‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Doesn’t Ignore ‘WandaVision’, But Wanda Maximoff is Far From a Villain

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now available on Disney+, but does Sam Raimi’s sequel ignore a crucial development from WandaVision?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hit Disney+ globally last week with fans settling down to watch chaos (magic) unfold once again… But if that doesn’t sate their appetite, viewers are invited to enjoy featurettes of the film, which hold plenty behind the scenes action, cast interviews, and spilled secrets omitted from the final script.

The featurette offers an eye-opening insight to the creativity of the film itself, including how stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen approach the directional shift within their respective characters. Olsen undoubtedly steals the show as Wanda Maximoff faces moral corruption, yet fans are beginning to question whether Multiverse of Madness misses a major WandaVision development in its attempt to frame Wanda as the villain.

From her first appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015 to Multiverse of Madness, Olsen has been accepted as an MCU fan-favourite. Her popularity throughout the franchise has only increased over the last seven years. While discourse is widely spread on whether Wanda is the most powerful among the characters, there’s no question that she ranks highly on the list.

Wanda has proven herself to be a valuable ally to the team; she is integral to the narrative as The Infinity Saga teases what she’s capable of. Though previously a supporting player, Olsen eventually branches out into a leading role with WandaVision, which sees a gradual build-up for the Sokovian native uncovering her true potential – and embracing the prophesised Scarlet Witch.

The limited series candidly handles Wanda’s grief as each episode aspires to portray her journey through the five stages. Overcome with anguish, the witch inadvertently enslaves an entire town and subsequently lives out a domestic dream. Wanda isolates herself from the external world; unaware of the power she yields.

It’s clear from the beginning that Wanda means no harm, but as the series progresses and WandaVision is submersed in harrowing misery, her intentions are questioned. Sacrifice and loss go hand-in-hand in the MCU; few characters have come out unscathed where both are concerned, though Wanda repeatedly seems to draw the short straw.

When confronted with her actions, however, Wanda selflessly sets everything right. Now, with her destiny having been taunted in front of her, the Sokovian last appears in the series immersed with the Darkhold. This first glimpse implies the potentially dangerous route that lies ahead for Wanda; villainy is merely teased, but nothing suggests she will take a swift dive from hero to antagonist.

It is an ambiguous post-credit scene that leaves much up to interpretation. Olsen’s next MCU rendezvous comes just over a year later; Multiverse of Madness introduces a vastly evolved version of Wanda, now under the influence of the Darkhold and at the risk of irreversible corruption. She is immediately set up as the villain in spite of where WandaVision concludes, but according to Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron, the seed of her evolution is planted and grown over the course of the show’s nine episodes.

“All of WandaVision, we get to see her go bad, as the best villain ever, as The Scarlet Witch.”

MICHAEL WALDRON

Waldron’s statement is causing quite the stir amongst fans across social media. Some are in agreement with the writer, others argue this has never been the case for the fan-favourite. The Wanda present in Multiverse of Madness is not the same Wanda at the end of WandaVision; the heroine shows clear remorse regarding her actions, achieving redemption in its conclusion, whereas Multiverse of Madness leaves her scorned, merciless and willing to resort to brutal murder to get her family back.

The transition is jarring. There is no middle ground. Now well-versed with her powers, Wanda is a lethal adversary to Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange rather than an ally. Fans have expressed betrayal over the handling of the once underutilised hero as Waldron’s and Multiverse of Madness‘ interpretation of Wanda is contradictory and a controversial turning point that belittles her sacrifice.

It must be said that Wanda Maximoff has every reason to become a villain. She makes for a compelling (and fabulous) antagonist, whether fans would like to admit it or not. Driven by a mother’s unconditional love, her actions are understandable. Justification is a core component of becoming a memorable big bad.

So, while Waldron’s statement may have hit a nerve with some, he isn’t entirely off-base with his word choice. Wanda has lost everything but her integrity by WandaVision’s finale. Her powers are overtly underestimated when Multiverse of Madness rolls around; the witch has previously suffered with internalised self-hatred and guilt; this development into expressive rage is well within reason if she is to be perceived as the villain.

But, there is a still a huge chapter missing to fulfil this arc. Between the two projects, the Darkhold’s grip on Wanda tightens immensely, and it all occurs off-screen. A further exploration of the Sokovian’s examination into the book’s teachings could be a necessary step in delivering layers of understanding to Wanda’s characterisation in Multiverse of Madness.

Unresolved queries would be answered; had Wanda began studying the Darkhold to grasp the notion of The Scarlet Witch prophecy? Had she wished to develop a deeper bond with her powers? No matter the reason, Wanda had not intended on going dark, and introducing a middle platform to explore the Darkhold’s manipulation would have a made for a much stronger alignment with Waldron’s words. The jump from the limited series to cinematic sequel would not be nearly as drastic – or perplexing as some may have found.

Would it be a fair assumption to say that Multiverse of Madness is ignorant to WandaVision? The shoe can fit both ways. Wanda Maximoff is certainly by no means a pitiless monster of destruction. The Darkhold has her clasped tightly in its clutches, clouding her objectivity, and only loosens its grip once it’s been destroyed. A thread is notably missing between WandaVision and Multiverse of Madness, and had the corruption of Wanda been explored ahead of the film, there’d be some sufficient evidence in support of her suggested turn to villainy.

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