It’s been a year since I last did a rewatch, ending Phase Three with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that the Infinity Saga is over and Thanos has turned to dust, our surviving heroes have moved on… with various degrees of success. Phase Four incorporates both cinematic releases and television programs. For the television programs, I am limiting each article to three episodes each
Title: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Characters created by: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Joe Casey, Nick Dragonetta
Returning characters: Stephen Strange. Wanda Maximoff, Wong, Christine Palmer, Nicodemus West
Variant characters: Stephen Strange, Christine Palmer, Wanda Maximoff, Billy Maximoff, Tommy Maximoff, Baron Karl Mordo, Peggy Carter, Maria Rambeau, Blackagar Boltagon, Reed Richards, Charles Xavier
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Michael Waldron
US Release Date: May 6, 2020
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $955.8 million
Summary: America Chavez and a version of Stephen Strange are chased by a demon in the space between universes while searching for the Book of Vishanti.
Strange is killed and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that transports herself and Strange’s corpse to Earth-616, where that universe’s version of Strange rescues Chavez from another demon with help from the Sorcerer Supreme, Wong.
Chavez explains that the beings are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the multiverse.
Recognizing witchcraft runes, Strange consults Wanda Maximoff for help but realizes that she is responsible for the attacks. After acquiring the Darkhold and becoming the Scarlet Witch, Maximoff believes that controlling Chavez’s powers will allow her to reunite with Billy and Tommy, the children she created during her time in Westview.
When Strange refuses to surrender Chavez, Maximoff attacks Kamar-Taj, killing many sorcerers. Chavez accidentally transports herself and Strange to Earth-838 while Maximoff uses the Darkhold to “dreamwalk”, taking control of her Earth-838 counterpart, who lives a suburban life with her own Billy and Tommy.
A surviving sorceress sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold and break the dreamwalk. Enraged, Maximoff forces Wong to lead her to Mount Wundagore, the source of the Darkhold’s power, to reestablish the dreamwalk.
While searching for help, Strange and Chavez are apprehended by Earth-838’s Sorcerer Supreme, Karl Mordo, and brought before the Illuminati, a group consisting of Mordo, Peggy Carter, Blackagar Boltagon, Maria Rambeau, Reed Richards, and Charles Xavier. They explain that through reckless use of their universe’s Darkhold in an attempt to defeat Thanos, Earth-838’s Strange triggered a universe-destroying “incursion”. After defeating Thanos, the Illuminati executed their Strange to prevent him from causing more harm.
Mordo believes that Earth-616’s Strange is similarly dangerous, but Maximoff reestablishes her dreamwalk at Mount Wundagore and arrives in her Earth-838 counterpart’s body before they can pass judgment.
She brutally kills all the Illuminati except Mordo, whom Strange subdues before fleeing with Chavez. The two escape with help from the Earth-838 version of Strange’s ex-fiancé, Christine Palmer, a scientist working with the Illuminati.
Strange, Chavez, and Palmer enter the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti, which is the antithesis of the Darkhold, but Maximoff appears and destroys it. She then takes over Chavez’s mind, using her powers to send the others to an incursion-destroyed universe.
Strange defeats the destroyed universe’s Strange, who has been corrupted by his universe’s Darkhold, and uses it to dreamwalk into the body of his deceased counterpart on Earth-616. With Wong’s help, Strange saves Chavez from Maximoff as she tries to take Chavez’s powers and encourages Chavez to use her abilities.
She transports Maximoff to Earth-838, where she sees Billy and Tommy recoil from her in fear while crying for their real mother. Realizing the error of her ways, Maximoff relents and uses her powers to bring down Mount Wundagore, simultaneously destroying all copies of the Darkhold throughout the multiverse and apparently sacrificing herself in the process. Chavez returns Strange and Palmer to their respective universes.
