Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is here, providing not only the first direct follow-up to 2016’s Doctor Strange but also continuing a ton of reality-bending events from the MCU in the likes of WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
A new Marvel movie, especially one featuring such heavy hitters as Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), inevitably leads to plenty of spirited debate about which character is more powerful than the other, which has certainly been the case here.
With that – and some Fandom poll results – in mind, I spoke to the film’s director, Sam Raimi, and cast members Benedict Wong (“Wong”) and Rachel McAdams (“Christine Palmer”) about some notable MCU showdowns, Raimi bringing his talent for horror and funky camera angles to the film, and more – including Raimi’s thoughts on Spider-Man 3’s dancing Peter Parker becoming quite the meme.
STEPHEN OR WANDA?
Who’s more powerful, Doctor Strange or the Scarlet Witch? There’s been much debate about this in the lead up to Multiverse of Madness, but a poll at the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki here at Fandom has been skewing pretty strongly Wanda and on the day of the Doctor Strange junket, the results were 62% choosing Wanda Maximoff vs. 38% choosing Stephen Strange.
“Honestly, I think Wanda is more powerful in terms of her actual abilities. It’s just her control is a bit questionable from what we’ve seen. But, Strange has much more control over his magic and could be considered stronger. That doesn’t necessarily mean his power is greater though.” – SilverQuake616
When I asked the Doctor Strange crew who they thought won the poll, all correctly guessed the Scarlet Witch.
Explained Sam Raimi, “Just from my reading of the Marvel comic books, knowing what happened to her, she seems like she just was born with it. That chaos magic is really a bad, bad mother. You don’t want to mess with it. So I bet that she, when push came to shove in a fair fight, could probably handle Doctor Strange.”
“I’d say Wanda has more raw power/potential, but Strange is more skilled.” – Mistic-Instinct
Benedict Wong said he felt the match up was “A tough call,” but ultimately leaned towards Wanda. As for why he felt she had the edge, he remarked, “It’s the chaos magic, isn’t it?”
“Wanda absolutely has the raw power advantage, Strange has the academic advantage.” – TheOgreS
Rachel McAdams admitted she was ultimately Team Wanda, noting, “I loved WandaVision so much. Not that I haven’t loved Benedict [Cumberbatch] in everything he’s ever done, but I did love what Lizzie did with that character. She was just such a force!”
“I honestly think Wanda could beat Doctor Strange by just plucking him out of the air and ripping him apart… she almost did that to Thanos (THANOS! WITH THE INFINITY GAUNTLET LOCKED AND LOADED!)” – GarrettPlayzRBLX
WHICH SORCERER IS TRULY SUPREME?
Fandom also had a recent Twitter poll asking who the better Sorcerer Supreme was, in which Wong, alas, was somewhat trounced by Doctor Strange – receiving only 18.3% of the votes to Doctor Strange’s 48.9%.
Asked who she thought won the poll, McAdams laughed that she didn’t want to venture a guess on this one, proclaiming, “This is so tough. I mean, Benedict Wong is just so lovable, isn’t he? Oh, God, I don’t know. They’re such different sorcerers. How do you choose?!” Though told the results, she said, of Doctor Strange, “I’m glad he won one!”
Raimi in the meantime said he personally would go with Wong, explaining, “I think Wong is probably the better Sorcerer Supreme because he’s not so obsessed with himself. The Sorcerer Supreme can be a teacher and a leader and I think Doctor Strange is more of a loner.”
“Not enough people voted for Wong. – @KyloReece
As for the man who plays Wong, Benedict Wong was good natured about the results, and joked, “Alright, okay. I’m only new in the job, actually. So we’ll see. Not bad on the first year!”
Of course, as we’ve learned, Wong in fact contains multitudes. He’s the Sorcerer Supreme, yes, but as I noted to Benedict Wong, he’s also a Beyonce fan, loves deli sandwiches, and sometimes has cage fights with the Abomination over in Macau.
Replied Benedict Wong, “Yeah, let’s not forget his karaoke skills as well! He’s becoming kind of full rounded, isn’t he? I just always pick up the gauntlet when the phone rings and they say, ‘Go there, fight this, sing that.’ And now I’m looking forward to this greater responsibility that he has to take within the Sorcerer Supreme.”
“Wong was able to keep s**t from falling apart for at least 5 years without delving into dark stuff. That’s better than both of the other options combined.” – @ghostnoahx
Given how many people Wong is meeting, I asked Benedict Wong if there was anyone left he’d like to see the character interact with and he went big for the MCU’s future, replying, “I’d like to hang out with the Fantastic Four, I think, or the X-Men. You know, we’ll see!”
