Even though Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a box office hit, it's already proven to be one of the MCU's more contentious additions. Benedict Cumberbatch may have top billing, but Doctor Strange 2 is as much about Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff as it is about the former Sorcerer Supreme; and in light of her character's journey in WandaVision, her role in the film has led to considerable backlash.
In Olsen's first scene of the Doctor Strange sequel, she's established as the villain with full intentions of killing America Chavez to absorb her power. Why? To be with her twin boys who exist in another universe.
For those who watched WandaVision on Disney+, the switch from grieving but accepting heroine to the fully-fledged Scarlet Witch, willing to kill others for alternate versions of her own children, just might be the film's biggest shocker. And, for some corners of the Marvel fan base, a disservice.
Now that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has made its theatrical debut, the writer who penned Wanda's "Strange" story is explaining why the film's villain was Wanda all along.
Doctor Strange 2 Writer Reacts to Wanda Maximoff Complaints
In an interview with The Playlist, Doctor Strange 2 writer Michael Waldron responded to fan complaints about how Wanda's character was handled in Multiverse of Madness, saying, "I guess I would say to the WandaVision fans, like, I get it:"
"I guess I would say to the WandaVision fans, like, I get it. Watching a character you love do bad things sucks. That elicits a strong feeling, which is what we’re trying to do in the movies. We never would have done it if it didn’t feel like the next step in her character journey."
When fans last saw Wanda on Disney+, she had accepted the loss of Vision and her sitcom family and felt remorse for having hurt the people of Westview. She then retreated to a remote cabin where her astral form studied the Darkhold, all before hearing cries of help from her kids.
And, while it's no secret to Marvel fans that the Darkhold is bad news, her turn to the role of a villain felt jarring so soon after embracing her personal losses and regretting her Westview mistakes.
But according to Michael Waldron, Wanda's struggle with grief hadn't quite reached its conclusion.
In fact, his interpretation of the Disney+ series was that she confronted her grief and conquered denial, but she hasn't reckoned "with her anger over what she's endured" and "it's that anger that the Darkhold preys upon:"
"To me, my interpretation of the story of ‘WandaVision’ was, that Wanda is confronting her grief in that show, but I don’t think she’s necessarily conquering it. It’s a show about her living in denial to some extent and she’s conquering her denial, but I don’t think that she’s properly reckoning with her anger over what she’s endured, and that anger is what she carries with her as she walks away with the knowledge that she is the Scarlett Witch and with the Darkhold, this evil book. And I think it’s that anger that the Darkhold preys upon and pushes her on what is a, to me and I think to Wanda, a very justifiable, noble journey. She just wants her kids.”
Did Wanda's Doctor Strange 2 Story Lack Vision?
Learning of Waldron's interpretation of WandVision goes a long way to explain Wanda's dark actions in Doctor Strange 2; and yes, it makes sense that the Darkhold would prey on her justifiable anger and her desire for her kids.
The problem is that most Marvel audiences appear to have interpreted WandaVision differently, believing the series left its main character in a better place and with a willingness to do the right thing despite her pain. After all, hasn't the MCU taught fans that it's a sacrifice - not a high-tech suit or special set of powers - that makes the hero?
Still, and to Waldron's credit, the Darkhold's influence on Wanda's fragile state, coupled with her kids' Multiversal existence that haunts her dreams, is a powerful motive.
But starting the film with her being driven to do the very thing she regrets at the end of Wandavision undercuts the message of that series. It seems that both stories - and Wanda's own journey - would've been served by a scene showing the Darkhold's corruption as opposed to simply its aftermath.
One thing Waldron didn't address that fans have been asking about was the absence of Paul Bettany's Vision. While Wanda knows her kids exist in the Multiverse, the loss of Vision is at the crux of Wanda's grief; and surprisingly, he was barely mentioned in the film. It seems he should've at least influenced "the next step of her character journey."
Regardless of whether the masses will agree with Waldron's take on Wanda Maximoff's tale, a little clarification and understanding will help fans better understand the film and what Marvel intended for Elizabeth Olsen's character.
The real question now is whether the MCU has, in fact, seen the end of Wanda Maximoff or if there's still more Scarlet Witch story left to tell.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is playing in theaters worldwide.