Warning: the article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Although it’s not heavily explored in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the idea of multiple universes, in general, centers around alternative histories where one seemingly innocuous change completely alters that reality in a branched-off timeline, in what is known as the butterfly effect.
This idea has been explored in other Marvel properties, such as the Disney Plus shows What If…? and Loki. However, something Multiverse of Madness does explore is an alternate version of Earth, it just doesn’t get into the specifics of how it was created. Now, a new fan theory is reading between the lines about just what the singular event was that may have created the branched-off timeline.
Warning: spoilers to follow for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Much of the film takes place in an alternative dimension called Earth-838, which has quite a few differences from our familiar Earth-616. For instance, an Ultron robotics system is in place, but it is benevolent rather than evil. Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is also enjoying life as a suburban mom rather than being a superhero with a haunted past. There’s a through-line between these two aspects of Earth-838: the Mind Stone.
The fan theory in question, posted by the Reddit user u/ObtuseOblong, on the r/MarvelStudios subreddit, posits that Earth-838 differs from Earth-616 due to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki never being gifted the Mind Stone from Josh Brolin’s Thanos. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe main storyline, Loki uses Thanos’ Scepter, containing the Mind Stone, to lead the Chitauri Invasion during the events of 2012’s The Avengers.
That same Mind Stone is later used to create Ultron, who becomes evil. The stone is also used by Hydra to experiment on Wanda, granting her superpowers in the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It only makes too much sense that if the Mind Stone never arrived on Earth, Ultron may have been created anyway, but taking a more benevolent form. And Wanda would have never been given the burden and gift that is her Scarlet Witch superpowers, leading to her living an ordinary life in the suburbs.
Decide for yourself by checking out Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in theaters and see if you can devise a fan theory that fills in the blanks of just what went into Earth-838’s creation.