Hopes for Doctor Strange 3 may have just gone up in flames

Doctor Strange 3 gets a disappointing update that has fans wondering if it's no longer a priority for Marvel Studios.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. /

Marvel Studios have had a couple of up and down years. 2023 saw the studio encounter some of its greatest struggles yet, as two of its theatrical releases underperformed significantly at the box office; but the years before that hadn't brought its Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise its greatest success stories either. There have been plenty of successes, but with the franchise's overexposure via the multiple Disney Plus shows, and the lackluster responses to certain movies and shows, the MCU hasn't felt like the unbeatable titan that it once was. At least not since the first couple of titles of Phase Four.

One film that did experience outstanding levels of success was Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which ended up making over $900 million at the box office. There was an implication in the post-credits scene that there would be a sequel, and after numbers like that, it would be ridiculous for Marve not to return to that series. However, the "not to" part of that sentence are the vibes that fans are getting from Doctor Strange 3 right now, and a recent interview with Stephen Strange himself has only added to the fans' concerns.

Benedict Cumberbatch doesn't know anything about Doctor Strange 3

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch recently spoke to The Playlist about his upcoming Netflix miniseries Eric but he also made some time to speak about his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Doctor Strange. However, he wasn't able to offer much in terms of clarity about when - or even if - the movie is happening (or still happening). When asked if the film will carry on from the events of Multiverse of Madness, he simply exclaimed "Who knows!".

The conversation then pivoted to the other movie we might see Doctor Strange appear in: Avengers 5 (formerly titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty), but the actor was as in the dark about the former Sorcerer Supreme's return as we all are, commenting:

"We will see. We will find out... I’m not sure where he’s been and what he’s been up to and who with, but yeah, I know as little as you."

Benedict Cumberbatch

While Marvel Studios is known for its secrecy, the lack of updates surrounding Doctor Strange 3 and the title character's return to the MCU are a bit disheartening for fans considering it's been two years since the film came out. The post-credits scene of that movie saw Charlize Theron make her MCU debut as Clea (one of Stephen Strange's love interests and most-trusted allies in the comics) as the character pulled him back into the multiverse to stop an incursion that he seemingly caused.

With this being the Multiverse era, it was looking like Doctor Strange would have a bigger role in the franchise, but again, it's been two years since he appeared, and that has understandably left fans worried about the lack of clarity surrounding his return.

Is Doctor Strange 3 going to be reimagined?

The ending of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness told us all that the character would return and there is no doubt about it that he will at some point. Marvel isn't one for dropping characters or storylines and Stephen Strange's adventures have proven to be a lucrative investment for them.

The thing that makes fans nervous, however, is the studio's recent strategy shift, which has seen them adopt a less-is-more strategy going forward. With less releases than initially planned for Phases Five and Six could that mean that Doctor Strange 3 could be taken off the calendar altogether? Could Strange's story instead be incorporated into Avengers 5 or Avengers: Secret Wars? That might explain why there haven't been any updates about it two years after its predecessor arrived in movie theaters.

(L-R): Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer, Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. /

Logically, Marvel might just go back to the drawing board to rework how and when they want a third Doctor Strange movie to fit into the MCU. The second movie was a huge box office success, nearing the $1 billion mark and grossing over $300 million more than its predecessor, so there is definitely scope for another one. However, the movie received incredibly mixed reviews and it was one of the first examples of how Phase Four wasn't delivering satisfying payoffs.

With that in mind, the "less is more" era could actually be a good thing, allowing Marvel to take a bit of time with Doctor Strange 3. Perhaps its story doesn't need to take place prior to the next Avengers movie? Maybe it could come out between the two? Or heck, maybe it could still come out in whatever its originally planned slot (and form) was.

With Marvel you just never know what's going on, and with the studio evolving more quickly now to make up for a few lackluster outings, that shift may or may not impact Doctor Strange 3. We'll have to wait and see. Regardless of what happens, Doctor Strange will return; the only question is: When?

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