NSisney+’s animated What If …? series might at first glance seem like something of a work of superhero whimsy, a place for Marvel’s animators to realise wacky ideas that would never make it into the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper. There’s the episode in which all the Avengers are killed off one by one, and the one in which T’Challa becomes Star-Lord. Both are entertaining, but hardly seem likely to feed through into mainstream continuity. And then there’s the one in which (spoilers ahead) Doctor Strange turns evil and ends up battling a good version of himself before destroying an entire reality.
In What If … Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) battles repeatedly to turn back time (easy enough with the Time Stone) and save his girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) from certain death (apparently impossible). It turns out that, in this reality, Palmer is fated to die in the car crash as a result of which Strange lost the use of his hands and embarked on the path that eventually led him to taking on the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme in the mainstream timeline. And if not then, some time and somewhere else on the same evening. Whatever Strange does on the night in question, she ends up dying – as if in a nightmarish, perpetual Groundhog Day.
The psychedelic superhero, despite being warned by Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One that this is a very, very bad idea, begins searching for ways to increase his power by absorbing it from various monstrous, multi-limbed interdimensional beings on an alternative plane (for those who haven’t read the comics, it always gets trippy in the good Doctor’s company). The Ancient One eventually tires of all this nonsense and splits the Sorcerer Supreme in two – but the good version swiftly loses out to the bad (now known as “Strange Supreme” and looking like an extra from a My Chemical Romance video), who still finds himself unable to bring back Christine. Cue a sort of reverse big bang as the entire reality implodes.
It’s a fascinating 35 分, but could it be more than that? Fans have started speculating that the meanie Doctor Strange here could be the same one that turned up last week in the latest trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home. もちろん, this would explain why the Sorcerer Supreme seen in the three-minute promo seemed to have lost every ounce of his customary cosmic wisdom.
To recap, the No Way Home trailer reveals that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker will ask Strange to help him with the secret identity problem that unfurled mid-credits in 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, in which Jake Gyllenhaal’s vengeful Mysterio outed Parker as Spider-Man. This has proved more than inconvenient for Parker and those around him.
The big question here is why would Strange attempt to cast a spell to restore Spider-Man’s incognito status, especially when he is warned by Wong, played by Benedict Wong, that there will be dangerous consequences? This is the sort of reckless, cocky and inconsiderate Stephen Strange we have only seen (in the live action movies) in the early stages of 2016’s Doctor Strange, before his training with the Ancient One. それ以来, he has made the right, selfless calls over and over again in what appears to be his infinite wisdom, even temporarily sacrificing himself for the greater good during Avengers: インフィニティ・ウォー.
And yet here he is, unleashing a chain of events that appear to climax with an interdimensional smackdown in which Spider-villains from other realities (OK, other studios) start turning up in New York to battle the MCU’s Peter Parker. We already know that Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock (from Sony’s Spider-Man 2) and Jamie Foxx’s Electro (from the same studio’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2) will make appearances, and there are heavy hints in the trailer that Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin (from 2002’s Spider-Man) will join them.
This is just not the Doctor Strange we are used to seeing, except in the aforementioned Disney+ episode.
The reality is that while the What If …? series is canonical, it’s highly unlikely that Marvel would make it easy for us to work out the events of No Way Home. But it’s likely that something funny is going on with Strange. Maybe he is a different evil Sorcerer Supreme, or maybe he is the one introduced in What If …? We’ll probably only find out when the movie is released in December, though if he’s spotted sporting purple tentacles and a weird emo look in future trailers, perhaps humming along to Welcome to the Black Parade, the speculation that Strange Supreme is back should continue.