchise, set up the events to come in co-star Benedict Cumberbatch’s (Doctor Strange), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022).
The Phase Four “sequel” to Spider-Man: No Way Home sees Cumberbatch return once again as the former Sorcerer Supreme. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness from director Sam Raimi will debut on May 6 instead of the previously announced March 25, after falling victim to Kevin Feige’s great Marvel Cinematic Universe reshuffle — a move that saw the suspected removal of the Blade reboot and the MCU’s Deadpool movie from the upcoming slate.
Cumberbatch will be joined by WandaVision‘s Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Benedict Wong (Wong), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Karl Mordo), Michael Stuhlbarg (Nicodemus West), and Rachel McAdams (Dr. Christine Palmer). Newcomer Xochitl Gomez will also make their MCU debut in the Doctor Strange film as America Chavez AKA Miss America.
When director Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange (2016) debuted, it was praised for its eye-catching visual effects but saw a relatively average box office for an MCU movie. Now, six years later, and after starring in other franchise movies like Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019), Cumberbatch’s New York sorcerer has substantially gained in popularity.
This, teamed with his role in Holland’s latest Spider-Man movie, and the addition of the ever-popular Elizabeth Olsen, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness looks set for box office glory.
Last year, Disney announced that movies would have a 45-day window in theaters before being made available on the Disney streaming service. This move came after the controversial launch of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (2021) from director Cate Shortland; the MCU movie landed in cinemas and on Disney+ simultaneously leading to weeks of lawsuits.
However, unlike Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is tied also to Sony Pictures, the Doctor Strange sequel is likely to land on Disney+ sometime in the months following its May theatrical debut. And, intriguingly, Disney CEO Bob Chapek just alluded to the fact that their films could reach the small screen earlier than expected. Chapek said during the Disney Q1 Earnings Call:
“…I want to reiterate that we continue to see value in the moviegoing experience, especially for big franchise blockbusters. And given the performance of titles like Spider-Man: No Way Home, we are looking forward to kicking off our summer slate with another Marvel franchise film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That said, audiences will be our North Star as we determine how our content is distributed. And we do not subscribe to the belief that theatrical distribution is the only way to build a Disney franchise.”
In reading between the lines, Chapek’s comments suggest that Disney and Marvel Studios will remain close to the Doctor Strange sequel’s box office numbers and may make changes to that 45-day window as necessary. Bob Iger’s successor went on to illustrate the point of using the customer to navigate the pandemic moviegoing experience.
Chapek used Disney’s 60th animated feature, Encanto (2021) to add weight to his “North Star” comments. The movie debuted in theaters in November to a lukewarm reception, netting just over $200 million worldwide, but, upon the movie’s release on Disney+ on December 24, it quickly became one of Disney’s most-watched movies ever, and the fastest title to reach 200 million hours. Encanto went on to become a social media sensation, with Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s soundtrack dominating music charts all over the world.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that the epic follow-up to Spider-Man: No Way Home could land on Disney+ ahead of its projected release, although Marvel Studios and family films like Disney’s own Encanto will have varying degrees of contractual agreements. Its direct connection to No Way Home was teased in the stunning post-credits sequence at the end of the Spidey feature when Marvel gave the first look of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Fans will know that Doctor Strange essentially helped cause the Multiversal hijinx in No Way Home, and as the trailer suggests, he caused quite a bit of damage, including, but not limited to, releasing Strange Variants into the universe — including what seems to be an evil Doctor Strange akin to Doctor Strange Supreme from the animated series What If…?.
As the MCU Phase Four continues into its second year, the interconnected universe — no, Multiverse — is seemingly more entangled than ever.
Will you be seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in theaters or waiting for Disney+? Let us know in the comments down below!