‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Ensures Wanda Maximoff Will Never Be on a Lunchbox Again and It Sucks

[The below review contains major spoilers for the plot of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.]

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the culmination of everything that I feared would happen to Wanda Maximoff’s character when the credits rolled on “The Series Finale” of WandaVision over a year ago. At that time, so many people told me I was being hysterical, negative, and hateful for the sake of being hateful. But the handwriting was on the walls—and they were glowing red runes. In that series, the beautiful inner exploration of grief and loss was overshadowed by CGI energy battles, inescapable prophecies, and a franchise that has no idea what to do with its female characters. Even in the comics, when Wanda Maximoff is at her worst, she’s never truly a villain. So why on earth did Marvel think that transforming a grieving, broken mother into a monster was the best course of action?

The movie opens somewhere in the multiverse as Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) face off against an extremely powerful demon that is guarding the Book of Vishanti. Things go terribly wrong—like, really, horrifyingly wrong—but fortunately, it was all a nightmare. Only it wasn’t a nightmare, it was a reality for another Stephen Strange somewhere in the multiverse that our Stephen dreamed about. And unfortunately, the nightmare doesn’t stop for audiences watching the Multiverse of Madness.

Stephen gets up, gets dressed, and heads off to sit in the audience as his beloved Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) marries someone else. At the wedding reception, Christine and Stephen talk briefly about why things didn’t work out for them (aside from the whole Blip thing that put a crimp in a lot of relationships). The fatal flaw in their relationship was that Stephen always had to be the one holding the knife—not just as a surgeon, but as a partner. She asks him if he’s happy and he lies, unconvincingly, before a crisis in the streets of New York pulls him away from the wedding festivities.

His nightmare becomes a reality when he crosses paths with America Chavez who is being pursued by the rune-powered Lord of Chaos, Shuma-Gorath. It’s a pretty epic and entertaining showdown as Stephen, America, and Wong (Benedict Wong) slice and dice the oversized squid and pluck out its massive eyeball (because after all, what is a Sam Raimi movie if not gratuitous eyeball shots persevering?). In the wake of the battle, Stephen, America, and Wong settle in for some pizza and discuss her connection to the multiverse and the monsters that are pursuing her.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Honestly, up until the scene following this one, I was actually enjoying Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But then Stephen tracks down Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) where she’s seemingly settled into a life of tending to an apple orchard filled with sheep and everything goes to hell in an apple blossom-filled handbasket. The idyllic facade that she presents to Stephen is actually masking a world corrupted by the Darkhold’s magic, and she reveals that she is the evil magic user trying to track down and kill America. Because Wanda, the emotionally devastated woman, who has lost her parents, her brother, her husband, and her children—whose sole goal is finding a way to reunite with her children—would be trying to kill a child. Marvel, why do you hate women?

From this point forward, I completely lost that loving feeling for this movie. There were definitely things that I liked, things that sparked a modicum of joy, but overwhelmingly this film felt like I was watching my worst nightmares made into a reality. They took a grieving woman and twisted that grief into a weapon to inflict unspeakable pain and suffering on everyone she came in contact with. Everything that she learned in WandaVision—everything that made that story a beautiful, delicate exploration of overcoming grief—was stripped away and tossed in the closest garbage can because the story needed a villain and Wanda was their easiest target.

The real “screw you” moment arrives in the latter half of the second act when Stephen is taken into custody by the Illuminati and brought before their podium of greatness. Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) introduces the board of the Illuminati and it’s just a who’s who of Marvel fan casts: Reed Richards (John Krasinski), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). They reveal that the Stephen Strange in the 383 Universe did not die a hero worthy of a grand statue, he had actually become corrupted by the Darkhold and they executed him for his actions during the Endgame battle of that universe. Wow, it’s almost as if Zemo had a point when he talked about superheroes getting put on pedestals for doing the bare minimum.

But don’t get too attached to any of these characters because they were only introduced to be cannon fodder for Wanda’s transformation into a villainess. The fight isn’t even satisfying because Wanda is clearly far more powerful than all of them combined, but their ego is larger than the statue that crushes Captain Marvel. The whole thing feels like a great example of “pride goeth before the fall,” but that’s giving more credit to Marvel than they deserve.

We were so close to greatness when Professor X interacts with Wanda. Ever since Wanda Maximoff was first introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all I have wanted is for her to be affirmed as a mutant—even though it’s impossible in this universe. I was desperate for them to make the connection in 838, for Professor X to signal that he knew who the Scarlet Witch was, that she was the daughter of his longtime friend and foe Magneto, but no. No, Professor X was quickly killed and his appearance served no larger purpose than to act as a cameo for Marvel fans to turn into Leonardo DiCaprio over.

