Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange wearing winter gear and a cloak in the Spider-Man No Way Home trailer

Will Stephen Make Better Decisions in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?

Because Christine can only take so much of this guy.

One of Doctor Strange’s core straits is that he’s a super genius. Like a super mega genius. Like a photographic memory, got an MD and a PhD at the same time, mastered sorcery in a matter of months kind of super genius. But like so many people with book smarts, Strange doesn’t always make the best decisions when he’s under pressure, or when he’s dealing with other human beings. Will this change in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, his new solo outing due out on May 6th?

Recommended Videos

Before we speculate, let’s take a whirlwind tour of of Stephen Strange’s biggest screw-ups throughout the years!

Mistake #1: Taking His Eyes Off the Road

In the original Doctor Strange, Stephen drives along a cliffside road on his way to a neurological society event while his assistant pitches possible new patients to him. Stephen rejects case after case until he hears one that’s intriguing and asks to see a photo. When he leans over to look, he loses control of his car and plummets off the road, severely injuring his hands.

This moment really affected me because I did the exact same thing many years ago. I leaned over to look at a map that was lying on the passenger seat, and next thing I knew, my car was rolling down the embankment. I was fine—looks like my beat-up Saturn had a better safety system than Strange’s fancy sports car—but as the world was spinning around me and snow was pouring in through my broken windshield, I realized that looking at the map had been a Very Bad Decision.

So, hey, anyone could have a boneheaded moment like that, and I felt a lot of empathy for Stephen. But what compounds his mistake is that he refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. After his colleague Nicodemus attempts to repair the nerve damage in his hands, Stephen accuses Nicodemus of “ruining” him. He doesn’t seem to have any awareness that he played a part in his own injury.

Of course, Strange’s car accident is one of the formative events in his life, and the turning point that sets him on his path to study the mystic arts and eventually become Sorcerer Supreme. That’s a pretty big silver lining!

Mistake #2: Pushing Away Christine

Christine Palmer is the kind of friend everyone should have in their life. She’s kind, she’s smart, and she doesn’t give up on you even when you’re being a world-class jerk.

But even Christine has her limits.

After Stephen’s accident, Christine takes care of him while his hands are healing. She sits with him, shaves him, and even goes to his home to check up on him. But he takes her for granted, finally blowing up at her when she tells him that his obsession with fixing the damage in his hands isn’t healthy. After that, she decides that enough is enough, and Stephen loses one of his closest friends.

At Kamar-Taj, we see that he’s been emailing her relentlessly. Has he been apologizing in those emails? Has he been getting down on one virtual knee to beg her forgiveness for how he treated her? Apparently not, because when he finally does apologize in person, she’s gobsmacked. She even chalks it up to shock from his injury.

Mistake #3: Giving Thanos Access to the Time Stone

No, I’m not talking about when he willingly hands over the stone in order to keep Tony Stark alive. I’m talking about long before that, when he gets himself kidnapped.

At the beginning of The Avengers: Infinity War, Bruce Banner crashes into the Sanctum Sanctorum and tells Stephen that Thanos has two infinity stones, making him the most powerful being in the entire universe. Tony then tells Stephen to get the time stone somewhere safe. But Stephen disagrees. “We may have to use it,” he says, getting ready to fight.

Stephen. My dude. You’re up against the most powerful being in existence, and that being wants the thing you have around your neck. You don’t take him on in the middle of New York City so that you can get yourself captured and tortured with space scalpels. You yeet yourself to the Mirror Dimension or Antarctica or something so that you at least draw the fight away from civilians! Come on, it’s not that hard to figure out the right thing to do here.

Plus, he didn’t even use the time stone to fight Thanos like he said he would, so his decision to stay in New York accomplished nothing.

Mistake #4: Pretty Much Everything in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Oof, this one’s a doozy. Stephen’s behavior in the latest Spider-Man movie was so bizarre that people were actually speculating that it wasn’t him at all, but Mephisto or an evil variant. Let’s break this one down into a little more detail.

Mistake 4a: Casting the spell to make everyone forget that Peter is Spider-Man. Wong warns him not to do it. Why does he do it!?

Mistake 4b: Waiting until the spell is in progress to tell Peter what its effects will be. Sure, Stephen gives Peter a broad outline, but notice how he doesn’t say “It’s been nice knowing you” until he’s already in the middle of the spell? You’d think that he would want to be very, very clear with Peter, before the spell began, that “everyone” really means literally everyone, including himself. Good thing MJ, like Christine, is able to see through his posturing and pin the blame where it belongs.

Mistake 4c: Dismissing Peter’s concerns about letting the villains die. Peter raises an excellent point when he and Stephen are preparing to send Doc Oc and the other villains back to their own realities: isn’t it kind of messed up to send them straight into certain death? If Stephen had taken a moment to talk it out and maybe consider other options, maybe Peter wouldn’t have stolen the artifact and left Stephen dangling over the Grand Canyon for 12 hours.

