Doctor Strange burst onto the scene in 2016 with a debut film showcasing the extensive visual effects, mind-blowing concepts, and popcorn action the character brings to the MCU. Since then, Marvel Studios has cemented itself as a movie studio that consistently defies the odds and pushes the boundaries of the superhero movie genre. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is the latest and most significant example of how far the MCU is willing to go.
This movie has more than enough wild and mind-bending concepts for the MCU, the least head-spinning of which being the introduction of one of the most powerful superhero teams in Marvel Comics history.
The Illuminati is a collection of the most extraordinary powers and minds in the Marvel Universe. Multiverse of Madness brings the group into the MCU to speak with Earth-616's Stephen Strange.
Here's the complete list of the MCU's Illuminati members that appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The Universe of The Illuminati
Earth-838 is the universe where we meet The Illuminati. 838 is a hyper-advanced version of the MCU fans have watched for over a decade. Unlike the mainline MCU, designated in this universe as Earth-616 (hold for applause), there is an overt awareness of the Multiverse in 838 that the main MCU does not possess.
In this universe, a group of heroes has also banded together to thwart evil and make the tough decisions in favor of the Multiverse. This group is the Illuminati, and it acts like this universe's version of the Avengers. This makes sense since a hyper-advanced world would naturally breed hyper-advanced heroes, which this group is.
The decision of who to include in this squad was vital to the execution of this concept by Marvel Studios. To show the audience the team's power level, it required a mix of familiar faces with powersets fans are familiar with and some new faces to keep things fresh. Those new faces were the tricky part as, at the end of the day, it is fan service. This means that ordinary MCU fans with no comic book background needed to believe they were worthy of being on this elite squad, while also taking proper care of the comic book fans who know and love these heroes.
The Sorcerers Supreme (Strange & Mordo)
The first entry to the team is Supreme Mordo, a variant of Baron Mordo, who has taken the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme in Universe 838. Mordo brings 616's Stephen Strange and America Chavez to the Illuminati, after convincing them he means no harm. Mordo took over the role as Sorcerer Supreme and Illuminati member, after the group executed this universe's Doctor Strange, for dabbling too far into the Darkhold.
The inclusion of the Sorcerer Supreme makes sense on many levels, as in the universe, the Sorcerer Supreme seems to play a massive role in the safety of reality. Mordo and Strange square off and argue over the merit of letting another Stephen Strange risk the security of this universe. Mordo plays true to his character as someone who is a loyalist to the Mystic Arts; he would be very against the idea of using the Darkhold at any cost.
Professor Charles Xavier
As shown in the Super Bowl trailer for the movie, Professor Charles Xavier represents the first official instance of the X-Men in the MCU. A huge moment for superhero movie and comic book fans alike. Ever since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, the question became not if, but when the X-Men will make their MCU debut. Feige teased that mutants were coming. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier introduced our first mutant-related location, but the face of the X-Men franchise is the first to represent the uncanny superhero team in this cameo role.
A role, of course, played by Patrick Stewart. In the same vein as J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, it was always Patrick Stewart. Being such a staple of the original X-Men franchise earned Stewart this opportunity to pay homage to his character, his team, and X-Men fans across the Multiverse. Moving forward, it is unlikely the legendary fandom actor continues as Earth-616 Charles Xavier. But, until it is time to introduce a new Professor X, Patrick Stewart is the perfect choice to set the tone.
This cameo was full of nostalgia for any fan of the comics, the animated series from the '90s, and of course the live-action X-Men franchise of the past. As Xavier rolls in, fans can hear a faint homage to the original animated series' theme song that is accompanied by the first live-action look at Prof. X's patented yellow hoverchair. When using his powers, there is also a subtle circular wave that is synonymous with the character, which can also be seen with his journey into Wanda's mind.
Professor X in Earth-838, unfortunately, is one of many Illuminati members that suffers the wrath of the Scarlet Witch, and succumbs to one of the most brutal deaths on the team at that. While Charles is finding Wanda trapped within her own mind by her alter ego, a demonized version of the Scarlet Witch follows him in and snaps his neck. This quickly cuts to the physical Charles Xavier suffering the same fate and therefore closing the book on this universe's Professor X.
As Phase 4 rolls on, there is no telling how or when the next X-Men character will appear. This clear-cut cameo by Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier seems like just a small taste of the IP in the MCU before the next era of X-Men really begins. This is a great segway into the next generation of mutant heroes. It is reassuring to know that while Marvel Studios will surely put their own twist on one of the biggest names in comic book history, they will also pay homage to the X-Men content that paved the way.
Captain Marvel - Maria Rambeau
The protector of the cosmos. The living photon blast. Captain Marvel has earned a spot at the table of Earth-838's Illuminati. But this is not the Captain Marvel MCU fans are familiar with. This is Maria Rambeau, best friend and wingman to Brie Larson's Carol Danvers in 2019's Captain Marvel. But in this universe, the "What If" moment seems to be that Maria took that mission with Wendy Lawson and gained the powers of Captain Marvel.
This is the return of Lashana Lynch, as her character was killed off during the blip in WandaVision. As Teyonah Parris's Monica Rambeau carries the torch as the future "Photon" of the MCU, it is great to see Lashana Lynch get the opportunity to suit up as Captain Marvel as part of the Illuminati.