Sam Raimi fans will be pleased that Marvel didn’t completely rob him of his creative vision. This is a Raimi film through and through, complete with Bruce Campbell, eyeball zooms, gratuitous violence, and horror. This is not a kid’s movie by a long stretch and some of the violence was on par with The Boys, which is hilarious in retrospect. The Boys underscores everything that is wrong with Marvel in its veneration of superheroes and how corrupted the “good” guys really are, but it’s clear that no matter how hard Marvel may try to replicate the series’ violence it lacks any of the nuances that makes The Boys so great.

The final act of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is where the real disappointment settles in. When Wanda and Wong go to Wundagore Mountain, it is believed to be the tomb of some great magic user who had written the spells of the Darkhold into its stone walls, but upon closer observation, it is revealed to be the throne of the Scarlet Witch. Except it’s also going to be her tomb. Because strong women, with strong emotions, don’t deserve support and understanding, they deserve death in the Marvel universe. And not just any death, death where they kill themselves because apparently there’s no moving through grief if you’re a woman. There’s just death. Heartwarming stuff, kids. I haven’t seen this much character assassination since The Rise of Skywalker.

While Wanda is trying to kill America and take her powers, our Stephen Strange is facing off against a Darkhold-corrupted Doctor Strange who warns him about the toll that the Darkhold will exact on him if he chooses to take it from him. Throughout the movie we have heard of different versions of Doctor Strange—both from America, Christine, and the Illuminati—but this one feels the closest to what our Strange could become. He’s bitter, jaded, and isolated—and he’s also talking about the exact “are you happy?” moment that we saw Stephen have with Christine at the start of the movie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

If every single version of Doctor Strange in the multiverse becomes corrupted by the Darkhold, I would love to know why our Doctor Strange thinks he’s somehow above and beyond its temptations. Everything he condemns Wanda for—playing with the Darkhold and dreamwalking—he does! At least Wanda calls him out on the hypocrisy, but I guess he can get away with it because he’s a sorcerer and not a witch.

Wanda’s revelation that she has to essentially kill herself comes after America opens up the multiverse and forces Wanda to be judged for her actions by her sons (or rather, the sons of Wanda in 838). The boys are terrified of the Scarlet Witch who looks like their mother. They run, they scream, they hide, and they call her a witch. Her maternal instincts kick in and she is quick to try to comfort them, to assure them she isn’t—and would never—going to hurt them. But they don’t believe the woman that just threw their actual mother against a wall. In the end, it’s this universe’s Wanda who manages to save our Wanda from herself. As the Scarlet Witch falls to her knees in defeat, Wanda touches her face and assures her that her boys will be loved. Because, after all, every Wanda, in every universe, just wants to love her children and give them the life that she and Pietro were robbed of. That’s all she wants.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a waking nightmare from start to finish. The multiverse is a gateway to larger, grander stories, but instead of harnessing it for its full potential, they weaponized it to make a grieving mother, who just wants her children back, a monster. Michael Waldron, I praised you for your work on Loki, but now I can’t help but wonder how you could write such an utterly sexist story for Wanda. This beautiful, powerful, incredible witch has one, singular goal, and it’s to become a mother. That’s fine. More power to anyone whose singular goal is motherhood, but in the context of Marvel—when that isn’t her only personality trait in the comics—it feels regressive and ill-conceived. Especially when it’s painted as a bad thing that turns her into a villain who wants to kill a child. I guess that’s what witches are known for, right? They lure children into the forest and eat them for dinner. I’m shocked that John Proctor wasn’t thanked in the credits.

Despite the length of this review, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Gomez is a wonderful actress saddled with quips that stand in the place of character and personality. She does her best with it, but this is not the America Chavez from the comics—she’s a prop. Stephen Strange gets surface-level development, there’s no deeper exploration of “happiness” or what emotional needs aren’t being satisfied in the wake of the Blip. It’s there, in a vague sort of way, but he finishes the movie in the same headspace as he started the movie… except now he has a third eye.

“Are you happy?” Marvel asks. No, no I’m very much not happy with any of this.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters now. 

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios.


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a waking nightmare from start to finish.

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Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek | + posts

Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and News Editor at Collider. She has had bylines at Inverse, Polygon, and Dorkside of the Force. She is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.

When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or on her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.