The Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Multiverse Madness

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is always expanding. From the street-level crime shows like Daredevil and The Punisher to space opera blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, the franchise has dipped its toes into various genres since its inception.

The next phase will continue to mix it up while still featuring more of the same. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a martial arts movie about a hero who’s a master of kung fu fighting. Elsewhere, The Eternals will feature more cosmic action. All in all, there’s going to be a diverse mix of blockbusters to enjoy.

Of course, the MCU is no stranger to movies that boast lots of action and cosmic elements. Until now, however, the franchise has resisted fully embracing its horror potential. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness looks set to change that.

At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, writer/director Scott Derrickson, who has a background in horror movies as the helmer of Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, shared some details about the Sorcerer Supreme’s next adventure. He promised that the film will be the scariest MCU offering yet, marking a return to his horror roots.

“When I came and talked to [Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige] about doing a sequel, I said, ‘I don’t want to do just another sequel. If I’m going to do it, it needs to go into the territory that drew me into the ‘Doctor Strange’ comics in the first place’ – which is how they dipped into the gothic and the horror and the horrific. And we’re going to make the first scary MCU movie.”

The new movie will reportedly see the titular magician (Benedict Cumberbatch) team up with Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) to take on Nightmare and other villains located in Marvel’s Multiverse. In other words, anything is possible. We can also assume that Chiwetel Ejiofor will return as Mordo, given what happened in the Doctor Strange post-credits scene.

The inclusion of Nightmare is especially exciting. In the comics, he is a powerful demon prince who controls a parallel dimension that people travel to in their dreams. He also rides a black-horned horse named Dreamstalker and feeds on humanity’s psychic energies, which makes him a very fitting antagonist in a film that promises scares.

Nightmare’s entry to the MCU opens up a world of excitingly horrific possibilities. He also has links to Shuma-Gorath, an evil tentacled deity who demands blood sacrifices and has a history with Strange in the comics.

Shuma-Gorath is the ruler of the Many-Angled Ones, Eldritch-like entities that live in the space between the infinite number of realities. If the MCU wants to introduce more apocalyptic foes, look no further than these beings. With the franchise’s newfound fascination with horror, coupled with its established cosmic elements, a Lovecraftian blockbuster featuring these creatures could be on the cards eventually.

Strange has been a fixture in Marvel Comics since the late ’60s, meaning there’s a treasure trove of possible terrifying villains to act opposite Cumberbatch. One of his more notable enemies is Mephisto — Marvel’s take on the Devil. If Marvel is serious about making Doctor Strange their scary saga, then incorporating some satanic horror elements into a movie would make for some exciting cinema.

Another exciting announcement from this year’s Comic-Con was the news that Blade will join the MCU soon. Mahershala Ali will play the Daywalker vampire in the reboot, which could be the franchise’s first R-rated film.

Blade will also continue to see the MCU explore horror territory. The story revolves around a human/vampire hybrid hunting creatures that drink blood, after all. This film also offers the potential for Marvel to continue flexing its horror muscles for years to come, but that’s another article for another day.

That said, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is also the perfect movie in which to introduce Blade to the franchise. Both he and Strange are synonymous with the spookier side of Marvel lore, and they’re also members of The Midnight Sons, which is a team made up of fellow characters who populate the darker corners of the universe.

A movie featuring the Midnight Sons isn’t outside the realm of possibility for Marvel. With Blade and Strange in the same cinematic universe, it’d be a missed opportunity not to feature the team in some capacity. The MCU has proven that even the unlikeliest factions from the comics can find a new lease of life on the big screen. The Midnight Sons would be a fun monstrous alternative to the Avengers, Guardians, etc. However, if they don’t find their way into the movies, at least we can enjoy some of these characters in Hulu shows.

Marvel has made it clear that horror could play a big part in the franchise going forward, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the key to making it happen. The film will pave the way for all kinds of monsters and demons to make their way into the cinematic universe, which will give Marvel another interesting genre avenue to consider for future projects.

Kieran Fisher: @HairEverywhere_ Kieran is a Daily Curator for the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.