“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is finally here.
The highly anticipated Marvel Studios film, which serves as a sequel to 2016’s original “Doctor Strange” and a follow-up to last year’s blockbuster “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and Disney+’s hugely popular streaming series “WandaVision,” aims to showcase unexplored corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Or is it Marvel Cinematic Multiverse?) With returning characters like Wong (Benedict Wong), Christine (Rachel McAdams) and Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and new characters like America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), this is a big movie with big surprises and big stakes. And, of course, a big ending.
But what does the conclusion of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” mean, exactly, for the character, and for the rest of the MCU? Read on to find out!
Colossal, multiverse-destroying spoilers for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” follow.
An Avenger Turned Villain
At the beginning of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” we see America Chavez trying to outrun a monster in a universe that looks nothing like our own. She’s with a version of Doctor Strange who is morally ambiguous (you can tell by his early-1990s ponytail), who attempts to steal her multiverse-hopping ability for himself (and so the monster cannot get it from her). This version of Strange is killed, however, and America zaps them to our universe (now canonically known as Earth-616). She runs afoul of another monster and eventually our version of Doctor Strange, who is way nicer and has nominally better hair.
Strange realizes that the creature chasing America wasn’t a monster but a demon. That leads him to seek the council of Wanda, who is 100% that witch. While asking her for help, she reveals that she is actually the villain – she’s the one who has been sending monsters after America. She wants the universe-hopping ability to find a place where her children (who she created during “WandaVision”) are real. And she wants to retain America’s powers in case something goes wrong. Tragedies happen all the time. If Wanda loses one of her children, she wants to be able to hunt for more in the multiverse.
Of course, retaining her powers means killing a young girl. Strange cannot abide this. After Wanda attacks Kamar-Taj, the mystical center of the MCU and where Strange and other sorcerers learned their powers. She kills many wizards. And eventually comes for America, using an unholy book called the Darkhold (this was also introduced in “WandaVision”). Strange destroys the book and he and America are zapped across the multiverse, with Wanda still in hot pursuit.
A Multiverse Exposed
Eventually Strange and America land on Earth-838, where they meet the Illuminati, a kind of governing body of superheroes in this world, including Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch) and Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell). They tell him that their version of Doctor Strange was such a ne’er-do-well that they had to kill him, courtesy of Black Bolt’s (Anson Mount) lethal voice. The Illuminati explain that Strange created an “incursion” that led to entire universes collapsing in on himself.
This leads to even more universe-hopping, with Strange winding up in a mostly dead universe ruled over by an evil version of him (known as Sinister Strange) and America zapped back to Earth-616 to deal with witchy Wanda who – surprise! – still wants to kill her and steal her powers. It’s up to Strange to stop Wanda’s plot and set things right, in order to save not only our universe but all of the universes.
A Villainous Plot, Foiled
In order to save America, Strange must first defeat his evil doppelgänger (who has a developed a third eye in the middle of his forehead due to his exposure to dark magic), which he does in a really wonderful sequence that is like the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence from Disney’s “Fantasia” but really, really dark. But he can’t teleport back to our earth, so instead he uses the Darkhold to do something called “dreamwalking,” which means that you can possess another version of yourself from across the universes. (Wanda did this and ended up killing the Illuminati, straight up.) But if he is his own universe’s Strange, whose soul could he occupy?
Well, as it turns out, the dead Strange that America brought to Earth-616 with her. Yes, the big finale of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has the good Doctor as a zombie version of himself, bones creaking, face partially gone, aloft on a sea of demons. It’s one of the more striking images from the move and it made everybody cheer and freak out at the film’s world premiere earlier this week.
Anyway, Zombie Strange saves America, defeats Wanda, who had posted up in this ancient temple devoted to dark magic, and Strange comes back to Earth-616.
Does Wanda Survive?
This is the big question. The evil temple she was on collapses pretty spectacularly. It’s on top of a mountain and plummets towards earth. There’s even a little explosion we see as the building collapses, which is full of that trademark Scarlet Witch red energy. And we certainly don’t see Wanda again – she doesn’t pop up in either of the credits sequences. And there hasn’t been any kind of announcement of a spin-off or a second season of “WandaVision.”
Her fate is very much TBD. But if we had to guess, she’s such a beloved character and she deserves a chance at redemption. Hopefully she doesn’t die a villain. Plus she has to connect with that weird new version of Vision they introduced in the TV show.
A Return to Normalcy (Or Is It?)
At the end of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” all seems right in the world. America is in training at Kamar-Taj to be a new sorceress, Strange and Wong are back at the Sanctum in New York City. Strange goes out, enjoying a crisp fall day. Leaves swirl around him, he’s got a scarf on, Danny Elfman’s score is upbeat and hopeful. And then it seems like he’s got a particularly bad headache. He holds himself in pain, eventually crumbling to his knees.
He screams. A third eye appears in his forehead. It seems like Strange’s time with the Darkhold and casting dark magic has taken its toll. But does this mean that our Strange will become sinister? Hopefully not!
Off to the Next Adventure
During the closing credits Strange is intercepted by a mysterious stranger, who we will discuss very soon. Seems like his multiverse gallivanting has indeed caused an incursion and that she needs his help. He seems up for the job. And his third eye pops open, indicating that maybe it helps power him? Or he’s gotten it under control? Honestly who knows. But one thing’s for sure: this is a very different Doctor Strange.