How Doctor Strange 2's Multiverse Differs From Rick and Morty and Loki

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron was clearly hired for a specific talent: he's one of the most successful TV writers working today when it comes to stories of the multiverse and alternate realities. Waldron is a writer for Rick and Morty, and also helped Marvel Studios literally break the multiverse open in the Loki series. However, it's safe to say that both the irreverent Rick and Morty and carefully orchestrated Loki weren't playing with as many stakes as Doctor Strange 2's Phase Zero Podcast got a chance to speak to Michael Waldron and ask about the challenge of trying to convey the concept of the multiverse and alternate realities to a mass audience of moviegoers – and not have it all sound ridiculous. As Waldron explains, it was indeed quite a challenge: 

"You don't want to overwhelm the audience. It can easily buckle under all of that," Waldron explained. "In addition to the multiverse, this is a continuation of Wanda's story. It's a continuation of Steven's story. It's not a show like Loki, where we had time to really live in these moments and explain them and slow play our explanation of all this stuff. We had to move fast. It's about keeping it focused on the character, and trying to find the heart of it."

Waldron may be hitting the nail on the head there: there's a reason that Rick and Morty – for all its considerable popularity – is a show with a niche audience. The sci-fi hijinks of Rick Sanchez and his infinite universes of variants allow Waldron and co. to go to any and all lengths of imagination – places no studio tentpole picture would ever go. Loki didn't so much explore the multiverse as introduce it as an expositional concept – especially in the finale, which one would fairly describe as a "talkie." Even with that limited introduction, Loki sparked months of Marvel fan chat thread theories – knots of continuity questions (and Avengers: Endgame comparisons) that have not yet been fully unraveled. 

That's all to say: keeping things simple in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a prudent idea. And according to Michael Waldron, when it came to alternate realities in the film, 'quality over quantity was definitely the approach: 

"The route that we took, I thought that the most interesting version of a multiverse story would actually be to fully invest in the reality of one alternate universe – go there, really feel like it was a real place, with real stakes and real characters and histories and everything," Waldron continued. "As opposed to what we did on Rick and Morty, which is more 'you hop from universe to universe', and it feels a little more fast-paced and comedic. We wanted to feel like the multiverse and the MCU, these are real places. That was what we tried to render on screen."

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

Doctor Strange 2 invested the majority of its alt-universe exploration in Earth-838, a reality where a very different set of Marvel heroes arose and united, forming The Illuminati to protect their reality and the multiverse from threat. A lot of fans are wondering if Waldron's focus wasn't put on that particular reality for good reason: because now that Scarlet Witch killed the heroes of Earth-838, their friends and families could come looking for payback in a Secret Wars event. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now in theaters. Watch our full interview with Michael Waldron above!