The Multiverse is clearly Marvel’s next big frontier, but with so many concepts spread across shows and movies, it can be difficult to fully pin down.
The Multiverse is fast becoming a very mainstream concept thanks to its fast-growing popularity in pop culture. Most notably in multiple recent projects in the MCU: Loki, What If…? and Spider-Man: No Way Home. This will now be even further expanded upon in May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness but how does it work and what do we know about the infinite universe spawned from the MCU?
Going through what each project has told us I am going to break it down as simply as possible and by the end of this article you should be all caught up and understand the MCU’s Multiverse.
What is the Multiverse?
To put it simply, the multiverse is the theory that there are infinite variations of the same universe that each have unique distinctions from the last; some drastic and some small. While in one alternate universe you may like different food, in another you may not even exist. Some versions of the theory suggest that for every choice ever made, another is made in an alternate universe, so every decision infinitely spawns variations of itself.
But what is the MCU’s version like and how does it work? First, let’s look at our most significant informant on the subject so far.
In Loki, a version of Loki from 2012 manages to escape due to the time-traveling tampering of the Avengers in Endgame. But the TVA captures him as he is branching from the path that he was meant to follow.
The series reveals there were once infinite universes with no set path; just chaos. But when the same scientist in the 31st century discovered this across his many multiversal variants, it led to war and near destruction of multiple universes.
Only one version of the scientist remained and in his attempt to stop history repeating itself, he created the TVA, becoming “He Who Remains.” To make sure every universe follows the same rough series of events to result in He Who Remains existence and the TVA’s creation, this path each universe must follow was described as the Sacred Timeline.
Now here’s where people have gotten confused. The Sacred Timeline is not a singular timeline or universe. It is infinite universes kept to the same series of rough events. note that the many Loki variants we see in the series are not played by Tom Hiddleston save President Loki.
This is because Loki being born a slightly different person is not a big enough impact on the Sacred Timeline to prevent the birth of He Who Remains (I imagine this is why Steve Rogers was allowed to remain in his alternate time with Peggy too). However, surviving Thanos, killing Thor, or maybe even trying to be President was and therefore the TVA intervene.
By the end of the series Sylvie ends this. She kills He Who Remains and allows the Sacred Timeline to branch, resulting in the chaotic multiverse he stopped from existing. The chronology of this is hard to track, the TVA exists outside of time and presumably so does He Who Remains’ castle.
However, based on the fact that the Loki variant of the series was directly spawned from the events of Endgame and the series released in Phase 4, it is safe to assume the multiverse in its current chaotic capacity did not exist till shortly after Endgame.
What If introduced viewers to some of the infinite universes created as a result of Loki and the cataclysmic difference that was made in these many versions of the familiar MCU.
There isn’t an awful lot we learned about how it works in this series beyond the obvious, strange, and intriguing variations of the MCU we are familiar with. Most notably was the existence of The Watcher, a being charged with observing the many versions of the universe and never intervening, an oath he eventually broke.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
By No Way Home, we can safely assume that the branching multiverse exists, in fact by the logic of Loki the Raimi and Webb Spider-Man continuities were created as a result of the events of Loki.
In this film, various characters from the other two Spider-Man franchises crossover after Doctor Strange’s spell to help Peter Parker goes awry. When this happens Strange tells Parker, “The multiverse is a concept of which we know frighteningly little” and “this shouldn’t even be possible”. This is perhaps because it did not exist in its current capacity till recently and the sorcerers are not aware of the changes that have taken place with the TVA and He Who Remains.
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness
Now in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel, we are fully delving into the Multiverse and its many aspects. Rather than the TVA there now seems to be some sort of superhero alliance that keeps an eye on the Multiverse.
The members of this group are largely a mystery, however, Patrick Stewart is playing a version of Professor X and the Ultron drones seen in the trailer indicate an Iron Man variant. Whether Stewart is back as his character from the X-Men films or a new version is a mystery but we can be sure to get plenty of cameos throughout the film.
Also featuring (at least) three versions of Doctor Strange, the reality-warping Scarlet Witch, and universe jumping America Chavez, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness will be our best look yet at Marvel’s movie multiverse and perhaps give us some connective tissue with the catalyst Loki began.
The MCU is releasing more projects than ever and laying the groundwork for their next saga, how the multiverse will affect the franchise’s future is a mystery but one that we are learning more about with more and more projects from Marvel Studios.
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness releases on May 6th.