Are the Marvel Illuminati good guys?

Image via Marvel Studios

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Marvel is home to a number of different characters and teams, some of which are yet to be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are other characters and groups that did make their introduction recently in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, like America Chavez and the Illuminati. With the introduction of Marvel’s Illuminati comes the question of their motivations, are the Illuminati good or bad? 

As we delve into their motivations, spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be discussed. Turn back if you haven’t yet seen the film. 

Are the Illuminati good?

Image via Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was directed by Sam Raimi and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange, Benedict Wong as Wong, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. The film promised to have a few cameos, teasing Professor Charles Xavier as played by Sir Patrick Stewart in the X-Men films. The film delivered on those cameos in the scene with the Illuminati’s roster providing enough cameos to satiate any Marvel fan. 

The trailers and promos for the film did let us know some of the Illuminati’s roster with Professor Xavier, Captain Carter, as played by Haley Atwell, and Karl Mordo making up the Illuminati’s ranks. The rest of the Illuminati was made up of Captain Marvel, who was Maria Rambeau in this universe, as played by Lashana Lynch; Black Bolt, who was played by Anson Mount, reprising his role from the 2017 series, Inhumans, and, finally, Reed Richards, who is Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four, played by an alum of The Office, John Krasinski. 

Image via Marvel Studios

The Illuminati in the comic books were an impartial force, formed to make the hard decisions to back up the greater good. Unfortunately, sometimes making decisions with a bunch of smart superheroes does not always lead to the best outcome, like the time the Illuminati sent the Hulk out to space in Planet Hulk, banishing him from the Earth. So the Illuminati in the comics are not always morally good like the Avengers are usually perceived to be, but rather planning and scheming in more of an ambiguous gray area. 

The Illuminati’s original formation in the comic books consisted of Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Professor Xavier, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange. They were created by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven and first appeared in New Avengers #7 in 2005. The point of the heroes forming this group was not to fight against gigantic Earth-threatening events but rather to prevent them. The team would meet in secret and work behind the scenes to stop any such calamitous events from taking place. Each hero was also chosen from different groups in the Marvel Universe, like The Avengers, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. 

Again, the group does consist of some of the smartest minds of the Marvel Universe so when they disagreed there would be bureaucracy when a decision would be made, or members would just leave the team, usually angry and it would usually be Namor who left. But still, the Illuminati’s intentions were always influenced by the greater good, as they were determined to stop any event that might end Earth before there were any casualties. Of course, this sometimes led to casualties created by the group, like when Hulk’s spaceship blew up in Planet Hulk, killing his wife, Caiera. There are also other versions of the team that had more villainous motivations, like the Illuminati led by The Hood in 2015. 

doctor strange 2
Image via Marvel Studios/Disney

In the film, the Illuminati’s situation is quite similar to their comic book counterparts, even though their lineup and reason for acting might be a little different. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the Illuminati are formed because of their universe’s Doctor Strange. Their Doctor Strange thought they could fight Thanos by himself, and consulted the Darkhold to do so. Unfortunately, he was not successful and managed to cause an incursion which is the destruction and the combination of two separate universes within the multiverse. 

After defeating Thanos together with the other heroes, the Illuminati sentenced Doctor Strange to death, and Black Bolt used his super hypersonic voice to destroy him. Not imprisoning Strange and instead of killing him, after he seemingly redeemed himself by helping to defeat Thanos, seemed like overkill, but that did not necessarily mean that the group was evil. However, if they had kept that version of Strange imprisoned instead, an argument of whether or not the MCU version of the Illuminati were good would be much clearer.

However, when Doctor Strange and America Chavez ventured to the Sanctum Sanctorum of this universe to find the Sorcerer Supreme, who in this universe was Karl Mordo, instead of helping Strange and Chavez to find the Book of Vishanti and defeat Wanda, the Illuminati imprisoned them both. The Illuminati imprisoned them because they believed that all Stephen Stranges of every universe were a threat to the multiverse.

Now whether the Illuminati’s contention was right or not, blindly imprisoning and/or attempting to execute individuals based on what other versions of themselves did, seems like the evil thing to do. But again, their actions are somewhat morally ambiguous because if Strange were to be evil, they would be doing everyone a favor by at least imprisoning him, but the murder may have pushed it too far. However, just because they are not good, it does not make them evil.

scarlet witch doctor strange
Image via Marvel Studios

The heroes were still heroes, and individually probably did a lot of good, including defeating Thanos. Unfortunately, it became a moot point when the Scarlet Witch slaughtered every member of the Illuminati, one at a time. Ultimately, it might have been different if the Illuminati had killed Doctor Strange and America Chavez on the spot. But they didn’t and chose to imprison them, so while they do some morally ambiguous things based on some fairly prejudiced beliefs about people named Stephen Strange, they seemed to be ultimately good. 

With the characters dying in the film and with most of them not even in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s main universe yet, it is unlikely that we will see another version of the Illuminati in the future, but their fight against Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness won’t be forgotten anytime soon. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters now.