On our last delve into the Multiverse of Madness (2022), we followed Dr. Strange to Wanda Maximoff’s house. As the scene opens, it is clear that, controversially, Wanda has faced no repercussions for the events depicted in WandaVision. (2021). Tragically, Wanda has chosen to follow the words of the Dark hold — and those of us who watched WandaVision on Disney Plus will never get to see her struggle. So we don’t understand why she chose to listen to the words of the book.
Nothing is accounted for. Wanda is just bad now, and we must accept it. Except — this is and isn’t true at the same time. On the one hand, the writers want us to understand that Wanda is a great threat. But on the other hand, they desperately want us to almost… root for her in some bizarre way.
The dialog in the scene between Dr. Strange and Wanda is completely off key. It is filled with cheap platitudes that are meant to convey the writer’s sentiment in terms of who is right and who is wrong in a given exchange. But they offer nothing in the way of a natural explanation of the events and relationships.
For example, Wanda tells Dr. Strange that she wants to capture America Chavez so she can travel to another universe to be with her kids. Dr. Strange tells her the obvious, that her “children” are not real. Wanda replies to this by saying that all mothers create their children through magic.
The line is clearly meant to sound pretty and be thought-provoking but makes absolutely no sense if you take two seconds to think about it. Is the miracle of childbirth exactly the same thing as shooting red lasers out of your hands?
And the writers honestly expect the viewers to treat this not as some crazy line spoken by a woman driven mad by grief, but as a legitimate explanation for why these kids are in every other universe except hers. WandaVision left us with the impression that an unexpected event had created her children by mistake and that we would get a further explanation in the Dr. Strange sequel. Either a miracle had occurred or the Darkhold was lying to her, and we weren’t sure which. But the question of what is happening to Wanda and whether or not her children’s voices are real is completely ignored — and this sorry excuse for a line is treated as the true explanation for why the children existed in the multiverse. It makes no sense.
Another baffling lapse in this scene is that the writers default to the “You and I are not so different” trope. When Dr. Strange tells Wanda that she is using the same logic their enemies use because she is willing to kill America so she can take her powers, Wanda tries to equate what she is doing now to what he did when he gave Thanos the Time Stone to save Tony Stark’s life in Infinity War.
Wanda, in light of this, utters one of dumbest lines in the entire Madness film. “You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.”
Well cry me a river, Wanda.
Let’s stop and appreciate the stupidity.
Number One: Strange “broke the rules” to save a man’s life, a man who would defeat Thanos in the end.
Number Two: Having reviewed countless scenarios to decide the best strategy to defeat Thanos, he had found only one plan which worked. That plan happened to involve giving Thanos the Time Stone so he could succeed in his mission — temporarily.
Number Three: Part of this plan involved sacrificing himself.
Number Four: His plan didn’t involve taking a kid’s powers so he could use them for himself.
Selfishness, Wanda. The distinction is selfishness. Yet, I cannot stress enough that this line of reasoning is not the deluded rationale of a villain, but something the writers really want the viewer to take seriously.
Over and over again, the writers have other characters serve as avatars for their perspective, telling Wanda (and the audience) that her sacrifice was so great that nobody could blame her for being angry. But let’s get something straight here. Wanda is a sympathetic character, but her “children” are figments of her imagination, symbols of the family she lost when she was forced to kill Vision, the man who’d given her hope for a future and said family. Yet for all the lamenting about Wanda’s tragedy, Vision is mentioned, perhaps, once in the entire film. And, despite all the universes in the multiverse, Wanda never speaks of wishing to see him again. I wonder, why not?
The truth is that while Wanda’s story is tragic, she did enslave an entire town. Giving that town its freedom back is the right thing to do but not a “sacrifice.” Wanda might be a victim of circumstance but she is not a martyr. I don’t know who gave the Mouse its moral compass, but it seriously needs to re-evaluate the ethics that underlie these story developments.
Setting aside all these issues for a moment, an even larger plot hole gapes. Let’s assume that all Wanda wanted was to be with her kids. And we’re dealing with a multiverse. Then why not help America learn to use her powers and take Wanda to a universe where the kids exist but their mother has died? It would solve everything in less than twenty minutes.
It helps if you don’t think about it.
The conversation ends with Wanda giving Strange an ultimatum. Strange is to give her America by sundown, or Wanda will attack them as the Scarlet Witch. Obviously, Strange has no intention of doing this so the next scene is the inevitable confrontation between Strange, Wong, and Wong’s trainees as they try to protect America Chavez from Wanda. It should come as no surprise that the battle goes poorly for Strange and his companions. But of course the Mouse couldn’t help but mess this battle up as well — which is what we’ll cover next time!
Here are the first three parts of my review of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:
Can the multiverse really work as a plot device? That’s a question Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness begs us to ask though but the screenwriters’ answer might be disturbing. Just bringing back characters who died “in another universe” for the sake of a sequel, for example, insults the viewer’s emotional intelligence.
Multiverse of Madness features infinite problems. The extensive edits to Sam Rami’s work as a director have left it riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies. If I could describe the problems in one word, that word would be “laziness.” The multiverse provides an excuse for all kinds of incoherent nonsense.
Do life history or moral choices matter in a multiverse? In this third part of my extended review of Multiverse of Madness, I look at how characters suddenly alter with no accounting. The cinematography is fine but what has happened to Doctor Strange’s earlier powers? And why has Wanda morphed from a complex figure into an arch-villainess?
Also, my series on Firefly, the TV series and the subsequent film: Can science fiction reimagined as the Wild West work? I strongly recommend the original 2002–2003 series for its careful development of the culture that grows up around world-building (terraforming). Firefly is an impressive blend of the future and the past and, if Disney+ carries through with its threat of a remake, be sure to see the original. All parts linked at here.