Spoilers for Doctor Strange and Captain America: Civil War follow.
When Captain America: Civil War concluded with James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine incapacitated — practically paralyzed from the waist down — we expected Rhodes to be out of commission for some time, but that may not be the case after all. Some fans had theorized that James Rhodes would be sidelined until Phase 4, or retired altogether, but a new hint to his future has been revealed during Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange featured a wide variety of magical and mystical elements, as well as dropping several easter eggs towards the future events of the MCU. One easter egg about James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine was revealed in a very subtle conversation between Stephen Strange and Billy.
'Doctor Strange' Easter Egg Hints At James Rhodes Seeking Help
While on a drive, Stephen Strange begins having a conversation with Billy, who is assumed to be Strange's attending physician, since Billy can be heard suggesting potential cases for Strange to take on next after successfully removing a bullet from a patient's head.
As a world-renowned neurosurgeon, Stephen Strange is sought out by many for near-impossible surgeries. Billy presenting several potential cases suggests one of great importance to the MCU: a 35-year old Air Force Pilot who suffered severe spinal injury in experimental exosuit.
James Rhodes Is Looking For A Surgeon To Help Him?
One could argue that Rhodes seeking treatment doesn't mean he'll find a surgeon capable of fixing him, but Stephen Strange's response to the suggestion of Rhodes being his next patient is the piece of information we need to confirm Rhodes likely making a full recovery.
When Billy suggests Rhodes as a patient, Strange responds by noting how 50 other surgeons are capable of helping him, meaning that Strange isn't the only surgeon who could help. Now there aren't many surgeons capable of operating on Rhodes, but there are some. And considering that Tony Stark, the man with a billion dollars, is probably funding Rhodes's path to recovery — Stark was last seen by Rhodes's side during the conclusion of Captain America: Civil War — it's likely that Rhodes and Stark will find someone capable of performing the surgery to give Rhodes the use of his legs back again.
That being said, it doesn't mean Rhodes will be in fighting shape soon thereafter, but Rhodes is almost guaranteed to be on his way to recovery in the near future.
A Surgeon Might Not Be The Solution Either
Tony Stark probably hasn't limited his options to surgery in terms of ways to help Rhodes. Strange's rejection of Rhodes's case could force Stark to resort to unconventional methods in helping James Rhodes. And there's a particular comic event which saw a decommissioned James Rhodes brought back on to the field of battle through the use of an unconventional technology: Cyborg War Machine.
In Marvel Comics, when James Rhodes was severely injured in a test flight for the Air Force, he was left without all four limbs and with severe burns all over his body. Rhodes was barely alive when the Air Force recovered him from the wreckage of the plane, but they kept him alive, per Tony Stark's request. Once Rhodes was in Stark's custody, Stark applied the Bleeding Edge technology to Rhodes' body, giving him cybernetic prostheses to rejuvenate Rhodes' damaged body.
The Bleeding Edge formed additional technological components that make Rhodes that much deadlier. The result gave Rhodes his life back, but the procedure ultimately turned Rhodes into a cyborg, thus birthing Cyborg War Machine into existence.
The James Rhodes of the MCU isn't injured to the degree of his comic-book counterpart, but he is in a similar position. Both versions were completely sidelined from superhero fights, as well being aided by Tony Stark in their recovery. Considering that Tony Stark and James Rhodes are both eagerly seeking out solutions to Rhodes's inability to walk, they may not come across any conventional manner of helping him. Perhaps the MCU's Tony Stark will develop the infamous Bleeding Edge technology to help Rhodes.
We've Seen A Hint Of Bleeding Edge Already
Aside from the existence of the Bleeding Edge technology in the comics, early Captain America: Civil War rumors indicated that Tony Stark would develop the Bleeding Edge technology at some point in the film, based on the compact Iron-glove Stark had compressed into his watch — but those claims turned out to be false. However, considering that the compressed Iron-glove is one step away from the Bleeding Edge technology being developed, now would be the ideal time for the Bleeding Edge tech in the MCU.
Not only would it put James Rhodes back on his feet, but he could very well receive additional cybernetic components, similar to his comic-book counterpart in Cyborg War Machine. If so, Rhodes would officially become a superhuman; he would no longer have to rely on the War Machine suit to enter into battle, and he would have one of the most powerful pieces of technology in the Marvel Universe at his disposal.
It would be cool to see the Bleeding Edge technology developed for the MCU, as well as being the item which helps James Rhodes recover, but that's not the only way Rhodes could recover from his setback. A surgeon could perform the necessary operation on James Rhodes to give him the use of his legs back (perhaps even Doctor Strange, after a change of heart). Rhodes would likely recover after that point.
When Will James Rhodes Reappear?
Rhodes's inevitable recovery could come at any point. A plausible place for him to resurface might be in Spider-Man: Homecoming, alongside Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). RDJ has been confirmed for a role in Spider-Man: Homecoming but the details surrounding Stark's involvement have been kept quiet. No one knows what Stark is up to, but there was also word that Spider-Man: Homecoming filmed several scenes at the location of the Avengers base from Captain America: Civil War, which means he could be developing the Bleeding Edge tech at the Avengers facility in his free time.
For now, we'll have to wait until James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is confirmed to appear in a future Marvel movie. Most expect Rhodes to return in Avengers: Infinity War, regardless of whether or not he's recovered from his Civil War injuries, but that's still undetermined. What isn't undetermined, with the Doctor Strange easter egg, is James Rhodes making a full recovery. He's going to recover from his injuries and when he does, Rhodes is going to return to the ongoing battles waged within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.