Saturday, July 2, 2022

Doctor Strange and the Avengers aren’t friends, they’re colleagues

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This post contains slight spoilers about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madnessbut nothing more than what we’ve seen in trailers and nine episodes of WandaVision.

The most intriguing thing about the Avengers is also the reason I’ve never really been able to appreciate them: they’re just a group of exceptionally gifted colleagues. For Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, being super is a job.

The first avengers film grafts the idea of ​​conflicting office egos onto a hyperbolic alien invasion allegory. The team started out as an extra-government initiative, contracted together by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Their division Civil war was largely about who they worked for. And the Marvel television series The Falcon and the winter soldier featured an entire plot based on the Avengers not being paid, even despite Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) astronomical wealth. How these heroes aren’t on the phone with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) demanding medical insurance and overtime pay is beyond me.

The Avengers are colleagues at first and happen to be friends.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘s spin on that idea is the most compelling thing about the flashy but ultimately uneven film. Directed by horror comedy savant Sam Raimi and written by Michael Waldron, Multiverse of madness suggests that despite saving the world multiple times and going through all sorts of triumphs and trauma together, these people don’t really care about each other outside of those world-ending events.

Individually they have their own lives. They don’t think about each other. They don’t call or text or check in. They are not family. And nothing makes that clearer than when one of them gets lost.


From the first beat, Multiverse of madness requires his audience to know everything that happened to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in WandaVision – including everything she did.

In that nine-episode Disney+ show, in response to the grief of losing her Android soulmate, Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda changed the fabric of reality and gave herself twin sons while mentally enslaving an entire city of people. made. Think “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss”, but with telekinesis and chaos magic.

Ultimately, thanks to a battle with an old witch named Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), coupled with her memories of Vision, and being a genuinely good person at heart, Wanda realizes that mind-control New Jersey townies are not morally great. his and undoes her hexagon.

But even when she got to that revelation, Wanda also found the ultimate temptation in an old evil book called the Darkhold (in the show’s post-credits scene).

In the Marvel mythos, the Darkhold grants its owner catastrophic magical power, but is tied to a Faustian deal: the book corrupts the possessor’s soul and makes them rot from within. Unable to resist, Wanda is consumed with an incendiary desire to be with her sworn children. (You can tell she’s getting angrier because she’s getting intricate headwear, like she sports in the comic books.)

Wanda Maximoff gaslight, gatekeepers and girlbossing in the multiverse.
Marvel Studios

Anyone familiar with X-Men comics or the horrible end of each X-Men cinematic trilogy will roll their eyes like Multiverse of madness drops Wanda into the store-worn cartoon character of a red-haired woman who feels immense feelings that endanger the entire world. The pleas for sanity, the heartbreaking point of no return, the way guilt and justice are inevitable—there’s nothing new here.

In the current Marvel universe, a mysterious and evil force is chasing an extra-dimensional being named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) across the multiverse and, thankfully, in the path of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Chavez explains that she is the only creature with the power to travel across the multiverse, which also explains why the great evil is obsessed with her.

Strange consults Wanda and it becomes clear that the evil that haunts America and Wanda are one and the same. It’s a surprise to Strange, but not to everyone who’s seen it WandaVision

One might assume that the second most powerful wizard in the world, whose job is to protect the universe from magical threats, would control a teammate who mentally enslaved an entire city, conjured two babies out of thin air, and got a power upgrade. via Marvel’s version of the Necronomicon. But that assumption would be a mistake.

The lack of interaction between Strange and Wanda could be seen as a weakness in the script or another Marvel plot hole. Many catastrophic things happen in the MCU, such as the heavenly birth in Eternals or the soul-sucking, face-hugging demons in Shang-Chi, but there always seems to be an accidental and alarming lack of Avengers when these bad things happen. Still, it’s more provocative when you consider that their lack of connection is intentional – that, despite saving humanity time and again, Strange doesn’t see the humanity in his teammate.


Since her first appearance in Age of UltronWanda has always looked at the Avengers as a chosen family – especially since she’s lost everyone close to her by the time she joins the group.

She took up residence in the Avengers headquarters. She forged a father daughter bond with Hawkeye when Ultron attacked, and he helped her escape from house arrest in Civil war† Wanda also found love with Vision, whom she tragically had to kill as part of a futile plan to stop Thanos in Infinite War† When the Avengers defeated Thanos in EndgameVision and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) are the only two Avengers who have not been resurrected.

Speaking of Natasha, it’s also striking how she and Wanda are two Avengers who really see the team as their friends and family. This occasionally happens with some characters in Marvel stories, such as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark or the Guardians of the Galaxy, but rarely do we see individual characters view the entire Avengers team as a family unit. (Both Wanda and Natasha are also red-haired women, who have trouble having children, and in somewhat clumsy, insensitive writing, place their maternal status next to the word “monster.”)

It was also Natasha who kept up appearances of the Avengers after Thanos’ snap, continuing to search for a clue that would bring her friends back. Natasha sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone to bring back her Avengers teammates and their loved ones, but many of those same teammates mourned her death by wondering aloud how little they knew about her.

After Thanos was finally defeated, the Avengers (without Natasha) disbanded and so did Wanda’s makeshift family. Nobody – not Hawkeye; not Okoye or Shuri, whom Wanda befriended briefly in Wakanda; not Falcon or Bucky, who she fought in Civil war; not one of the female Avengers she worked with in that”she has helpEndgame moment – checked in with her.

It’s hard to tell whether this dynamic is an indictment of Wanda for expecting too much from her teammates, or her teammates for not caring enough about her. Perhaps the indecision is the point, and how deeply you feel (or don’t feel) for Wanda reflects your own ideas of what being part of a team means, and friendship factors in that equation. The same goes for Strange’s behavior towards his teammate.

Doctor Strange stands amid glowing red web.

Doctor Strange is not a good negotiator in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Although Strange is there to protect the multiverse, he is absent when Wanda needs his help most. He’s also not really invested in researching solutions that would save Wanda’s soul from the Darkhold. And throughout the movie, for inexplicable reasons, he constantly reminds Wanda that she’s not technically a mother. The strategy of berating a woman who is grieving her lost children and whose soul is being devoured by an ancient evil with a comically insensitive combination of words seems a particularly cruel one.

Strange’s lack of tact is not surprising. His comic book history and his first film are laced with moments of arrogance, coldness and unintentionally vicious and paternalistic relationships with women. He will do anything to get the job done and beating Wanda at all costs, in Strange’s eyes, has become the task.

Multiverse of madness becomes an exhibit of how Doctor Strange and his Avengers teammates are very good at saving the world, but rotten at saving each other. Heroes can do good things without kindness. This is how the Avengers work and have always functioned. And perhaps the tragedy isn’t that there was no one to help Wanda, but rather that Wanda expected something more from a group of world-saving colleagues.

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