By Mary Lou Raposa (@themlfox)
As we know, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is coming out soon.
And this only means one thing.
That’s right. It means running the MCU gauntlet of watching every single movie and show relevant to the film that’s coming up. This is it. It’s the last-minute review before the final exam. Fail this one task and you’ll be so lost not even Dora the Explorer’s map can help you.
Lucky for you, the multiverse plot isn’t (for now) as complicated as the Infinity Saga. You don’t need all the 23 movies and 6 series Marvel Studios had released so far to understand what will happen in Doctor Strange. To be ready for what’s anticipated to be a banger, you only need to watch a few titles.
Doctor Strange (2016)
We start where it all began.
Okay, not really. It didn’t all begin in this movie, but it planted the idea of the multiverse. Before this all the adversaries of our heroes only ever came from earth and space. This movie introduced the “magical” side of the MCU. Since the mystic is so illogical it’s easier to break rules without explanations.
And the multiverse was mentioned here! It’s a tiny crumb, barely a reference, but it lays the groundwork for the future of the MCU. It’s almost a call-back to The Avengers (2012) when Thor warned that messing with the Tessaract readied the earth for a “higher form” of war. What higher than enemies from every universe, right?
In my opinion, it’s important to watch the origin movies. Don’t be that person who asks “who’s that” every time a character pops in. Origin movies set up the personalities and motivations of the heroes. You can’t complain about characterisation if you haven’t seen their establishing stories, which explains the reason for every decision and action taken. #sorrynotsorry
Why watch: Introduces the main characters. The first building block of the multiverse. The magical side of the MCU started here. Always watch the origin stories.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)/Avengers: Endgame (2019)
To understand WandaVision (2021) and Loki (2021) you must watch these.
And, believe me, those two series are required watching.
Thanos was a god-tier villain. Brute force and the power of belief could not save the universe this time. To defeat him, the Avengers had to resort to dangerous methods. There was no mention of the multiverse but the Ancient One warned of “branched realities” if any of the Infinity Stones were misplaced.
Sure enough, Stephen Strange kickstarted an epic fight to save the universe which left reality broken and timelines in shambles. Endgame marked the end of the Infinity Saga, but it was also the catalyst for the multiverse, a ripple the MCU will be feeling in the years to come.
Why watch: Sets up WandaVision (2021) and Loki (2021). Multiverse of Madness will refer to this movie. The portal scene will never fail to produce goosebumps. And Steve finally got his dance!
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
“You’re saying there’s a multiverse?”
That line is almost like if Bill Nye the Science Guy made an unironic statement about how the earth is truly flat. Flat Earthers have seen the ancient texts and listened to pseudo-scientists, but to hear it from a legitimate source? That is like confirmation. It’s like the one thing that makes all circumstantial evidence true.
And if that wasn’t enough, the post-credit scene was the smoking gun. Without mention of the multiverse, it could just have been fan-service, but the fact that it was a hint of what was to come in No Way Home (2022) meant that it was Marvel Studios’ way of nudging us to prepare.
Why watch: Teases the multiverse. THE POST-CREDIT SCENE MADE IT WORTH IT. It’s the prequel to No Way Home (2022), which does deal with the real multiverse.
WandaVision was an experience.
Of the crazy kind.
The Infinity Saga was over. COVID had settled in. We were all locked down and Black Widow (2021) was delayed for the millionth time. We didn’t know what Marvel Studios and Feige had in store next. The MCU fandom had gone a little loopy and that’s putting it mildly. With nothing else to do, speculation and theories ran rampant. #MephistoGate
It’s all happening in this series. Aside from the fact that this show does lead directly to Multiverse of Madness, Wanda’s growing power raises so many interesting questions. Prior to the release of this series, The Mouse™ was busy taking over 21st Century Fox, which owned rights to X-Men, Fantastic Four, and other Marvel Comics. WandaVision teased the possibilities of such a historic merge.
Let the good times roll.
Why watch: It’s a fun ride. Also an almost-direct prequel to Multiverse of Madness. We can expect X-Men and mutants soon, at least. If you need a good cry, the last episode is for you.
What a time to be both a Doctor Who fan and a Tom Hiddleston fan.
Loki is like the two worlds colliding. The Doctor Who vibes were so strong I forgot myself during the first episode and expected the theme song to fade in, only to be utterly bewildered when it didn’t.
So, this is it. This is where it all falls apart. Out of everything in this list this is one that you must not miss. The events of What If…? and No Way Home are a direct result of this show. I predict what happens in Multiverse of Madness will also be a result of this show. Keep that in mind. Super important. This is the material that you shouldn’t neglect to study.
Why watch: Hello, why wouldn’t you watch Tom Hiddles in anything? Watch this to bide time while you wait for Russel T. Davies 2.0 era of Doctor Who. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MULTIVERSE IS BECAUSE OF THIS SHOW.
What If…? (2021)
What if Peggy Carter became the super soldier instead? What if zombies? What if all the Avengers die?
What If…? Answers all these questions.
If alternate universe fanfiction was ever made mainstream, this show would be it. And that, in my opinion, is why this show legitimised every single MCU alternate universe fanfiction in existence as canon. You think it’s ridiculous but if T’Challa as Star Lord can happen then why not Tony Stark being raised by the Winter Soldier (yes, that is a real fanfiction plot, and it is glorious)?
Of all the media to make an impact in the multiverse, this inconsequential show makes a significant one if the Multiverse of Madness TV spots and posters are to be believed.
Just watch it, okay? It’s fun, it’s kooky, and if you need an excuse to stay in on Friday night this is it.
Why watch: It’s the literal multiverse. You can’t get any more multiverse than that.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2022)
If you’re a sucker for nostalgia, then you’ll love this.
If you haven’t heard of what happened in this movie then I applaud your resistance to pop culture. I won’t spoil it but what I will say is that this movie legitimised comic book movies and the nerd experience.
Nowadays, superhero movies are so common it’s almost basic. Its niche status is fast disappearing. Though it seems impossible, Marvel Studios had brought nerds and normies together. However, back then it was still something to be made fun of. Comic books and other nerdy things were still reserved for socially awkward losers or closet nerds. As a member of that demographic, I feel that the movie legitimised that experience.
If nothing else, just marvel (heh) at the evolution and endurance of the cinematic universe. Other studios tried to copy the model only for their universes to collapse. Critics everywhere can and will insist on superhero fatigue but where was it when WandaVision or this movie happened?
Revenue, that’s where.
Why watch: THE MULTIVERSE EXPLODES HERE. This is where Doctor Strange breaks the multiverse apart, which Multiverse of Madness will address.
And that is the lot!
See, not as intense as the Infinity Saga, right?
Now, you have your homework. So go forth! Set some time for yourself, grab a doona, gather a mountain of snacks, set your phone to “do not disturb”, and strap yourself in for one hell of a ride.
See you all on the other side of the multiverse.