It’s true, not all of us Marvel fans read the comics, and the laxer of us may not have even watched MCU shows prior to the most anticipated Marvel movie of the year, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The second film of the Doctor Strange franchise hit theaters on Mother’s Day weekend, May 6th, and fans are in for a wild ride.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (shortened to M.O.M. if you get what I mean) sees Benedict Cumberbatch as he makes his return as the arrogant, self-absorbed Dr. Stephen Strange hopping one universe after another in an attempt to keep America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez), MCU’s newest teen hero, safe from a very determined enemy–an unhinged, hell-bent, and child-less Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
Marvel fans are presented with a movie that is set apart from the rest of the previous Marvel projects, being laced with the vibrant, erratic, and almost macabre energy that is undeniably a trademark of Sam Raimi’s genius. Raimi took on the sequel to Doctor Strange (2016) and replaced director Scott Derrickson, who, like him, has established his name in the horror film genre, having directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). Raimi is best recognized for his work on the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man movies, although he also directed the Evil Dead trilogy and Drag Me to Hell (2009).
Viewers of last year’s Marvel shows on Disney+ (Loki, WandaVision, and the animated series, What If) are aware that there are an endless number of parallel realities that coexist in cosmic harmony. This was also teased when we saw Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprising their roles as Spider-Man in Tom Holland’s third installment of his in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).
In the visually stunning Doctor Strange 2, Raimi imbues the film with action and gore (IMDb evaluated the violence and gore as “severe,” with 22 incidents!) Right at the very beginning of the film, Strange’s Defender Strange variant dies as he sends the multiversal teleporter to the main MCU timeline (Earth-616) to protect her from the monsters sent by Scarlet Witch–just after he attempts to sacrifice America to keep the Scarlet Witch from obtaining her powers. America brings his body with her, which is then reanimated as Zombie Strange later in the film.
It is established that Defender Strange is long gone and fans theorize that he hails from the Maguire’s Spider-Man universe. But it appears that that’s not the only loss Dr. Strange fans suffer in this film. In a scene with Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) and America after defeating one of Wanda’s monsters, Strange asks her if that variant got together with the variant of his newly-married Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) to which America replies, “No, you mess up that one, too.” Fans of the Christine-Strange ship must get their head wrapped around the fact that these two were indeed meant to be, but not meant to last. But don’t fret! One of the two post-credits scenes depicts sorceress Clea (Charlize Theron) as a potential new paramour for one of the earth’s mightiest heroes.
Now, our young America Chavez is not far from deserving that title. After all, she holds a power so strong it is being coveted by Scarlet Witch herself. At the beginning of the movie, America admits that her multiversal teleportation powers are beyond her control and is prompted by her fears. She eventually gains control over her powers and decides to remain on Earth-616 to train at Kamar-Taj with the Masters of the Mystic Arts.
The moral ambiguity of our beloved Avenger Wanda Maximoff is also a topic of discussion. WandaVision explored the complex concept of the stages of grief. The dedicated fan would know how Wanda suffered the loss of her parents during the Novi Grad bombings, then her twin brother, Pietro in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), the death of Vision in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and the loss of her imagined children, Billy and Tommy, in her own TV spin-off.
Because so much of the plot and arc revolves around Wanda, some fans feel as though Doctor Strange 2 (cough, MOM) is the tenth episode of WandaVision. We see her character grow over the course of multiple movies and then regress with the unparalleled powers she acquires with the Darkhold in her hands. She never got the comeuppance she so rightfully deserved after going dark, so it appears that her end(?) was anticlimactic. In an interview with Collider, Elizabeth Olsen herself does not know what’s next for Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff, but as the topic of X-Men was brought up, she said, “If we’re bringing X-Men back, I’ll wanna be there!”
Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) did indeed have a cameo in Doctor Strange 2. Recall that the Professor X that we know and loved in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise has died in the last of the Wolverine trilogy films, Logan (2017). This Professor X is only a variant on Earth-838, and while his appearance does not confirm nor deny that Stewart is going to be in the future MCU films, this does recognize the existence of mutants in parallel universes.
This brings us to Professor X's secret society of superheroes, the Illuminati, which includes Sorcerer Supreme Mordo (reprised by Chiwetel Ejiofor), Peggy Carter/Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski), and Maria Rambeau/Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch). Reed attempted to reason with Scarlet Witch before confronting her, speaking as a father to a mother. This scene implies the existence of Franklin and Valeria–or Powerhouse and Brainstorm–his children with Sue Storm. However, this was very unfortunately dismissed by Wanda, who almost assuringly said to him, “At least there’s someone who’ll raise them,” as the Illuminati’s fate suffered at her hands.
Now, who knows if Powerhouse and Brainstorm avenge their father or if the remaining members of the Fantastic Four assemble to do that themselves?
What we do know now is that in order to defeat the Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange had to dabble in some dark magic as well. To dream-walk in Defender Strange’s corpse with a cape of spirits, Strange had to use the Darkhold which produces an incursion that breaks the balance in the multiverse and causes worldly barriers to collide and annihilate populations. Strange is last seen crossing a portal with Clea, who says they will reverse the incursion together; Strange is donning what could possibly be the Eye of Agamotto, implying that his body has been tainted by dark magic.
Whoever stayed long enough for the post-credits would know that at the end of every Marvel movie is the signature “[insert main character/s here] will return in [next movie title]” but they decided to go with just “Doctor Strange will return,” possibly suggesting that he appears in other MCU movies prior to his third installment. (Thor: Love and Thunder? Maybe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? Who knows?)
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Did you know
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