The Evil Marvel Dead
When Kevin Feige first announced Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness back at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, he stressed that it would be the MCU’s first horror film, which made it especially exciting when Sam Raimi joined the film as director. Not only was Raimi returning to the world of Marvel years after his Spider-Man trilogy, but he also brought with him his pedigree as a beloved horror director, having given the world the cult classic Evil Dead films.
Raimi had intermixed a bit of horror into his first foray into the world of superheroes, 1990’s Darkman, but Multiverse of Madness allows him to really let loose on this front, and the film is filled with macabre, ghoulish visuals that are right in the filmmaker’s wheelhouse. Said Raimi, “It was really nice to have the experience of having made those horror films because I could take my knowledge of building suspense and delivering scares, and when it got spooky in Multiverse of Madness, I could apply those techniques.”
Regarding working with Raimi, who is known for his distinct visuals — complete with wild angles and hurtling camera moves — McAdams remarked, “He’s really great at describing what is happening in his mind’s eye, thank goodness, because, you can see it all sort of swirling in there. And you’re like [whispering] ‘What are we doing? What’s happening?’ And then he’s very good about taking you through the whole day and what this will look like and what’s coming towards you and the build up of a scene and how scary it’s going to be. You sort of start to understand, like, ‘Oh, this is my part in this. And this is how I can help him make it as scary as possible.’ That was kind of fun. And doing super, super tight shots – like, way up in your face! But once you know why, that’s kind of exciting.”
Benedict Wong also laughed about Raimi’s love of not just extreme close ups but getting cameras close to his actors, noting there was one day when he recalled looking at some equipment on set being positioned right by his face. Said Wong, “I can’t even describe it, but [it was] like a huge cannon, which someone said was a camera. I don’t know if they were filming my nasal hairs or what, but you’ll definitely get some sort of weird kaleidoscopic angles going on.”
Doctor Strange 2… and WandaVision Too
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has a lot of elements from previous MCU stories to incorporate, serving not just as a follow-up to 2016’s Doctor Strange but also a follow-up to Strange’s most recent appearances in the Avengers films and in Spider-Man: No Way Home and also a continuation of Wanda’s story as seen in WandaVision.
Describing juggling all of these elements, Raimi said, “It was a fun challenge, and a little scary. Most of the work was done by [screenwriter] Michael Waldron, who is a really big fan of the Marvel Comics and has friends on the WandaVision writing staff, so we would communicate with each other, the WandaVision team and ours and the Spider Man: No Way Home team, and we would keep abreast of their changes. And even while we were shooting, they were shooting, and we’d be making changes based on changes that they made, because we really wanted this to be the next installment. We really wanted it to be a really good — not sequel, but a very logical next step for the fans.”
With the multiverse front and center here, Benedict Wong admitted that trying to keep track of everything, “It got very confusing, so much that we just have the numbers for sort of whatever quantum field that was going on – there’s 615, world 616… But I think we got there in the end. It took a few good reads for me to kind of get the right [feel] of which universe we were sat in at the time.”
In the first film, Christine was understandably thrown by her ex-boyfriend, Stephen, popping up in her life as a powerful sorcerer, but now, a few years later, McAdams said, “I think she’s just gone fully into it. She’s hooked on multiversal travel and she’s become a bit of an expert on it, I feel like. It’s very much something that she’s comfortable in now. So quite different from the Christine of the previous film, [where] this was all just happening for the first time.”
Of course the MCU itself keeps expanding and growing and McAdams joked that Christine is catching up, because, “You gotta get with the program. You’re gonna get left behind!”
Before we finished our conversation, I asked Raimi about a certain moment from his Marvel past – the scene in Spider-Man 3 in which Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, under the thrall of the Venom symbiote, very memorably dances on the street. This scene has become a go-to meme and reference, frequently gif’d online and even paid homage to in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Raimi was well aware of all of this, commenting, “It’s hysterical to watch that stuff.”
Spider-Man 3 received much more mixed reaction than the first two films and Raimi has spoken about some of his difficulties behind the scenes making it. There was also plenty of fan debate about Peter Parker’s darker side manifesting in this rather goofy way when the film opened, so what does the director think of that moment becoming so popular now?
Said Raimi, “Well, we meant it to be funny, actually. It was Peter Parker’s version — this lame kid — of what it must be like to be his evil self. But he’s so whipped. He’s so out of it that that’s his take on it. And that didn’t go over well with the audience. But that’s what we were trying to do. So I’m not surprised that people… I’m glad people find it funny! We we wanted it to be fun.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens May 6.