“Doctor Strange 2” Fails to Be One Of The MCU’s Most Popular Characters
Sam Raimi returned to superhero cinema 15 years after Spider-Man ended the Tobey Maguire trilogy in a squelchy fart. He was able to inject his MCU debut using his trademark brand horror and a healthy, if not surprising, amount of gore. Although it’s chaotic, bloody, and far from perfect, it’s a solid sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange that pushes the ever-evolving Marvel universe (multiverse) in a wild new direction.
It fails to fulfill its central character, one of MCU’s most tragic and complex characters.
Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is long considered the MVP of the Avengers. This is both because of her in-universe powers and her IRL ability to act the shittest of anything she’s given. She makes us believe she is in love with a synthetic lifeform. This leads to a very engaging romance with Paul Bettany’s Vision, which only takes 20 minutes. This is a fraction of what Chris Hemsworth had to convince us that they were a good match.
We feel Wanda’s pain as she watches Vision die, having already killed him once. And we shudder at her fury as she begins to rip apart Thanos for what he has done to her. This is a person with an incredible amount of power who has experienced a fantastic amount of trauma within a short time. What happens to someone with such power?
This is a question that 2021’s WandaVisionanswered beautifully. The first Marvel’s Disney Plus series was a poignant, heartbreaking examination of grief and loss. It was led by Olsen, who gave a stellar performance. We see her gradually realize that she has taken a whole town of innocent people, hostage throughout the series. We watch her struggle to accept what she did and even try to justify it to herself. Finally, she makes things right.
In the final episode of the show, Wanda, now fully empowered as the Scarlet Witch, pays the ultimate price. She sacrifices her husband and children (fictional but genuine) to give Westview its freedom back. This is just the beginning of making amends. Although it’s heartbreaking, WandaVision‘s final moments show that our hero isn’t giving up on her dream of reuniting with her children. She uses her Scarlet Witch powers to begin searching the multiverse to find them. We never give up on hope because grief doesn’t go away. It’s not easy.
This was, to me, setting the stage for an intense and emotional conflict in Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness. Trailers indicated that Wanda would join Strange in his multiverse journey. You’d be foolish not to assume that her desire to see her children again would put her on a collision course.
However, I was apprehensive that this would be a climactic showdown. The movie had earned and showed Wanda the same nuanced character growth that we’d seen in her series. Nope.
Wanda is evil within the first 20 minutes of Multiverse Of Madness. Like, full-on evil. She is massacring the bad guys and getting ready for the murder of a literal child. It’s as if Wanda had only experienced the birth of her children, not the richly written and fleshed-out emotional journey.
While I love seeing Olsen become a horror movie villain and murder some of the most coveted cameos in MCU (RIP Reed Richards), it is not bad. The gulf between WandaVision and Wanda in Multiverse Of Madness is too stark. There are only so many variations of the line “I am not a monster, but I am a mother” that I can hear.
Yes, Wanda was “corrupted by the Darkhold.” Yes, I understand that. That’s not a wrong way to treat one of the most tragic and complex characters in the MCU. It’s also a terrible way to treat them. They are entirely stripped of their agency to become a multiversal killer mum.
The most confusing thing about this mess is that it is a movie about the multiverse. Marvel could have retrieved a terrifying supervillain Wanda from any number of universes if they wanted one. She would relentlessly pursue the good guys through multiple realities while killing many people. This approach would not have affected Wanda’s emotional journey through WandaVision. It would also have given Wanda the chance to face her worst fears and make amends. What could have been?
Disney Plus’s “point” was to give some characters more room. To make their journeys more meaningful in the larger scheme of the MCU. WandaVision might as well have been canceled in Multiverse Of Madness. Disney Plus subscribers will be furious that so much character work has been abandoned. Casual viewers will wonder what a Westview is. Wanda is the only one who wins. Wanda deserved so much better.