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Doctor Strange and the Misuse of Wanda Maximoff [SPOILERS]

There were some creative choices in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that will cause some very extreme reactions from fans on both sides of the argument. However, getting into those decisions requires a massive SPOILER WARNING for the entirety of the latest Marvel movie. To get into this decision, we will need to discuss the entire film from beginning to end. Since the movie just came out, all spoilers will be below the following image. If you don't want to know any massive spoilers for Doctor Strange concerning the arc of Wanda Maximoff, do not look beyond the following image. If you don't care about MASSIVE SPOILERS or if you've seen the movie, let's talk about it.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Teaser Goes Live
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

From pretty much the moment we heard about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we knew that Wanda Maximoff would play a significant role. Elizabeth Olsen was brought on stage with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Feige, and then director Scott Derrickson during a Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019. Since then, the world kind of ended, the movie lost its director, and it infamously had to move its release date so many times that they had to completely rewrite the script because it was supposed to come out after Spider-Man: No Way Home. The final movie made its way to theaters this weekend, and roughly twenty-five minutes into the film, it becomes very apparent what role Wanda Maximoff will play in this movie; she is the villain.

During the runtime of WandaVision, there was a debate among the characters and the viewers about just how culpable Wanda was for her actions. How aware was she of her actions? How guilty was she of the things that happened in Westview? In the end, she let the town go and lost her family and Vision all over again, but the show ended with Wanda looking through the Darkhold for a way to bring her family back. The implication was that Wanda could be walking down a dangerous road, and in Doctor Strange, we see how dangerous that really is. Strange says that Wanda is "gone" and has been completely corrupted by the Darkhold. This isn't an unusual story point for characters, and, unfortunately, it is one we see foisted onto female characters in superhero comics more often than not.

In comics, it seems rare that powerful women get to remain powerful. Wanda has lost her mind several times, infamously saying "no more mutants" and basically eliminating the X-Men, and the twins were people that she created at one point. Jean Grey has also gone down this road of madness before. Powerful women in comics are often made powerful and then lose their minds with the implication that women cannot handle the power that is put on them. When they lose their minds, they either have to be put down like Old Yeller, or they have to put themselves down. But more on that later.

Doctor Strange and the Tragedy of Wanda Maximoff [SPOILERS]
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios' WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
As we saw her WandaVision, Wanda was a compelling character because she operated in shades of grey. We didn't really know, and it was hard to tell if she was truly in control of her own powers and if she was entirely aware of what was going on. That is what made the discussion around her actions and whether or not there should have been punishment so interesting. All of that nuance is gone when she becomes the villain for this latest outing of Doctor Strange. Wanda is looking for a way back to her children, but she is willing to do it while killing America without a second thought. There are no shades of grey when it comes to justifying the murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. The movie's whole point is people trying to justify why murdering America is "for the greater good." When Wanda slaughters members of Kamar-Taj without hesitation, we know that there really isn't any going back from this. We have lost all shades of grey.

The movie, however, seems to think that adding the Darkhold adds shades of grey. Doctor Strange and others keep mentioning how corrupting the spells and the magic of the Darkhold is, and while that might be true, it just removes all of Wanda's agency as a character. The "corrupted" villain is a lazy storytelling technique because it gives the writers free reign to go off the deep end with the villain, only for them to come back and break the corruption at the last second, only to make the sacrifice play for the greater good. That is exactly what we see here as Wanda appears [this is comics, who knows] to kill herself and destroy all the Darkholds in every universe in an attempt to redeem herself for the things she has done. The book removes her agency and makes her less compelling as a villain because it makes for an easy way to explain away her actions instead of finding a narrative way that makes sense within the story, the universe, and for the character for why she is acting the way she is.

Finally, there is the idea of people ending up exactly where you expect them to be in every universe. At the beginning of the movie, Wanda tells us that in every other universe, she is happy and with her children, implying that she in this universe is the exception. However, Wanda is not the only exception in the movie. As we learn throughout the film, 616 Strange is also the exception, but in the other way. Nearly all of the other Strange's have done something to screw up the Multiverse. Reed even tells him that the greatest threat to the Multiverse is not Wanda Maximoff; it's Doctor Strange because there have been more than one Strange to screw things up. We saw it in What If…? and we see it here. So, in the movie, we are essentially watching two exceptions, yet we are forced to watch the most tragic version of Wanda Maximoff before our eyes.

4 High Quality Images from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

This is a character that has been beaten down time and time again from the moment she appeared on screen. Even from the beginning, the MCU has done little to address the trauma of losing her twins and has instead focused on the loss of Vision post Infinity War and Endgame, rather than the loss of the twins. We knew how she lost her parents, but in WandaVision, we got to see it play out. This is a character that crawled over broken glass to become not only one of the most powerful characters in the entire cinematic universe but also a massively popular character. Yet the MCU decided to take this and implicitly make her tragedy even more tragic by pointing out that she is the exception in the multiverse. This Wanda is uniquely alone, and now she has to die alone with no real way to come back from all of that. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness removed all of her nuance, her agency, and while Elizabeth Olsen puts in one hell of a performance, she gives her an arc about giving up everything and getting nothing. She was a victim, turned into a hero, then turned into a compelling character walking an interesting line — and finally turned into a villain willing to slaughter anyone and everyone to get what she wants. Wanda deserved better than being yet another powerful woman in comics who needed to put herself down for the greater good.

In Marvel Studios' "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," the MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before. Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, with Michael Stühlbarg and Rachel McAdams.

The film is directed by Sam Raimi, and Kevin Feige is the producer. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Eric Hauserman Carroll, and Jamie Christopher serve as executive producers. The screenplay was written by Michael Waldron. "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" was released in U.S. theaters on May 6, 2022.

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Kaitlyn BoothAbout Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on Twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on Instagram.
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