What Does Doctor Strange 2's New Date Mean for Thor: Love and Thunder?

If there is one drawback to the Swiss watch-like precision of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's that each film (and now, with Disney+, the TV shows, too) depends on those that came before it to set the stage. Given the level of expertise with which Kevin Feige has handled the situations up to this point, that seems like more of a benefit than anything else, forcing fans to watch everything in case they "miss" something. But with the novel coronavirus pandemic throwing release dates and production timelines into chaos, and the recent departure of Scott Derrickson at the helm of the Doctor Strange sequel, one has to wonder: will all of this mess with the other films (and TV shows') timelines?

Following Derrickson's departure and the news that Spider-Man filmmaker Sam Raimi will step in to complete Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, production (and release) of Doctor Strange 2 will now take place after Taikia Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder. The problem? Loki's upcoming Disney+ series was intended to lead into the events of Multiverse of Madness, a film that also has ties to WandaVision since Scarlet Witch will appear in both. With Loki and Doctor Strange happening before Thor: Love and Thunder, it seemingly gave the filmmakers a clear path to bringing Loki back to his brother's side in the fourth Thor, but now that pathway is significantly changed.

There are a lot of variables here: first of all, Loki could just lead directly into Thor: Love and Thunder, or the elements planned to be planted in Doctor Strange could be inserted into WandaVision so that everything times out more or less right. There have been persistent rumors that Loki would appear in other forms during Love and Thunder, with the "Kid Loki" who recently had a short-lived but well-reviewed comic book series at the top of the list. If necessary, they could presumably just use that version of Loki with a handwave explanation, ignoring Hiddleston's character altogether. Or, speaking of inserting a handwave explanation in to Thor: Love and Thunder, they could allow for things to have happened offscreen, and just exposit what should have happened in Doctor Strange. Given the time- and universe-bending nature of the Doctor Strange films, it might even be fun to see them explain it away with a line and then, after Thor has already happened, time-travel means fans get to see Loki's story play out just as originally intended.

There are a bunch of possible moves on this particular chess board, although it is hard to know which one Marvel will go for, because so little is known about the next phase of Marvel movies. With Endgame behind us, very few things are predictable and reliable, so any assumption we might make about the nature of Hiddleston's (or Loki's ) role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or Thor: Love and Thunder would be just that: an assumption.

Thor: Love and Thunder will see Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster lifting Mjolnir to become Thor. The film was expected to begin production in August 2020, though the coronavirus pandemic will likely have an effect on those plans. The film is scheduled to open in theaters on February 11, 2022.

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