Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is many things. The MCU film is a sequel to WandaVision, a Sam Raimi-style horror flick, the debut of America Chavez, and the MCU's latest Multiversal tale. But above all of these things, Doctor Strange 2 needed to be the next chapter of Benedict Cumberbatch's former Sorcerer Supreme's evolving story.
While the audience response to Multiverse of Madness has been mixed, and whether the film should've focused more on Strange and Loki's Multiversal rules from Disney+ is definitely part of the conversation, it's hard to deny that Marvel Studios' first theatrical film of 2022 didn't propel Strange's story forward, particularly from an emotional standpoint.
By the end of the film, Strange finally lets go of his original love interest, Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer, before choosing to go into the unknown at the request of Charlize Theron's Clea. And, now that the film has arrived in theaters, the cast of the Doctor Strange sequel is opening up about the closing of one chapter and the start of another.
Benedict Cumberbatch Discusses the Ending of Doctor Strange 2
In talking with Marvel, Benedict Cumberbatch discussed the ending of Doctor Strange 2 and how his character's goodbye to Christine Palmer takes Strange to a whole new place, saying,
“I don’t think we’ve seen that from him; we haven’t seen him risk a piece of personal, emotional honesty ever. We’ve seen him struggle to empathize, and we’ve seen him struggle to have an emotional language. That searing honesty is flooring in a character that has such self-assurance and certainty in so much of what he does.”
In their farewell scene, Strange tells Earth-838's Christine, who was betrayed by her own Doctor Strange, that he loved her in every universe. She in turn offered him some parting words of advice which were to face his fears.
Not only did this provide her with closure, but it was a huge step for Stephen Strange because he was finally honest, vulnerable, and without control.
In regard to how this moment impacted McAdams, Cumberbatch shared, “I’m thrilled it has that effect. Rachel’s certainly created that moment in Christine’s reaction every single take. It was an amazing thing to watch.”
While the exchange was huge for Cumberbatch's character and McAdams' performance, it was equally important to the Doctor Strange star himself, explaining that "as an actor driven by character, I'm more interested in that; it's the huge stepping stones to building someone who becomes exciting:"
“For me, as an actor driven by character, I'm more interested in that; it's the stepping stones to building someone who becomes exciting. It was very important to me to keep it real and to have that human dynamic. Finish their relationship, and end it with that moment of sharing and honesty, and look where it takes him. She gives him freedom to take the risks that he felt he couldn't with her. It's a generous thing for someone who's been as hurt by that relationship as she has to do. And her love of him and his love of hers is all there in that one moment, even though it's a moment of separation. They're saying hello for the first time as well as saying goodbye for the last.”
In talking about the emotional scene herself, McAdams gives the full credit to Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron for the scene, attributing its lack of "bells and whistles" for its impact:
“That was a beautifully written scene by Michael [Waldron]. It was so simple and straightforward; there were no bells and whistles. Doctor Strange wasn’t trying to dance his way out of something. He was just so vulnerable, naked, and honest. It was heartbreaking and beautiful, and Benedict played it so perfectly. It makes me cry every time.”
McAdams also discussed her version of Christine Palmer from Earth-838, noting that “Even when you’re betrayed, it’s almost harder to let go of someone who’s done you wrong. You kind of cling to them even tighter.”
She also touched on why this Christine held onto Strange's watch, describing it as part of "a lot of unfinished business:"
“Part of her keeping the watch is a lot of unfinished business. It’s a lot of trying to process the trauma she went through with him, but also hope there’s going to be a resolution within herself or from out in the world somewhere. When another Stephen shows up, she can’t help wondering if…. It’s hard not to transfer her love for the old Stephen and her desire for things to be different onto this Stephen. It’s very human for her to do that.”
Has Doctor Strange's MCU Story Only Begun?
Regardless of how fans and critics feel about Doctor Strange 2, it's now required viewing in terms of Strange's story. And, since Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige considers him the new "anchor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe," that's going to be important not only for Phase 4 of the MCU but for years to come.
In retrospect, Strange's Multiverse of Madness story is, as Cumberbatch put it, a stepping stone to who he will become.
Perhaps the new question isn't who is Doctor Strange in the vast Multiverse, but rather who or what he can be, now that he's let go of his fear?
Considering how the film ended with Strange gaining his third eye and teaming up with Clea, it's safe to say that he's evolving rather quickly. And, even though Doctor Strange 2 is likely McAdams' last MCU film, where the sequel leaves Strange begs the question of what other projects are in the works for Cumberbatch's hero and will fans be seeing him - and Clea - sooner rather than later?
Also, will the former Sorcerer Supreme's future stories change how audiences view the Multiverse of Madness down the line? In true Doctor Strange fashion, only time will tell.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is currently playing in theaters.