Marvel Studios is moving full speed ahead with the era of multiverse storytelling, especially with big-screen efforts like Spider-Man: No Coming Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This new venture opens the door for countless versions of beloved MCU characters to weave their way into the encompassing narrative, though they sometimes have notable differences and inconsistencies.
This inconsistency was first noted in the last Spider Man film, 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 film, Benedict Cumberbatch took on the responsibility of playing four different variations of Stephen Strange in his solo sequel; Elizabeth Olsen has also portrayed more than one version of Wanda Maximoff.
So, as the multiverse becomes increasingly important in the ever-expanding future of the MCU, viewers are no doubt curious as to why some variants seem so similar and others don’t. Recently, one of Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 producers dig into this question and gave the best possible explanation on the subject at hand.
Why Some MCU Variants (But Not All) Are Played By Multiple Actors
Speaking to Chris Hewitt on Empire Spoiler Special podcast, Marvel producer Richie Palmer looked at the inconsistencies between different character variants within the MCU.
Palmer was asked if there had been any talk of having a Doctor Strange who didn’t look like Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Chris Hewitt: “A lot of people say you have three different Peter Parkers in No coming home, and they are all different. And then you have every Doctor Strange, every Wanda that we see [in Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness], looks like the actor who plays them in the MCU. Were there any discussions at some point to resolve this by maybe having a Strange look different from Benedict?”
Palmer admitted that these discussions go in several ways, noting that there are Lokis who look different in the Loki Disney+ show with all three Spider-Men. For Loki, Palmer explained that he looked different from his variants due to being such a chaotic being, meaning it makes sense to have unique appearances for all of the different versions of the God of Life. malice:
“Yeah and no. Not really. You know, I think it’s just the difference between…Because Loki too, there’s different actors…Lokis are different, Spider-Men are different. We have a story reasons why michael [Waldron] and I can talk for an hour about why that makes sense for characters like Loki, who is by nature a chaotic being. It’s always been Michael’s thing, Loki is pure chaos, so it makes sense to him, in the grand reckoning of the multiverse, on the multiversal spectrum, he would be someone who looks like different people.”
He also shared his thoughts on why the three versions of Spider-Man are different from each other, tying them back to the turn-of-the-century Spider-Verse comics:
“If you go to the Spider-Verse comics, or even, what was it like in the early 2000s… There was the beginning of the idea of these other Spider figures in our universe or the multiverse, and it was ‘It’s not always Peters, it wasn’t always the people who looked like Peters. I don’t know, I watched the comic and I actually think that makes sense for me as a comic book fan why the Peters might look any different.
For Doctor Strange 2, Palmer and the team wanted to make sure that main actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen had the opportunity to shine with each new role, rather than having other people play Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch. As for other characters getting this 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, not to mention superhero movies, and we weren’t I will say if we go to other universes like Paint Universe I think as you move away from… should we say the sacred timeline 616 our base universe of the MCU I think there’s room that even the most faithful characters like a Steve Rogers might not look like Chris Evans I think there’s room as you you’re taking away from the main timeline, from the But, I think it depends on the character, it depends on the actor, it depends, frankly, on the medium we’re telling the story in. So all of the above, but I love this question.
The MCU Multiverse Takes a Heavy Toll
Now that Marvel Studios has access to so many incredible characters, both from past releases and for the future of the MCU, there could certainly be instances 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 one day, all of which will be different from the Earth-616 versions that will come later.
For Doctor Strange 2‘s Variants, it became apparent that Marvel wanted to give Cumberbatch and Olsen the best opportunity to show off their acting skills with multiple versions of their characters, which became a highlight of the film. Seeing Doctor Strange fight Sinister Strange and the Scarlet Witch kneeling before another Wanda Maximoff made for some poignant moments, and it’s largely thanks to the actors behind those iconic roles.
Even with some inconsistency when it comes to how different versions of Marvel’s characters look, the studio seems to have a good idea of when to use which actor or role for each specific film. It’s still unclear when this will return to 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 streaming now on Disney+ and available to purchase digitally and via Blu-ray.