After six long years of being the Earth's most powerful sorcerer (for now), respected member of The Avengers, and foe to all threats cosmic, Doctor Strange will return in a mind-bending sequel that tackles the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most ambitious adventure yet. The multiverse has been cracked open, danger looms over the world, and Doctor Strange may or may not have a newfound enemy in the Scarlet Witch, whose powers rival his own. When we last saw the two of them, Doctor Strange's little accident with his spell in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" threatened the world's future, while Wanda Maximoff's grief and chaos magic took shape in "WandaVision."
Judging from the "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" trailer, there's a lot to unpack, especially with the film promising star cameos that might beat "No Way Home." Plus, things will get rather complicated plot-wise as the story is set in the aftermath of multiple MCU projects. With a few days remaining for "Multiverse of Madness" to release, we thought it best to put together a guide of MCU movies and television shows to help you catch up on all you should know before you step into the cinema hall on May 6. It's a long way to the end, but it's worth it.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Wanda Maximoff is an enigma to us all. No, really, because we've seen only a glimpse of what she's capable of since not even Wanda herself knows the extent of her power. There isn't a better way to kick off "Doctor Strange" week than by returning to Wanda's origin story in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the film that introduced the Maximoff twins — Wanda and her brother Pietro aka Quicksilver (Aaron-Taylor Johnson). The twins were experimented on by HYDRA with the Mind Stone, which gave them their powers: Wanda received telekinesis, energy manipulation, and telepathic abilities, and Pietro received superhuman speed and enhanced agility. Wanda and Pietro ultimately fight alongside the Avengers (Pietro even sacrifices himself to save Clint Barton), which causes the former to rip Ultron's heart out (literally). Wanda's sinister side is only glimpsed in this film, but is expected to fully develop in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Watching the Scarlet Witch's first stint in the MCU is an excellent way to get started on your prep for "Multiverse of Madness!"
Doctor Strange (2016)
Scott Derrickson's "Doctor Strange" serves as an origin story for Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) — an arrogant, world-famous surgeon who gets into an accident that renders his hands incapable of surgery. In search of healing, Stephen finds himself before the Ancient One at Kamar-Taj, a mysterious enclave that also serves as a battlefront against forces of the supernatural. Stephen trains in the mystic arts to become a sorcerer and eventually takes residence in the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City. He continues to work towards safeguarding Earth and training with Wong (Benedict Wong). We've seen Doctor Strange make several appearances since this film, but it's essential viewing for fans as "Multiverse of Madness" will reunite Cumberbatch with returning stars Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Baron Mordo) for the first time in six years. Refreshing your memory by watching "Doctor Strange" is a good idea to get a look at the relationships shared between these characters.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019)
It's hard to forget the traumatizing events of these movies (read: multiple superhero deaths) but allow me to refresh your memory: "Avengers: Infinity War" is set in Doctor Strange and Wanda Maximoff's formative superhero years — when the sorcerer has finally settled into the Sanctum Sanctorum, and Wanda has found love with Vision.
Soon, Thanos begins accomplishing his plans of genocide, and the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy begin working towards preventing him from collecting the all-powerful Infinity Stones on his quest to extinguish half of all life in the universe, which he is ultimately successful in doing. But "Avengers: Infinity War" shines a light on Doctor Strange and Wanda's abilities — and glimpses an unhinged Wanda losing herself to grief. Also important to note that both Doctor Strange and Wanda turned to dust during the blip, only returning for the final battle in "Avengers: Endgame." We see an enraged, grieving Wanda fight Thanos and she's nearly successful in taking him out alone — which illustrates how strong she is. At the end of the movie, Wanda appears to be accepting Vision's death — but she's gone through far too much and has feelings she isn't prepared to feel. The two films depict the events that cause Wanda's overwhelming grief, which is worth reflecting on before "Multiverse of Madness" is out.
Wanda's story is finally told in Disney's first-ever Marvel Studios-produced limited series, which kickstarted Phase 4 of the MCU. The nine-part series tells the story of Wanda and Vision as they live a fulfilling, suburban life in the town of Westview, New Jersey, through the lens of various prominent sitcoms. There's something eerie about the story, though — Vision's death isn't questioned, and neither are the events of the blip, which makes the viewer confident that something is amiss.
"WandaVision" should easily be at the top of your must-watch list — it dissects Wanda's childhood, her family, the story behind her powers, and her journey to becoming the Scarlet Witch; the sorcerer who will destroy the world, as per a prophecy. The series also introduces Wanda's twin sons Billy and Tommy (who will be seen in "Multiverse of Madness") and White Vision — and the finale elevates Wanda's superhero status into the Scarlet Witch (complete with a new costume), making the events of "WandaVision" of paramount importance. Watch it if you haven't already!
What If... ? (2021)
Remember "Loki?" While it's not vital enough to watch, here's what you need to know: the series ends with the unleashing of an uncontrollable multiverse with alternate timelines. "What If... ?" follows up on that idea, reimagining notable events in the MCU and exploring how choices create a multiverse of unending possibilities. The animated anthology has 9 episodes total (so far) — but there are a few you must watch.
There's episode 1 ("What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?"), which is relevant since Captain Carter is rumored to appear in the film. There's also episode 4 ("What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?"), and episode 5 ("What If... Zombies?!") that are integral to the occurrences of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," which introduces Evil Strange and is an adaptation of Marvel Zombies, respectively. Both Evil Strange and a zombified Wanda appear in the upcoming film's trailer, as seen in "What If... ?" — there's definitely some sort of connection between the two projects, and viewing "What If... ?" before the upcoming movie will provide you with more context.
Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)
"Spider-Man No Way Home" doesn't need an explanation: the emotional weight, the nostalgia, and the story make it arguably one of the most extraordinary films to have come out of the MCU. Its storyline is fundamental to "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," which is set after the multiverse tears open. After a spell to make the world forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man goes wrong, Doctor Strange and Spidey have help in sending the web-slinger's biggest enemies back to their universes. The sorcerer breaks many rules to help Peter and later reverse the damage of his nonfunctional spell, which will no doubt have catastrophic outcomes in the MCU's future. As Mordo warned Stephen in "Doctor Strange" (2016), those who break the rules must pay the price. It looks like his ideals are set to manifest in the form of a multiversal war of sorts.
The above list contains titles that actively set the stage for the events of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Still, if you have the time, I'd like to recommend watching "Loki" (since it clarifies how time and the multiverse work in this phase of the MCU). The "Multiverse of Madness" trailer has revealed Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is a part of the film, with the prevailing theory being his association with the Illuminati, a secretive group of heroes that include Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Mr. Fantastic, and the Black Panther among others. So, watching "X-Men" could be helpful, you know, in case the X-Men do show up. If the MCU could reintroduce Spider-Men from various universes — maybe "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" will finally give us the X-Men and MCU crossover we deserve.
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" releases on May 6, 2022.