Sometime later, Kamar-Taj is repaired and the surviving sorcerers, joined by Chavez, continue training. Strange develops a third eye as a result of using the Darkhold and dreamwalking into a corpse. In a mid-credits scene, Strange is approached by a sorceress who warns him that his actions have triggered an incursion that he must help fix. Strange follows her into the Dark Dimension.1
MCU Connections: Strange mentions the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. The movie resolves an incoherence with the (actually out of canon) Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where in season four Ghost Rider uses a different Darkhold from that seen in the movie. The book also appeared in another Marvel TV series, Runaways, having a third different shape from the others. When Wong reveals to Wanda that the Darkhold destroyed by Kamar-Taj apprentice Sara was only a transcription of the spells inscribed in the Wundagore walls, it implies that the rest of the books also were copycats of the original inscriptions, explaining why its forms were different and revealing that the true Darkhold was not a book but Wundagore itself.
When Wanda and Captain Carter are fighting, the latter mentions, “I can do this all day,” the same comment Steve Rogers is known for in Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Endgame. The phrase is also sung by the Steve Rogers character in “Rogers: The Musical” seen in Hawkeye.When Charles Xavier enters Wanda’s mind, the TV in the rubble is playing the pilot episode of WandaVision.
The one-eyed tentacle monster in the film is known in the Marvel comics as Shuma-Gorath, who was named from a phrase in the Robert E. Howard short story “The Curse of the Golden Skull”, published in Spring 1967. Due to rights issues between Marvel and Howard’s estate, the film has the monster renamed Gargantos, after a sea monster in the Marvel comics. The creature was already briefly introduced in the Marvel Universe, in the episode What If…?: What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?
At the beginning of the film, the Doctor Strange with America Chavez says to her, “In the grand calculus of the multiverse, your sacrifice is worth more than your life” as he starts taking her power. This dialogue is taken almost verbatim from Spider-Man: No Way Home, where Earth-616’s Strange says to Peter Parker, “In the grand calculus of the multiverse, their sacrifice means infinitely more than their lives”, in reference to the Spider-Man villains who got pulled from their respective universes into Earth-616.
Easter Eggs: In the living room of the Wanda-838, the TV shows a cartoon featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt Disney invented the character in the 1920s, but when Universal Pictures took the rights to Oswald away from him, Disney invented Mickey Mouse instead, who soon completely eclipsed Oswald in popularity. In Earth-838 it appears that Mickey Mouse was never invented, and so Oswald remained popular on TV. In one of the final scenes where Scarlet Witch confronts Wanda’s family, they are watching an 838 version of Snow White. The producers of the film worked with Disney animators to create an alternate version of Snow White whose clothes are different colors than the ones in Earth-616.
When Strange meets Reed Richards he says “The Fantastic Four, didn’t you chart in the 60s?”. A group called The Fantastic Four had a #6 R&B hit in 1967 with “The Whole World Is A Stage”. This is also a call back to the first movie, Doctor Strange, where he answered music trivia questions in the operating room. When Mr Fantastic enters, he appears through a square beam of light. Accordng to the Marvel comics, this technology is a time platform, which Mr Fantastic had stolen from his rival Doctor Doom.
The green flames that Strange uses to attack Gargantos are technically, according to Michael Waldron, the Flames of Faltine. They are a green energy that can be harnessed by high-level sorcerers. “The Sands of Nisanti — used here to mute Strange’s powers temporarily — are straight out of the comics where they’re used by the character of Nic West) The snakes that Strange summons are straight out of the comics where they are called the Vipers of Valtorr.
When Strange and Chavez go to Kamar-Taj looking for protection, a large green Minotaur can be seen as apprentice. He is Rintrah, a Minotaur that hails from the planet R’Vaal. He first started as a humble cloth weaver and eventually became Doctor Strange’s apprentice after the two bonded when Rintrah was tasked to return Strange’s cloak of levitation back to him after another sorcerer, Enitharmon the Weaver, mended it.
Music: Danny Elfman composed the music. The two pieces used in the fight between the Strange variants are Beethoven’s ‘5th Symphony’ and Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue.’ When Charles Xaiver enters, the theme from X-Men: The Animated Series is heard.
My take: I was hoping for something kind of nuts, amd Raimi didn’t disappoint. I think it’s interesting that of all the characters in Marvel Comics, Wong has become my favorite character. The classical music fight was one of my favorite bits.
Of course the fun in a Multiverse type of story is seeing who will show up. The Illuminati scenes were worth the price of admission
Next: Ms. Marvel