Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has introduced the newest superhero team in town: the Illuminati. They're a shadowy group of heroes working behind the scenes – and while some of those faces are certainly familiar, they're definitely not as we know them from the MCU, which means things can get pretty confusing in the sorcerer's sequel.
We've broken down the Illuminati team below, explaining exactly who each member of the team is, so you'll be up to speed on who's who in no time. You'll also find the lowdown on where you've seen them before and what universe they're from, and some quotes from the film's writer Michael Waldron, too. So, scroll on for all things Illuminati… but be warned, the following contains major spoilers! Turn back now if you haven't seen the film yet – though, now that the sequel is streaming on Disney Plus, it's easier than ever to catch-up.
Who are the Illuminati?
In Doctor Strange 2, we meet the Illuminati in the multiverse – in the universe designated 838, to be exact. This secret society is comprised of six members: Karl Mordo, Professor X, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Captain Carter, and Captain Marvel. Each member represents a different group of superheroes, and they meet regularly with the aim of exchanging information to prevent wars and conflicts across the multiverse, especially incursions, where two multiverses collide. Universe 838's Doctor Strange was also a member, but he was soon corrupted by the Darkhold, similar to Scarlet Witch in the film, and Strange was killed by Black Bolt.
You might notice an unfilled seat, and writer Michael Waldron has (sort of) explained what's going on there. "That's also an unanswerable question, but we talked about that a lot, though," Waldron told The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab). "Maybe that was just a mistake. Maybe the set [decorator] guy had one too many chairs. [Laughs]"
Played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, this is an alternate version of the character we know from the first Doctor Strange movie. The original version of Mordo (from the main Marvel universe designated 616) is a former Master of the Mystic Arts and a former ally of Doctor Strange – he now hunts down other sorcerers to strip them of their powers and is an enemy of Strange's. However, in this universe, he is now the Sorcerer Supreme after Strange's execution. He's last seen in Doctor Strange 2 in handcuffs, having been defeated in a fight against Strange.
Patrick Stewart reprises his X-Men role of Charles Xavier, AKA Professor X, in Doctor Strange 2. Well, to be specific, he's not actually the same version from the X-Men movies. This version of Professor X – who, in the comics, is leader of the X-Men – seems to be from X-Men: The Animated Series. In the Saturday morning TV show, Xavier has the same yellow floating wheelchair. Plus, in Doctor Strange 2, upon his arrival, we hear a version of the show's theme song.
"He uses a line from Days of Future Past that he says to Stephen. But also, we drew from the classic cartoon version of that character," Waldron explained in a recent chat with Variety (opens in new tab). "He's a variant who has qualities of a bunch of different versions of those guys from across the multiverse."
Professor X represents mutants in the Illuminati. Indeed, he's one of the most powerful mutants in the world and he is telepathic. This is the first time the character has appeared in the MCU, and perhaps the last, as he's killed by Wanda. He also marks the first main mutant we've seen in a non-Fox X-Men movie.
Leader of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards (AKA Mr. Fantastic) is played by John Krasinski in the movie. Representing the scientific part of the superhero community, Mr. Fantastic has a mastery of mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering, chemistry, all levels of physics, and human and alien biology.
Mr. Fantastic has appeared in three Fantastic Four movies, played by Ioan Gruffudd in the 2005 release and its sequel, and Miles Teller in the 2015 reboot. Krasinski was a popular fan-casting for the MCU version of Fantastic Four, which has been confirmed on the way, and this is his first appearance in the MCU. Whether Krasinski will reprise the role remains to be seen – they could cast someone else as this version is simply a multiversal variant.
Black Bolt is the King of the Inhumans and he's played by Anson Mount in Doctor Strange 2. The mostly mute hero's power is in his voice – if he speaks, it triggers a shockwave powerful enough to destroy a city. Therefore, he usually remains silent and tends to communicate through sign language.
The character previously appeared in the TV series Inhumans, played there by Mount as well. However, this version is different to the one we've seen on the small screen, wearing a much more comic book-accurate costume. It's also the first time the Inhumans has been referenced in any other Marvel media – the show was not well-received upon its release by critics or fans, and only lasted one season despite Marvel once intending Inhumans to be a movie.
Captain Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, is an alternate universe version of Peggy Carter, the MI6 agent, ally of Steve Rogers, and founder of SHIELD. Atwell played the normal Peggy in the first Captain America movie, reprised the role in Winter Soldier, but under heavy prosthetics, then cameoed in Avengers: Endgame, and had a spin-off series, Agent Carter.
However, the actor also voiced an alternate version of Peggy in the animated Disney Plus series What If…?, in which Peggy is the one who receives the super-soldier serum, not Steve. With her superpowers, she's called Captain Carter and is equipped with a vibranium shield with the Union Jack flag on the front. The version seen in Doctor Strange 2 is cut in half, Darth Maul style, by her own shield.
The Illuminati version of Captain Marvel is Maria Rambeau, played by Lashana Lynch, rather than Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson in the MCU). Maria's version of Captain Marvel is just as powerful as Carol's, although we don't know how she came to take on the mantel in this universe.
Lynch previously played Maria in the first Captain Marvel movie, though she was a non-powered fighter pilot. In the Disney Plus series WandaVision, we learn that Maria from the main Marvel timeline helps form the intergalactic defense team SWORD, serving as its Director until dying of cancer. Her daughter Monica Rambeau, played by Teyonah Parris, has a leading role in WandaVision and will next appear in the Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels.
Want more on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Then check out our guides to:
- Doctor Strange 2 ending explained
- Doctor Strange 2 post-credits scenes explained
- The Illuminati in Doctor Strange 2, listed and explained
- Our guide to Marvel Phase 4
- The rumored Doctor Strange cameos that never came true
- All the Doctor Strange 2 Easter eggs listed
- What does 616 in Doctor Strange 2 mean?
- Where does Doctor Strange 2 fit on the Marvel timeline?
- Who is Charlize Theron in Doctor Strange 2?
- The TV history of the Darkhold, explained
- Our full WandaVision recap
- Why Wanda isn't looking for Vision in Doctor Strange 2, explained
- The Marvel movies and shows to watch before Doctor Strange 2
- When is Doctor Strange 2 on Disney Plus?
- How to watch the Marvel movies in order
- Is Doctor Strange 2 too scary for children?