By the Vishanti! There was a lot of magical madness to unpack after seeing Marvel Studios' latest cinematic offering, Doctor Strange. Being the audience’s first venture into the more metaphysical aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange presented us with tons of new ideas and worldbuilding that’s just waiting to be exploited in future films, and now it’s time to dig in and speculate on all of it!
Beware, there are more SPOILERS AHEAD than there are Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, as we’ll be discussing the mid- and post-credit scenes, the resolution of the plot, and some of the film’s most intriguing easter eggs. So turn back now, mortals who’ve yet to see the film, before you find yourself in dangerous realms beyond your understanding.
As for the rest of you, get ready to open your third eye to the mysteries of Marvel’s most magical movie—and the potential future of its characters and universe—as we speculate on what could be in store for a Strange sequel, what the film means for Thor: Ragnarok, and even how it may help set the stage for some television projects. As always, let us know what we missed by projecting your astral form onto the comments below.
ABOUT MORDO'S STAFF...
Let’s start off with my favorite Marvel Easter Egg of the film. Remember the cool magical nunchaku-staff that Mordo tried to give Strange a tough-love training butt-whupping with? He called it the “Staff of the Living Tribunal.” At this point, I really should stop being so surprised or excited at obscure characters and concepts get referenced in Marvel movies, since it happens every time, but this one was just too good.
For those of you not up on your all-powerful abstract entities of the Marvel Universe, the Living Tribunal is an deity of sorts who acts as the steward of multiversal balance, serving as the ultimate cosmic judge to all of reality. He most often appears as the arbiter between lower cosmic beings like Eternity, Infinity, and Death, and is the most powerful being in all of the Marvel pantheon, aside from his boss, the One-Above-All. One of his most well-known appearances is when many of the lower concepts pleaded with him to intervene after Thanos completed his reality-altering Infinity Gauntlet. While this same cosmic fashion emergency may very well lead to a Living Tribunal appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, I’m actually more interested in what it could mean for a Doctor Strange sequel.
As hinted at by the post-credit sequence, a sequel will likely focus on Mordo’s turn against Strange and his vendetta against sorcerers. This is a fairly unique turn for Mordo when compared to his comic book version, who normally is portrayed as a pawn of Dormammu, but what if this version of Mordo is also working for someone? And what if that someone is the Living Tribunal, wielding Mordo as a tool to maintain balance. Or what if Mordo is so successful that he throws off that balance, and the Living Tribunal is forced to intervene?
I’m probably dreaming a bit too big on this one, but I think the chances of a future movie appearance by the Living Tribunal—hopefully in all of his giant, golden, three-covered-face glory—are high.
STRANGE JOINS THE DEFENDERS?
For a while now, people have been speculating that the Hulk’s presence was going to turn Thor: Ragnarok into a stealth-Planet Hulk movie, but now I think they’ve got it all wrong. Because from where I’m sitting—that’s a seat after having seen a certain mid-credit sequence hinting at Doctor Strange’s presence in the threequel—it’s starting to look more like a stealth-Defenders movie.
No, not those Defenders. I mean the actual Defenders. The team that’s barely a team founded by Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Namor, the Submariner, and frequently featuring the Silver Surfer, The Defenders are one of Marvel’s most entertainingly over-powered groups. And did I mention that one of their other most prominent members is Valkyrie? Did you know Tessa Thompson is playing Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok? And Thor basically has the attitude of Namor and the power of Silver Surfer, so (since movie rights issues prevent Marvel from using those two) that sure sounds like a team of Defenders to me.
This team is coming together for the third Thor movie, presumably to turn back the tide of the end-times, but what if they last longer than that? Could this totally-not-the-Defenders team stick together longer than that and form the core of a new Avengers team? They’re going to need some firepower to take on Thanos, and this team certainly provides that. The scene of Strange and Thor got me about twenty times more excited for Ragnarok than I was before, and I hope it’s only the beginning of a lot more.