Captain Marvel actually receives one of the more tame deaths for her team, despite being crushed under a falling statue. Wanda and Captain Marvel square off in a cosmic vs. supernatural power struggle. Wanda's ability to suppress the power of Maria Rambeau allows her to win this fight, but Captain Marvel lasted longer than anyone else.
The Captain Marvel franchise is one that Marvel Studios is looking to take to the next level in 2023's The Marvels. While Lashana Lynch is not set up to appear as Maria Rambeau, her daughter Monica is one of the three leads in the movie. Look for visual nods to this universe's Captain Marvel in whatever happens with Monica in her much-anticipated reunion with Carol Danvers.
Captain Carter - Peggy Carter
Anyone who believes that the animated corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is optional was proven wrong here in Multiverse of Madness. There is no definitive proof that this Peggy Carter is the same Peggy Carter from the series premiere of What If...?, but headcanon is a thing and it was at full force here. Captain Carter feels established and lived in during her short time in this movie, and that is all credit to What If...?
Hayley Atwell has played a major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Phase One. She has gotten her moments since her debut in Captain America: The First Avenger with a follow-up series, cameos in aged makeup/CGI, and she was even part of the final shot of Avengers: Endgame when she and Cap finally get their dance. After What If...?, many believed that Marvel was ready to bring Hayley Atwell back to the battlefield and the filmmakers did it bigger and better than ever.
The suit was a shoutout to her British background and it was accompanied by a jet pack that puts her on a similar playing field with the most advanced superhero team introduced yet. She squared off with the Scarlet Witch longer than anyone expected, and was even able to deliver the classic Captain America line to Wanda: "I can do this all day."
If you thought that John Walker taking the shield to the chest of a member of The Flag Smashers was brutal, Multiverse of Madness doubled down on that. Wanda sends the shield right through the midsection of Captain Carter with a blood-soaked shot to prove the blow. This is one of many examples from the Illuminati deaths that demonstrated Sam Raimi was really pushing those PG-13 limits.
It seems like the future of the Captain Carter character in live-action has come to a close, but she will continue to be a focal point of What If...? in season two.
After a series of familiar MCU faces and the return of Professor X, this movie decided to take it up to another level by introducing two comic-accurate members of The Illuminati making their MCU debuts. The first of which is Black Bolt, leader of the Inhumans.
Anson Mount returns as Blackagar Boltagon after playing the character in Inhumans, an infamous flop in Marvel TV history. Given that Black Bolt does not talk, Mount's primary job is holding a fierce and powerful pose, and he does just that with his comic-accurate cowl and suit. He had one line in the movie, as he is the one who was responsible for ridding the universe of a dangerous Stephen Strange. The effect behind his "I'm sorry" sonic blast was intense and powerful.
Black Bolt suffers what is undoubtedly the most violent death in the history of the MCU. Wanda takes away Bolt's mouth, which leaves the omega-level hero scared and confused. Finally, in a panic, Black Bolt speaks, but the blast takes him out from the inside with nowhere to go. This moment in MCU history will be referenced by fans as long as they keep making these movies, taking the violence to an entirely new level.
The future of the Inhumans is very up in the air, as many of those stories may not be where Marvel Studios wants to take its universe. But just like The Defenders Saga has Echo to potentially foster a revival, Inhumans might have Ms. Marvel to account for their 616 representation. Time will tell.
Mr. Fantastic - Reed Richards
In honor of Jurassic World: Dominion releasing in theaters soon... "You did it, you crazy son of a bitch!" John Krasinski makes his MCU debut as the heavy fan cast Reed Richards. This was a rare MCU cameo where die-hard Marvel fans popped because that is Reed Richards, and casual MCU fans popped because that is Jim Halpert in the MCU. Win-Win-Win.
So many great nods to the Fantastic Four were presented, with a reference to their 60s presence and a morbid shoutout to the Richards family. Reed's death at the hands of the Scarlet Witch is only outdone by Black Bolt's. He turned to ribbon before a full balloon popped at the top of his body—a tragic debut for one of Marvel's most important pieces.
The impact of introducing Reed in this movie is enormous for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Fantastic Four is coming, and it is the final chance for this IP to receive a proper live-action adaptation. With Jon Watts recently stepping away from the project, the director for this movie is one of the hottest openings in Hollywood. Krasinski has had his name thrown around and could be a great addition behind the camera.
The characters' future is up in the air, but the way Multiverse of Madness sets up Earth-838 leaves the door open for Krasinski to return in 616. Having such a fleshed-out alternate universe for the Illuminati will allow them to bring him back without fans wondering if that is the Reed we saw get air-ballooned. This is one of the biggest questions in the superhero world right now. Who will direct Marvel's First Family? And who will play the parts?
The Illuminati in the MCU was delivered in perfect cameo fashion, as a look at what the most advanced version of Avengers can be. A mix of familiar faces and new heroes brings all fans together, without distracting too much from the plot. They were not only used to show just how strong The Scarlet Witch is but also as a soft introduction to some of the biggest IPs the genre has on the table.