Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set up a major Infinity War retcon that would have changed the MCU, but the movie failed to deliver.
Warning! SPOILERS for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness teased a massive Avengers: Infinity War retcon early in the film, but the rest of the movie ended up wasting a promising setup. More than three years after Avengers: Endgame, the consequences of Thanos’ snap, the Hulk’s blip, and Iron Man’s ultimate sacrifice are still being felt throughout the MCU Phase 4, whether in the movies or in the Disney + Marvel shows. Despite big cameos like John Krasinski as Mister Fantastic and the movie’s convoluted plot, Multiverse of Madness found time to continue that trend by highlighting how Stephen Strange, the mind behind the plan that guaranteed the ultimate victory against Thanos in Endgameperceives the choices he made during that time of war.
While Doctor Strange had already appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Homeone of the first MCU movies set after Endgameit’s in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that audiences could really have an insight into what Stephen Strange’s post-blip life looks like. Strange was one of the billions of people on Earth who were snapped by Thanos, meaning that he had five years of life to catch up. During that time, Wong became the Sorceror Supreme, and now Christine Palmer was about to get married. Before Strange learned about America Chavez’s powers and headed on an adventure throughout the multiverse, the movie spent a few minutes showing how all of those changes affected the hero.
During Christine Palmer’s wedding, Dr. West, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, asks Strange if there was really no other way to defeat Thanos and save Earth – one that did not involve five years of chaos and grief. Before Doctor Strange reaffirms that there was only one way, it is possible to notice a glimpse of doubt and regret on Strange’s face, which could suggest that the hero was not telling the whole truth. With that exchange as a setup, Doctor Strange 2 could have revealed later in the movie that Strange was lying about there being only one out of 14 million futures in which Thanos was defeated. Obviously, there would have to be a reason for Strange to lie about such an important matter. The former Sorcerer Supreme could have chosen that specific plan of action to guarantee that the most Avengers would survive the fight against 2014 Thanos or to make sure that the Earth would still have its most powerful sorcerers in the end. However, nothing as such was ever brought up again.
Whatever the reason, Strange lying about Thanos having to succeed first for the war to be won five years later would have changed how audiences perceive the hero, and it would also add an extra layer of complexity and ambiguity to the character. Doctor Strange has always been one of the most pragmatic Marvel heroes, both in the comics and in the MCU, which explains why so many versions of Doctor Strange become evil – including the one in Doctor Strange 2‘s Illuminati team. That is why it would not have been out of character for Doctor Strange to have lied about the ways to defeat Thanos, as long as he believed that his actions were for the greater good. That would have mirrored the actions of Earth-838 Strange, who caused the deaths of trillions by thinking he was doing the right thing.
Doctor Strange’s decision of handing the Time Stone to Thanos was questioned twice in Doctor Strange 2, and yet the movie doubled down on it being the only way. Saying that Strange was lying in Avengers: Infinity War would have been a huge retcon, but it would have made Doctor Strange an even more complex character. Instead, the more controversial decisions were left for the other Doctor Strange variants seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Next: Doctor Strange 2’s Post-Credits Scenes Explained (They’re Both Important)
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