Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness broke down some major barriers within the Marvel Cinematic Universe beyond just opening the gateway to alternate realities. The story moved from focusing on the MCU's classic Avengers team to introducing the Illuminati - a new group of powerful beings from all across the Multiverse that oversees all reality.
Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
While they were only on-screen for a few minutes, the Illuminati made their mark on the MCU by making fans reevaluate what's possible within the Marvel Studios blanket. Even with a familiar face in Hayley Atwell's Captain Carter, who moved to the live-action story after What If...?, the MCU took the excitement a step further by including John Krasinski's Reed Richards and Anson Mount's Black Bolt to make the group that much more formidable.
Outside the two teams existing in different universes, the Avengers and the Illuminati serve their own unique purposes both in the comics and on the big screen in the MCU. Following Doctor Strange 2's debut, the movie's head writer went into more detail on those differences as the Illuminati finally make their presence felt within the larger universe.
The Avengers vs. The Illuminati
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness head writer Michael Waldron explained how the MCU's Avengers and Illuminati differ after the Illuminati's introduction in the latest Marvel movie.
Speaking with Inverse, Waldron noted how the Illuminati is in place to "make the hard decisions" that the Avengers can't make, which is largely why they're so secretive and why "they operate in the shadows:"
“The Avengers have a line they wouldn’t cross. The Illuminati is there to do the things the Avengers can’t. To make the hard decisions. That’s why they operate in the shadows and hope they never have to meet. They’re willing to play in the gray.”
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Waldron addressed the question of the empty chair on the Illuminati's dais, which he admitted was "an unanswerable question:"
"That’s also an unanswerable question, but we talked about that a lot, though. Maybe that was just a mistake. Maybe the set [decorator] guy had one too many chairs."
He also teased that it could be a combination of his team knowing the answer and it being something a little more open-ended that will come in the future.
Speaking with Vanity Fair, Waldron looked at Earth-838's Memory Lane and how it works in a universe that has the Illuminati. Describing this universe as "more of a police state" and "more Orwellian than our universe," a place like Memory Lane could spell trouble in a world where a group like the Illuminati can see every memory somebody has and whether they've done anything wrong:
Vanity Fair: "Fortunately they ended up in a dimension that happened to have a futuristic memory-reading company where they could see each other’s pasts."
Waldron: "That’s how it goes sometimes! I don’t think it’s in there, but I wrote a lot of dialogue for that Memory Lane [scene]. Basically, the fine print there is that they also get to store your memories and if they find any crimes are committed, you can be liable."
Vanity Fair: "That adds a new perspective to Dimension 838."
'Waldron: "838 is a little more of a police state, a little more Orwellian than our universe. Maybe this Memory Lane thing isn’t as innocent as it seems. I don’t know how much of that translates on the screen, but wait for the novelization. I’ll go deep into that."
The head writer also teased how this version of the Illuminati could be the only one that exists in any universe within the MCU. When asked if they were in the prime 616-dimension, he teased that it's still a mystery for the time being:
"Not that we know of. I guess they could. Maybe. But not so far as we know. They only exist in 838."
Illuminati Doing What Needs to be Done
Even though the Illuminati met their unfortunate end in Doctor Strange 2, the concept of the team sets up a group that will be vital to the MCU's future. Largely, this has to do with the code that this team uses, which is much more cutthroat than how the Avengers have operated for the past decade.
More than anything else, this group of powerful heroes has the added responsibility of making the difficult decisions that the Avengers can't always make. Earth's Mightiest Heroes are tasked with making sure they save as many people as possible, most times coming through on that promise, whereas the Illuminati have to make calls that even mean the death of their own, à la their Doctor Strange in the latest MCU outing.
It's still unknown if and when Marvel will bring back the Illuminati, but their presence alone makes for a new dynamic that has to be noted as the franchise continues to expand.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.