Yesterday I went and watched Multiverse of Madness again in theaters (IMAX, of course) to not only see the film featuring my favorite superhero of all time again but to grasp the story details a little bit better. And to my great surprise, I enjoyed the film even more!
My first viewing was a rollercoaster of emotions to absorb. From the shock of knowing that Wanda was the unapologetic villain of the movie to the roiling adventure that literally feels like it’s going nonstop for two hours straight. It was a lot to take in and I missed a lot.
So, with this second viewing, there were some things I enjoyed even more like the action sequences, of course, but most importantly, the emotional beats.
Since Doctor Strange, Stephen Strange has barely had any character development outside of his growing skill with his spellbook. To finally resume his arc by forcing him to literally face alternate versions of himself to better understand his place in the multiverse was simply brilliant.
In this post, I want to dive into the absolutely stellar character progression in this film and how it all came to be.
(This is a longread.)
Getting Over Christine
In Doctor Strange, we meet Stephen Strange as this arrogant, narcissistic famous Doctor who literally shrugs off hugs from a patient’s family members after saving that patient’s life as if he is above everything, even kindness. Being the a-hole that he was it’s no surprise at the beginning of the film we find that his former relationship with fellow doctor Christine Palmer has been severed.
There, however, is a bit of a romantic connection still left between them. She takes care of him after his accident and he accepts her kindness with a sneer. When she eventually can’t take it anymore she leaves him be and it is there that their romance officially ends.
Even when she saves his life after being attacked by a fellow sorcerer, even when he apologizes for being so mean to her, EVEN when he asks her not to go, she gives him a goodbye kiss on the cheek and that’s it.
The What If…? series only reiterated how important Christine is to Doctor Strange by revealing an alternate reality where they did have a rather romantic relationship and she died.
In his quest to bring her back to life, he literally destroyed his reality. Sad. Very, very sad.
So, in Multiverse of Madness, apparently, he never got over her. And the movie begins with him going to her wedding. And just to make it worse a doctor he used to know says to him, “You’re the best surgeon, the best superhero, but you still didn’t get the girl.”
Suddenly, all of that regret he feels for not being nice to Christine is back and the amount of martinis he’s drinking at her after-wedding party is proof that he’s determined to drown away all of his sorrow.
He tries to give a brave face and pretend like her genuine joy makes him happy but it’s obvious he’s dying inside knowing he let her go.
Fast forward to later in the movie and he runs into an alternate version of Christine. 838-Christine has had her problems with 838-Strange too (no surprise there) but like our Stephen, she has kept a keepsake of their relationship, the watch. Suddenly a new bond begins to grow between 616-Strange and 838-Christine but to even pursue such a relationship would cause all sorts of multiversal shenanigans, mainly a reality-destroying incursion.
So, after admitting to this 838-Christine that he loves her in literally every universe but he’s afraid to commit to such a relationship she sends him off with a message that’ll resonate in his heart forever.
“Face your fears, Doctor Strange.”
It’s a powerful message and it is definitely something that will surely be a driving force for his story in the years to come. With this final moment between them, he can finally move on from his heartbreak and straight into the waiting arms of Clea. Lol, just kidding…kind of.
“We’ll See What Kind of Doctor Strange You Are.”
Another important detail to this movie and thus Doctor Strange’s story was proving why our Stephen Strange is the noblest, most heroic iteration of the character quite possibly in the multiverse.
Despite being a hero in Doctor Strange and saving the world from Dormammu his choice to let Thanos destroy billions of lives in order for The Avengers to eventually win in Endgame is a conflicting decision to be sure.
Remember, in his first film, he told The Ancient One, “I became a doctor to save lives, not take them.” So you can imagine how he felt knowing that not only would billions of lives be changed forever because of such a decision but Avengers like Vision, Black Widow, and most importantly, Iron Man would perish in the war.
It is such a decision that ultimately led to his direct conflict with the film’s antagonist, Wanda Maximoff, who tells him during a confrontation, “I blew a hole in the head of the man I love and it meant nothing.”
And, to further complicate Strange’s heroic status, his alternate, more powerful versions across the multiverse all had villainous tendencies.
Doctor Strange Supreme from What If…? literally called upon the darkest forces to revive Christine Palmer only to destroy his reality in the process.
Defender Strange was willing to kill America Chavez for her power because, in his mind, it was the right thing to do in the “grand calculus of the multiverse.”
In the 838 universe, Supreme Strange becomes obsessed with the Darkhold, causes an incursion (this is when two realities crash together) thus killing trillions, and asks for the Illuminati to kill him because of all the people he killed.
And then Sinister Strange was basically a twisted version of the character. Corrupted by the Darkhold and with a taste for villainy, Sinister Strange’s favorite thing to do was to kill other Stephen’s throughout the multiverse.
You get the picture. In every other instance we’ve seen so far, Strange is either a villain or has villainous tendencies. Whether it’s to save the world or to revive a loved one, Doctor Stephen Strange turns to dark magic and it’s south from there.
In Multiverse of Madness, Stephen has to prove that he is actually a hero and won’t use “reasoning” for his darker intentions. And that’s exactly what he does by doing everything in his power to keep America Chavez alive.
Even when she accepts that her death is the only way to save millions of lives he chooses to uplift Chavez and assure show her that she can handle herself, for she is more powerful than she could ever imagine.
The bond they form during the movie is nothing less than sweet and when the story concludes with her happy to have met our Doctor Strange it’s the proof that Stephen has, indeed, grown after all.
Now, he has read the Darkhold and has a third eye to show for it but it seems that the test on his heroism has passed. Now all he has to do is use his newly gained powers to stop whatever next threat comes his way.
And yet I can’t stop thinking about Mordo’s ominous warning at the end of Doctor Strange, “The bill comes due always. A reckoning.” Considering how much dark magic and multiversal-tampering Strange has been doing lately this is starting to make more and more sense.
So, these were the emotional beats I didn’t catch last time but was able to fully absorb during my second viewing and honestly, it made my experience that much better. This is definitely one of my favorite MCU movies.
I thank you for reading my in-depth second review of the movie and I hope you have a lovely day.