Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness is now on Disney+. The latest Marvel offering sees Wanda chasing down America Chavez to steal her powers so that she can be reunited with her kids.
Though some people are calling Wanda, Wanda-mentional, I think she’s the perfect villain for this film which feels like the first horror hero movie we’ve had in the MCU. I know her turn is very divisive but throughout this post, I wanna argue why I absolutely love her, the horror movies that Raimi pulled from to make her scenes even more intense, and why she’s one of my favourite comic book movie villains ever.
Wanda’s Tragic Arc
Wanda has been through a lot in her life. Not only did her home get blown up along with her parents in it, but she also ended up getting experimented on by Hydra when she was very young.
This led to the events of Age of Ultron where her brother was killed in front of her which was then followed by Civil War where the whole world turned on her and blamed her for killing lots of kids. To add to that when Infinity War rolled around she had to murder the man she loved to save the universe but this ended up proving to be pointless when Thanos brought him back and killed him in front of her. Then there was Wandavision where she ended up creating a perfect life for herself only to have it all taken away.
Wanda has been through a lot and since she was first introduced back in 2015, she’s arguably had the most tragic arc out of any Marvel character. Now though there is criticism that she ended up doing a Danerys and going crazy all of a sudden, you have to remember that she was out in the wilderness with the Darkhold for months.
The Darkhold’s Influence
Most of the time whenever the devil is described in stories, he doesn’t come to you trying to kill. His tactics are often way more subtle. This embodiment of evil is often just someone who tempts us with giving up our morals to get what our heart desires.
That is very much what the Darkhold represents and whilst it corrupts Wanda it also promises her a better life.
It then gets its claws in Wanda which is why we find her buried under rubble inside her mind whilst the Scarlett Witch is showing up at breakneck speed.
In the film, we discover that every universe other than the 616 has a version of her where she’s happy with her kids and every night Wanda goes to sleep dreaming of this better life. Upon waking up she’s faced with the cold hard truth and even without the Darkhold you can see how this would break someone mentally.
Now Wanda, much like Age Of Ultron, was first introduced as a villain in the comics but over the years we watched her transform into a hero before her power ended up proving too much. In stories like Avengers Disassembled and House Of M, we’ve seen how she’s been someone who can do exactly what she wants and therein lies her downfall.
Like Silas Stone says in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the challenge isn’t doing it, it’s not doing it. Wanda is one of, if not the most powerful person in the universe and therefore she should be able to have what she wants.
Scarlett Witch and Dr Strange
Now her being the villain here makes her the perfect opposite of Strange. Wanda is unwilling to sacrifice what she wants for the greater good and she will happily kill Dads on Mothers Day just because there’ll be someone to look after the kids.
Juxtaposing this, Strange could’ve had a happy life but instead, he sacrificed the Time Stone, got dusted and came back 5 years later having found out that the love of his life had moved on. To make things worse her husband is a massive Doctor Strange fan and he ends up having to stand at the wedding pretending to be happy watching her walk down the aisle.
Wanda also tempts him with another universe in which he can be with Christine but he turns this down as the cost of killing America will be too great for him. It puts them at complete opposite ends of the spectrum and shows two powerful magical entities that could both have what they want but they decide for themselves to take different paths.
Just before they meet at Karmar Taj, Wanda says that it won’t be her that comes for America, it’ll be the Scarlett Witch. So her showing up at Karmar-Taj to tempt Stephen when she never did this in this forest is showing the extent of her possession. She’s using the same tactics that the Darkhold used on her to try and tempt Stephen with a better life where he will finally obtain the happiness that he lies about having.
Wanda’s design in the movie is based heavily on a lot of other movie villains. There’s Samara from the Ring whose infamous tv crawl is immolated by Wanda when exiting the Mirror Dimension. The Wicked Witch of the West’s Haunted Forest trees that we see at her home when the illusion is broken. elements of Carrie with the oil all over her face. Terminator when she limps along after the heroes with her eyes glowing red similar to how the machine did at the end of his first film. Snow White which we even see playing on a tv in another Wanda’s home. The Exorcist when she appears from the corner and snaps X’s neck. There are also many references to past works. It plants this idea in our head that she’s a classic horror monster who is completely unstoppable.