THAT ONE STAFF
With an assault by Kaecilius and his disciples imminent, Wong and a group of sorcerers arm themselves with a variety of weapons. Wong himself chooses the immensely powerful Wand of Watoomb, but keen-eyed viewers will noticed one of the sorcerers on his team wielded an even witchier weapon: the Staff of One.
The Staff of One is the source of the magical powers of Nico Minoru, also known as Sister Grimm of the Runaways. It’s powered by the blood of the user, and emerges when they are cut, then granting spells cast by a unique word or phrase that can only be used once. Nico was passed the staff when her parents attacked her with it after she discovered they were evil sorcerers, and part of the super-criminal cabal known as The Pride. Nico defeated them and fled with the help of her fellow superpowered teen friends, whose adventures were chronicled in a 2003 comic book series called Runaways, created by Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan and Ms. Marvel artist Adrian Alphona.
There’s currently a Runaways show in the works at Hulu, so could we possibly see the Staff falling into evil hands after the battle in Hong Kong? It wouldn’t be the first time a Marvel show picked up on the collateral damage of one of the movies. Or could the person wielding it have been one of Nico’s parents? However the Staff of One makes it way to Nico, it’s exciting to see Marvel begin to sow the seeds for one of their most enduring modern franchises.
TIME TRAVEL IS THE FUTURE
Unless you count being frozen and waking up a long time later, Doctor Strange is the first Marvel movie to introduce the concept of time travel, and it opens up a lot of possibilities for characters we could see in new films.
For example, the recently-launched Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme comic book shows the doctor snatched from his time by Merlin and taken to the past to join with a team of previous and future Sorcerer Supremes. If Strange continues to fiddle with the timestream in his films, could that be how we start to explore characters rooted in the Marvel Universe’s past? Merlin seems an obvious choice to introduce, but if Strange were to find himself in Camelot times, he could also come into conflict with one of the most prominent evil magic-users in Marvel, Morgan le Fay. In the comics, le Fay is a repeated threat to both the past and present heroes of the universe, and was even the villain in the first Doctor Strange movie—the television one from 1978.
A medieval setting could even introduce concepts like the Black Knight, whose legacy could pop back up in the modern day. Other eras of exploration could include Strange seeing a young Thor plundering through Viking times, or he could perhaps even visit the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a lot of opportunities for new concepts and characters to introduce thanks to time travel existing in the MCU, and I hope they are exploited in upcoming films.
TOO MANY SORCERERS
Finally, the most obvious way that a Doctor Strange follow-up will be expanding the magical corners of the MCU is by introducing more magic-users. As Mordo declares in his post-credit scene, the hunt is on for sorcerers, and if Mordo’s going to be killing them, it would only make sense to see a lot of familiar faces pop up as targets, or as allies to Strange.
Scarlet Witch could be one of Mordo’s targets, allowing her to be recruited by Strange so she can explore the magical nature of her powers. This would provide a good place to dig into her character and abilities in a way she probably won’t have the screentime to do in an Avengers movie. Brother Voodoo—now known as Doctor Voodoo in the comics—is one of Marvel’s most popular magicians, who would be a great addition to the mythos, and would show a decidedly different flavor of magic than Strange has come in contact with before. A darker brand of magic could also be introduce by the fiery-tempered, trident-wielding Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. Clea, the niece of the first movie’s villain, Dormammu could also pop up in a sequel. If she was living on Earth already as a magical practitioner, that would make her a prime target for Mordo, and would be an easy way to introduce one of Strange’s most well-known cast members and love interests.
Of course, Mordo will also be killing some sorcerers, so for the role of cameo followed by immediate death, I propose Doctor Druid. He’s easily Marvel’s most lackluster magician, and that haircut deserves to be cannon fodder. Whoever Mordo's unfortunate victims are, I hope Marvel isn't afraid to dig into their back catalog.