Is the Illuminati Forming in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

As more and more characters join the Marvel Cinematic Universe the storytelling opportunities grows exponentially. Civil War was a perfect illustration of this; the introduction of Ant-Man and Spider-Man into the broader MCU afforded character interactions that were unlike anything we’d seen in the MCU up to that point. Doctor Strange—which hits theaters in a few short weeksadds another character to the mix, the titular Sorcerer Supreme. While his solo debut is a self-contained affair, that doesn’t mean we can’t start speculating about his place in the MCU as a whole. Could it be as part of a secretive cabal from the comics, the Illuminati? Kevin Feige was asked that very question at a press conference today for Doctor Strange. His answer? Maybe.

Here’s the exchange:

Q: In the comic book there’s an arc about the Illuminati. Will that be making a presence in any of the future films in the MCU?

Benedict Cunberbatch: Kevin Feige?…

(Crowd laughs)

Cumberbatch: He is the real Sorcerer Supreme so I would really pass that question over to him, it’s not mine to answer.

Kevin Feige: Well, what’s fun about the Illuminati is that there are certain characters interacting with other certain characters, so I don’t know about that particular storyline, but certainly some of those characters you will see on screen in the next Avengers.


Let’s break this down. First, some context for non-comics readers. The Illuminati is a super-secret organization of the very most powerful persons in the Marvel universe. They got together after the Kree-Skrull War with the goal of basically running the world behind the scenes, in the hope that it would make Earth less susceptible to attack. It was founded by Tony Stark and Black Panther, although T’Challa ultimately decided not to participate. Other members included Doctor Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, Professor Xavier, and the Inhuman King Black Bolt.

Now let’s think about how the Illuminati could work in the MCU. Looking at the characters already in play, we have Stark, Panther, and Strange. Sure, T’Challa ended up sitting the Illuminati out in the comics, but that’s an easy change to make. Black Bolt will also be making his way to the MCU at some point in Phase 4, when the long in development Inhumans movie finally makes its way to screens. So it’s possible that these guys could come together in some form.

Now let’s look at all the obstacles to doing the Illuminati, because there are kind of a lot of them. First off, Marvel Studios doesn’t have the rights to half of the characters that comprise the group: Mr. Fantastic, Namor, and Professor X. Easy fix, you might say. Just use other characters from the MCU to fill out the ranks of the Illuminati. You could do that, but at that point you’ve basically just got another remix of the Avengers, since all the superhero characters in the MCU ultimately end up as one of them. One of the big points of the Illuminati in the comics was that it was a way to keep all of the different supergroups in the world communicating with one another. In the MCU, there’s only one supergroup: the Avengers. Post-Civil War they’re split in half, but that’s obviously only going to last as long as Infinity War and then they’ll all be together again.

Another big problem: Tony Stark. His motivations in the cinematic Civil War seem to me to prevent him from being motivated to start a group like the Illuminati. The whole point of the Accords—which he is currently still a signatory of—was bringing some external accountability and oversight to the actions of the world’s enhanced people. For him to then turn around and say “Hey let’s form a super secret super-cabal and run the world from the shadows,” wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Then again, Steve Rogers has really been the only character whose motivations have remained consistent from one movie to the next in the MCU, so that ultimately might not be a problem.

At the end of the day though, Kevin Feige didn’t actually say the Illuminati was gonna happen in the MCU. That quote just says that some of the characters will appear onscreen together, which depending on how you feel about Black Panther’s involvement with the group has actually already happened in Civil War. So I guess this article could’ve been a lot shorter. My bad.

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