Marvel Studios is moving full-speed ahead with the Multiverse era of storytelling, particularly with big-screen efforts like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This new venture opens the door for countless versions of beloved MCU characters to make their way into the encompassing narrative, though they sometimes come with some noticeable differences and inconsistencies.
That inconsistency was first seen in the last Spider-Man movie, which featured three versions of the web-slinger played by different actors (Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire). But then, in the very next movie, Benedict Cumberbatch took on the responsibility of playing four different Stephen Strange Variants in his solo sequel; Elizabeth Olsen portrayed more than one version of Wanda Maximoff, as well.
So, as the Multiverse becomes more prominent in the MCU's ever-expanding future, viewers are undoubtedly curious about why some Variants look so similar and others don't. Recently, one of the producers from Marvel Studios' Phase 4 took a deep dive into that question and gave the best explanation he could on the matter at hand.
Why Some MCU Variants (But Not All) Are Played By Multiple Actors
Speaking to Chris Hewitt on Empire's Spoiler Special podcast, Marvel producer Richie Palmer examined the inconsistencies between different Variants of characters within the MCU.
Palmer was asked whether there were any discussions about having a Doctor Strange that didn't look like Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Chris Hewitt: "A lot of people have been saying this, that you have three different Peter Parkers in No Way Home, and they all look different. And then you have every Doctor Strange, every Wanda we see [in Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness], looks like the actor who plays them in the MCU. Was there discussion at any point about addressing that by maybe having a Strange who looked different from Benedict?"
Palmer admitted that those discussions went a few ways, noting how there are Lokis that look different in the Loki Disney+ show along with the three Spider-Men. For Loki, Palmer explained that he looks different from his Variants due to being such a chaotic being, meaning it makes sense to have unique appearances for all the different versions of the God of Mischief:
"Yes and no. Not in any real way. You know, I think that's just the difference between... Cause Loki as well, there's different actors... The Lokis are different, the Spider-Men are different. We have story reasons that Michael [Waldron] and I can talk about for an hour about why it makes sense for characters like Loki, who is inherently a chaotic being. That was always Michael's thing, Loki is pure chaos, so it makes sense to him, in the grand calculus of the Multiverse, on the Multiversal spectrum, he would be one that looks like different people."
He also shared his thoughts on why the three versions of Spider-Man look different from each other, tying it back to the Spider-Verse comics from the turn of the century:
"If you go to the Spider-Verse comics, or even, what was it in the early 2000s... There was the start of the idea of just these other Spider-figures out in our universe or the Multiverse, and it wasn't always Peters, it wasn't always people who looked like Peters. I don't know, I looked at the comic and I actually think it makes sense to me, as a comics fan, why the Peters might look different."
For Doctor Strange 2, Palmer and the team wanted to make sure that leading actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen got the opportunity to shine with each new take on their roles, rather than having other people play Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch. As for other characters getting that treatment, the producer admitted that it will be looked at on a case-by-case basis:
"I think the truth is, we had a two-hour movie to tell the story, and we have Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen, who are literally two of the great actors of our time, let alone superhero movies, and we weren't going to squander them. I will say, if we went to any more of those universes like Paint Universe, I think as you get further and further away from... should we say the Sacred Timeline? As we get further and further away from 616, our base universe of the MCU, I think there's room for even the most stalwart characters, like a Steve Rogers, to maybe not look like Chris Evans. I think there is room as you move further away from the main timeline, from the main universe. But, I think it depends on the character, it depends on the actor, it depends on, frankly, the medium we're telling the story. So, all of the above, but I like that question."
The MCU Multiverse Exacts a Heavy Toll
Now that Marvel Studios has access to so many incredible characters, both from past outings and for the MCU's future, there could certainly be cases where heroes and villains look different from prominent versions of themselves. Fans could potentially see James McAvoy's Professor X, Chris Evans' Johnny Storm, or even potentially Hugh Jackman's Wolverine someday, all of whom will look different from the Earth-616 versions that will come later on.
For Doctor Strange 2's Variants, it became evident that Marvel wanted to give Cumberbatch and Olsen the best opportunity to show off their acting chops with multiple versions of their characters, which became a highlight of the film. Seeing the Doctor Strange vs. Sinister Strange fight and the Scarlet Witch kneeling in front of another Wanda Maximoff made for some emotional moments, and it was largely thanks to the actors behind those iconic roles.
Even with some inconsistency with regard to how different versions of Marvel characters look, the studio appears to have a good idea of when to use which actor or role for each specific movie. It's still unknown when this will come back into play, but with the Multiverse making its presence felt in Phase 4, fans will be on the lookout for more of this madness.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now streaming on Disney+ and available for purchase digitally and via Blu-ray.