We will be talking about significant spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. The movie has only been out two weeks, so we're going to keep trying to hide the spoilers the best we can. If you haven't seen the movie yet, consider this your spoiler warning not to go beyond the following image.
When the first trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home dropped, some people wondered why Doctor Strange would cast a risky spell like the one that causes the entire plot of the movie. It was a reasonable question, and dealing with ego is very much part of Strange's journey that we have seen from the moment he has appeared on screen. In the movie proper, he is confident in his own abilities, so there is some ego involved, but he is also sympathetic to Peter and the things that he is going through. After all, Peter is just a kid who has been through hell and put his life on the line to bring back potentially billions of lives across the known universe. Strange wants to help out of a sense of altruism, and his intentions, despite how sideways everything goes, are paved with good intentions. The first teaser for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was the post-credits scene for Spider-Man: No Way Home, and we hear dialogue from Strange about the multiverse. The connection is very clear; the plot of the new Doctor Strange movie is the fallout of his actions in Spider-Man.
That is a very superhero-like throughline for a movie like this. There are a lot of heroes that screw things up while trying to do good; if there were any beings who embody "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," it would be comic book heroes and the Marvel universe in particular. Even with Marvel's most powerful characters like Strange and Wanda, who will be in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as well, their humanity and flaws are always front and center. They aren't gods or god-like beings. They are people, and people mess up. However, we recently found out that both the new Doctor Strange movie and Spider-Man both had to go through significant re-writes because COVID-19 changed the order in which they were going to be released. That release date swap has saved Doctor Strange from becoming an asshole with a god complex.
We have learned from the screenwriters that Doctor Strange would have known about the dangers of messing with the multiverse if the order wasn't switched. There is even a hint of that, potentially, in the first trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home when Wong tells Strange not to cast the spell because it's too dangerous. That line isn't in the final cut of the movie. If Strange had known the potential fallout from messing with the multiverse and still cast the spell for Peter, that would have changed his motivations. While he still might have felt bad for Peter, he was also so egotistical that he thought he could handle it without any problems. Spider-Man: No Way Home would have turned into yet another humbling story of a brilliant man overstepping his abilities in the Marvel universe. That kind of humbling is also a major character moment that shouldn't be regulated to a B-story in another hero's movie. A moment like that is enough of a story on its own.
And we are getting some of that story in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness because Strange did think he could do this without it becoming a big deal. Because of the switched release dates, he acted without knowing the consequences. Instead, he got in over his head trying to help a kid he felt bad for. We have already seen Doctor Strange: The Asshole in his first movie. We saw his humbling, and if COVID-19 hadn't forced Marvel and Sony to switch the release dates and thus change the story, it would have been a repeat of the same character arc all over again. COVID-19 and the release date changes made Doctor Strange's intentions more altruistic than egotistical, and, while we'll have to see how it plays out in the end, that makes the throughline in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness much more interesting.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, directed by Sam Rami, stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Xochitl Gomez. It will be released on May 6, 2022.