Why Does Doctor Strange Mess Up So Much?

Let’s get the obvious answer out of the way: these are superhero movies, and something needs to advance the plot. Plus, flawed characters are much more interesting than perfect ones. If a character, especially a character with superpowers, always makes the right decision, then both the character and the plot get a lot more boring. We’ve seen plenty of other Marvel characters mess up. Tony Stark unleashes Ultron on the world and decimates Sokovia. Thor lets Loki goad him into attacking Jotunheim. Wanda, upon finding out that her perfect sitcom life is actually a mass mind-control spell, doubles down and insists that she’s keeping the people of Westview safe instead of kidnapping and controlling them against their will. We love these characters in spite of their flaws—or maybe even because of them.

But you can’t deny that Stephen has an extra high penchant for mistakes. His first movie immediately establishes him as arrogant and full of himself, as he refuses to see patients whose cases he thinks are beneath him and tells off the Ancient One when she tries to explain what magic is. His arrogance may have gotten him far in life, but it also sabotages him again and again.

The big question at this point is whether Stephen will gain some humility in Multiverse of Madness.

Strange is Finally Held Accountable

There are a couple of hints that Stephen’s mistakes will finally catch up with him in Multiverse of Madness. The trailer opens with Stephen being tormented night after night by a nightmare in which reality seems to be collapsing. We also hear an echo of Wong warning him not to cast “that spell”—presumably that first spell from No Way Home. It looks like Stephen is feeling pretty guilty about all the chaos he caused (although I desperately want to know what exactly he remembers of that final spell he cast, considering the whole point of the spell was to forget Peter Parker ever existed). Wanda also calls him on it, pointing out how unfair it is that he’s considered a hero while she’s seen as a villain.

An even bigger clue, of course, is the sequence in which Mordo seems to arrest Stephen for his “desecration of reality,” and Stephen is taken before a mysterious tribunal. Is Stephen going to be tried and punished for his actions?

More importantly, though, will he actually learn from whatever he has in store for him? One of Stephen’s biggest flaws, as we’ve seen, is that when he messes up, he casts blame around on anyone but himself. He does occasionally rise above that tendency, like when he finally apologizes to Christine in the first Doctor Strange, but his reluctance to reflect on his choices or acknowledge his faults is something he’s struggled with in every single solo or team-up movie.

Stephen Strange is a wonderfully frustrating character, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him struggle and stumble as he ascends to his eventual role as Sorcerer Supreme. But, frankly, his arrogance is also getting a little old. Some real, true humility—along with the wiser choices that accompany it—would be a refreshing change in his next adventure.

Will Stephen gain a little wisdom? We’ll find out on May 6th, when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness comes out in theaters!

(images: Sony, Marvel Studios)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
related content
Read Article Are Disney and Pixar Setting up ‘Inside Out 3’?
the emotions in inside out 2
the emotions in inside out 2
the emotions in inside out 2
Read Article Where Does ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Fit on the Franchise’s Timeline?
Godzilla roaring in Godzilla Minus One
Godzilla roaring in Godzilla Minus One
Godzilla roaring in Godzilla Minus One
Read Article Anxiety’s Voice Actor Understands the Importance of Talking About, Well, Anxiety
Joy and Anxiety standing next to each other
Joy and Anxiety standing next to each other
Joy and Anxiety standing next to each other
Read Article Sony’s Alamo Drafthouse Purchase Is Another Nail in the Coffin of a Dying Movie Industry
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema logo. The words are in white on a red logo outlined in yellow, and the whole thing is on a black background.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema logo. The words are in white on a red logo outlined in yellow, and the whole thing is on a black background.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema logo. The words are in white on a red logo outlined in yellow, and the whole thing is on a black background.
Read Article Looking Back at the Reason Behind Doc Hudson’s Absence From the ‘Cars’ Sequels
Paul Newman as Doc Hudson and Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen in 'Cars'
Paul Newman as Doc Hudson and Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen in 'Cars'
Paul Newman as Doc Hudson and Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen in 'Cars'
Related Content
Read Article Are Disney and Pixar Setting up ‘Inside Out 3’?
the emotions in inside out 2
Read Article Where Does ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Fit on the Franchise’s Timeline?
Godzilla roaring in Godzilla Minus One
Read Article Anxiety’s Voice Actor Understands the Importance of Talking About, Well, Anxiety
Joy and Anxiety standing next to each other
Read Article Sony’s Alamo Drafthouse Purchase Is Another Nail in the Coffin of a Dying Movie Industry
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema logo. The words are in white on a red logo outlined in yellow, and the whole thing is on a black background.
Read Article Looking Back at the Reason Behind Doc Hudson’s Absence From the ‘Cars’ Sequels
Paul Newman as Doc Hudson and Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen in 'Cars'
Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>