After the game-changing events of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios hasn't slowed down with the story delivered thus far in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much of this has to do with the introduction of the Multiverse, which first came to the big screen in Spider-Man: No Way Home before expanding to new heights in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
At the center of Avengers: Endgame was Josh Brolin's Thanos, who continues to make his presence felt through Phase 4 after his quest for the Infinity Stones made an everlasting mark on the entire MCU. First using the six Stones to decimate half of the universe and then themselves, he indicated that he was willing to eliminate all life everywhere in Endgame before the Avengers took him down, turning him and his army to dust.
Now, Thanos has been seen in various projects since Endgame, albeit through nods like the connection to his brother Eros in Eternals or potential ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy in Thor: Love and Thunder. Now, the iconic villain returns in a new way during Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, showing how Avengers: Endgame could have gone a different way with the Grimace look-alike.
Doctor Strange 2 Teases New Endgame Outcome
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness showed an alternate ending to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame where Thanos was defeated on Earth-838.
In this flashback moment, the MCU's Illuminati defeated the iconic Marvel villain on his homeworld Titan, as the shot showed the villain with his double-bladed sword piercing his chest. The team utilized the Book of Vishanti to come out of this battle on top as Professor X, Captain Carter, Maria Rambeau, Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic, and Doctor Strange stopped Thanos from completing the Infinity Gauntlet and wiping out half of all life.
This came after this universe's Doctor Strange used the Darkhold to Dream Walk across the Multiverse and use a plan different from the one the prime Strange used in Infinity War, in which Thanos won and killed half of humanity for five years.
In the prime MCU, Strange gave the Time Stone to Thanos after the Mad Titan stabbed Tony Stark, only leaving the villain one Infinity Stone short of completing the set as he left Strange, Stark, Spider-Man, and four of the Guardians of the Galaxy on Titan.
This would ultimately lead to Earth-616's Avengers embarking on a time heist, restoring all life throughout the universe, and reducing Thanos' army with the snap of Iron Man's nano gauntlet in Avengers: Endgame.
How Far Along Was Thanos' Plan?
Looking back at this scene, it appears that Thanos was well on his way to replicating what he did in the prime MCU as he fought the Illuminati on Titan. Although it's hard to tell how many Infinity Stones he possessed at that point in time, he already has the golden Gauntlet that Eitri the Dwarf made for him on Nidavellir, most likely meaning that this moment was similar to the equivalent timeframe in Avengers: Infinity War.
Seeing as the Book of Vishanti had the ability to grant the reader anything they need to accomplish their goals, the Illuminati probably didn't have to endure five years of hardship before going back in time to get old versions of the Stones the way the Avengers did. They may have even ended the battle before Thanos even touched ground on Earth-838, meaning that Thanos would have been missing the Time and Mind Stones before completing the set.
This also came before Baron Mordo was a part of the team, which was also most likely because he wasn't the Sorcerer Supreme of his universe yet, with Doctor Strange involved instead. It doesn't appear as though any of the other Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy were involved with the battle this time around either, which makes sense considering just how powerful and brilliant the Illuminati's heroes are.
All of that leads to one big question, however - what happened in all of those alternate futures that Doctor Strange saw in Avengers: Infinity War?
Only 14,000,605 Futures and 1 Win?
In Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Strange made it clear that there was only one way to defeat Thanos among more than 14 million options that he looked into. Endgame revealed that this included the Avengers discovering time travel, going back to get the Stones, making the Stark tech gauntlet, and bringing everybody back to life before Tony snapped his fingers and sacrificed himself to kill Thanos.
Doctor Strange 2 seemed to indicate that there was another way to defeat the Mad Titan besides the way it worked out in the Infinity Saga - one that didn't require the world to go through such turmoil. Why those possibilities didn't come up is a mystery, although it could be chalked up to Earth-616 not being in danger of an Incursion or any other kind of interactions with other universes before Spider-Man: No Way Home.
It also could be that Strange was only able to access successful futures feasible in his universe. Accessing the Book of Vishanti in Earth-616's universe may have not been possible at the time of Avengers: Infinity War, or was only an option due to the Illuminati's specific members being around in Earth-838's realm.
Regardless of the reasoning, seeing this new experience against Thanos adds a whole new perspective to how the MCU progresses over the past 14 years and what could still be lurking over the horizon.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters worldwide.