When we did our analysis of The Batman we talked about how Matt Reeves leaned into villains like Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees to give the idea to audiences that Batman was somewhat of a supernatural being. His slow walking was used to intimidate those that he faced and Wanda very much pulls from those same archetypes.
Making her a one-dimensional character also makes her a force of nature and whatever Strange and co throw at her, she can get around or bounce back from.
I know there’s a lot of criticism about how the Illuminati are handled in this movie but personally, I think that what they do is a brilliant way to make us realise just how powerful Wanda is. For years fans have cried out for not only John Krasinski to be fan-cast as Mr Fantastic, but we’ve also been desperate to see Professor X in the MCU. These are given to us in the film and just when we think they’re going to save the day they’re ripped apart by Wanda, which also rips our hearts out in the audience.
Look, look at me, you can see the moment my heart breaks in two watching Professor X get his neck broken.
I think viewers with have a knee-jerk reaction to it at first but with the X-men and Fantastic Four both getting movies in the future, I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be back. We will no doubt get them again and those who hate this might even come to appreciate how much of an FU it is to fans. Ey, Ralph Bohner showed us Feige likes to troll. Watching Wanda drop the coldest lines I’ve ever heard in a comic book movie just elevates this scene so much.
She drops the “What Mouth” line and a bit about Sue Storm being there to raise Reed’s kids back to back and it shows how she will no longer let anyone stand in her way.
Scarlett Witch Vs The World
Now though it’s not labelled as such, this film is very much a Versus movie. We’ve had a number of them over the years like Godzilla Vs Kong, Batman V Superman, Alien Vs Predator and so on and so on. They’re very much a staple of big franchises and though I like them, I have to admit that at this point they all follow the same sort of formula. When Godzilla Vs Kong was first getting filmed I think we all knew that it would end with the pair teaming up together to stop a bigger threat that was actually behind the scenes controlling it all.
Most of the movies in the genre end with the two opposing teams putting their differences to the side to fight a bigger bad guy and this was even somewhat the structure that Marvel used for Captain America Civil War.
Many people even expected a secret villain in this and when those Chthon-looking monsters showed up in the trailers it seemed like that was what we were gonna get.
What Multiverse Of Madness does though is that it keeps The Scarlett Witch as the main villain and because of this it doesn’t cheapen her in the end. The Dark Knight Rises showed that you can often strip one of the main talking points of your film if you do a bait and switch at the end and I think it was smart of Marvel to just be like ‘nope, Wanda is the bad guy.’
The film ends with her coming face to face with her children and a version of herself which she ends up attacking. This scares her children so much that she realises the monster that she’s become and lies through her teeth saying that she didn’t hurt anyone.
She’s then faced with a version of herself who is the mother that she should be rather than the person she’s become. She tells her that they’ll be loved which finally breaks Wanda and makes her realise her wrongdoings. Even at this moment, Scarlett Witch is so powerful that she can only be defeated by herself and this strategy to take her into the life she could’ve had makes her see where she’s gone wrong.
Is Wanda Still a Hero?
At her core, Wanda still is a hero even though we’ve just watched her brutally murder people for two hours and over the last 7 years, we’ve followed the growth of the character as she went from villain to hero and back to being a villain.
She’s arguably been on the most complex arc out of any MCU character and pushing her over the deep end like this was not only surprising but damn right divisive and for good reason. We often don’t wanna see the faults in the heroes that we respect but watching her corrupted by her selfish attitudes acts as an example of what not to do.
This is also mirrored in Strange who could potentially be with a version of Christine at the end of the film but he forgoes this because of the incursion that it would cause. Strange is such a hero at this moment because Wanda has been such a big villain throughout the movie and them being at opposite ends of the spectrum is the perfect way to drive the narrative.
It feels like Wanda is a monster from an 80s kids movie back before everything got heavily sanitised. The horror she brings into the film is used expertly to terrify not only the characters in the film but also us as an audience.
It’s masterful storytelling that allows her to become the perfect villain that this film needs and in the hands of anyone else I think that Wanda may have underdelivered. Instead, Elisabeth Olsen completely knocks it out of the park and delivers what’s probably her most memorable performance in the MCU.
Scarlett Witch was incredible and hopefully, I’ve helped to make you appreciate the movie a little bit more if you came out of it not liking the choices that they made.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on Twitter.