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As teased in trailers, Patrick Stewart reprises Charles Xavier in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. What does that mean for the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe?
This article contains Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness spoilers.
If Patrick Stewart got a quarter for every time his Charles Xavier died onscreen… well, he’d have a dollar at this point. Which is not a lot, but it still feels substantial after Chuck was gleefully introduced in Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness only to then be gleefully shepherded off this mortal coil in a highly Raimi fashion. How else would you describe Professor X having his neck snapped by Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) at her witchiest?
It should be noted that the Xavier who dies at the hands of the Scarlet Witch is not the Xavier of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Or at least not the one in the MCU’s main timeline. This deceased Xavier exists from another plane of existence; he’s a doppelgänger, a variant, a sliding doors alternative to a world that is as different from our beloved Avengers prime timeline as, well, the X-Men cinematic universe is from the even older 20th Century Fox franchise.
Nevertheless, Stewart’s fan-pleasing inclusion raises a lot of questions: Will Stewart be the Xavier of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Could this mean there is some hitherto unseen connection between the Charles Xavier of the X-Men movies and the one we’ve yet to meet in the MCU? And how does this tie into that old cartoon series? We’re here to consider all the variables and possible variants, and to unpack what it means for the MCU going forward.
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First, let’s clear up any confusion there might be over whether we’ve witnessed the ignominious end of the Xavier that Stewart played across seven films under the Fox banner: We have not. For starters, we know how that Xavier dies already. We saw his end several times in various timelines, but the final and most conclusive one occurred in Logan (2017) where in his old age, Xavier developed dementia in the late 2020s and accidentally killed several X-Men (we’re never told which ones) after he lost his grip on reality. This resulted in his favorite student, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, hiding him away south of the border. In the end, this Xavier is killed by a clone of Wolverine (X-24), who has been sent to hunt down Logan’s daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen).
It’s a downbeat, yet strangely beautiful ending where Xavier is buried by a surrogate son who cannot find the words to eulogize his and Xavier’s legacy—Laura does that for both of them at another X-funeral later in the movie.
Meanwhile, the Xavier we meet in Doctor Strange 2 is amusingly introduced to the piano keys of the iconic X-Men: The Animated Series theme song from 1992 as he hovers onto the screen. Additionally, it should be noted he is riding around in a yellow hover chair that looks exactly like the one in the cartoon show while wearing a similar green suit. Some fans might wonder then whether this is supposed to be TAS Xavier of the ‘90s cartoon in his old age.
While it’s technically possible given that cartoon was a lot more comic book-y than the X-Men movies, it’s also probably not the case since he exists in a world where “red means go” at traffic lights, and in which he’s still living on Earth. If you don’t recall the ending of the X-Men animated series, Charles becomes mortally wounded due to an assassination attempt, causing him to be forced to live among the stars with the Shi’Ar Empire due to their more advanced medical technology.
This is simply an Xavier from a corner of the multiverse where the First Avenger was Haylety Atwell’s Peggy Carter (whereas there was indeed a Captain America in the X-Men cartoon) and Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau became Captain Marvel instead of Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers (Danvers also appears with superpowers in the aforementioned cartoon). 
However, this does seem to suggest that both the cartoon series and Fox’s X-Men films canonically exist within the larger multiverse introduced into the MCU by Loki. And as an aside, it might’ve been fun if Charles said to the “good” Wanda trapped in a mental prison that “I’m a friend of your father’s.”
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While we do not know what Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige’s plans are for the future of the MCU, the answer is that, technically, no, this does not confirm or deny Stewart’s involvement in future Marvel projects. While all the Doctor Stranges and Wanda Maximoffs we meet throughout the multiverse in Doctor Strange 2 are played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Olsen, Marvel’s Loki TV series on Disney+ has already established that the same character can be played by different actors in radically different forms: ranging from Sophia Di Martino’s “Sylvie” to Richard E. Grant’s “Classic Loki.” There’s also that little novelty of Spider-Man: No Way Home and its case of multiple Peter Parkers and MJs.
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So while Stewart played an elder statesman Xavier in the timeline where the Illuminati exists to ward off multidimensional threats, any number of actors (or even actresses?) could still wind up playing Professor X in the inevitable version of the character in the MCU’s main timeline. The same also applies to John Krasinski as Reed Richards.
For starters, we now have confirmation (which is unsurprising) that Xavier exists within the multiverse and therefore so do mutants. In theory, this also means that Marvel Studios has established that the MCU’s main timeline features Xavier and mutants, perhaps even an X-Men task force, who’ve just existed off-screen.
However, it’s been an open question for Marvel fans ever since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox exactly how the MCU would incorporate mutants. After all, The Avengers (2012) established superheroes are rockstar gods who’re worshiped by the larger populace, especially if their last name ends in Stark or Rogers. While Captain America: Civil War (2016) established that not everyone is a fan, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame pretty much buried the skeptics given Tony Stark’s globally mourned funeral after the Avengers saved the universe from Thanos.
So why would this world  “hate and fear” mutants, which is essential to the X-Men mythology and their status as an allegory to discuss various forms of bigotry, racism, and othering? Well, what if instead of mutants existing for centuries, a la the comics and Fox films, they were the result of an inter-dimensional event? Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness establishes that “incursions” are existential threats where one universe can subsume another. It’s why the Illuminati was formed in the universe where we meet Stewart’s hover-bound Xavier.
So who’s to say there won’t be a massive incursion event by the end of Phase Four or Phase Five that, in the aftermath, causes mutants to exist in a world where they previously didn’t? Instead of superpowers belonging to godlike beings who operate on high from Mt. Olympus (aka the Avengers compound), they’re suddenly everywhere due to an existential threat that’s left folks as shaken as the “blip” from the Infinity War. Perhaps mutants are viewed as a harbinger of another blip-like nightmare, or as just a menace to “our schools” due to the proliferation of superpowers.
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Suddenly, the X-Men of another universe can exist within the one we’ve been following since 2008, including with a Charlie Xavier who is played by Stewart or otherwise.
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Written by
David Crow |
David Crow is the movies editor at Den of Geek. He has long been proud of his geek credentials. Raised on cinema classics that ranged from…
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