I am a first-time father, as my wife and I welcomed our daughter into the world a little over four months ago. This weekend, then, is my wife’s first Mother’s Day, and she is very excited. It was with her anticipation (and the knowledge that I needed to make sure I got flowers) in mind that I went to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which comes out on May 6, the Friday before Mother’s Day.
Holy crap, I cannot believe this movie came out on Mother’s Day weekend. It is either the worst possible — or, perhaps, the best possible — movie to be coming out right in time for Mother’s Day. Either way, this timing is ridiculous. Let’s talk about it. At length.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Wanda Maximoff, one-time Avenger and the complicated protagonist of the Disney+ WandaVision series, is the villain in Multiverse of Madness. This is not a typical Marvel “heroes fight before they team up” kind of thing. She is the bad guy. And, it’s motherhood that drives her down this dark path.
When we last saw Wanda in WandaVision, she was emotionally distraught after having had to kill Vision, the love of her life, in an attempt to save the world. But, then Thanos turned back time and killed Vision all over again, rendering Wanda’s heartbreaking sacrifice moot while Vision was still dead. Upon seeing that the government agency S.W.O.R.D. was turning Vision’s android corpse into a weapon, Wanda kinda lost it. She traveled to the New Jersey town of Westview and unleashed a surge of power that turned the town — and its captive residents — into the sitcoms that she grew up watching.
While the witch Agatha Harkness certainly egged Wanda on in an attempt to steal her powers, Wanda’s grief and her magic made her desires manifest. She resurrected Vision and created two children, Billy and Tommy, with the subconscious intent of living out their days in sitcom happiness. However, once she came to her senses, she did the right thing and dropped the magic to free the people of Westview from her thrall at the cost of her revived husband and beloved kids. They might not have been “real,” but she loved them, and that made them real.
Well, as Multiverse of Madness revealed, dreams are visions of alternate universes — and Wanda has been dreaming of realities where Billy and Tommy actually do exist. When she (somehow?) learns of the existence of America Chavez, a girl who possesses the singular ability to travel between universes, Wanda resolves to take America’s power for herself at any cost.
Over the course of the movie, Wanda employs rune-covered monsters to hunt down America, killing an alternate Doctor Strange and demolishing a part of the East Village in the process. She makes no qualms about killing the girl — and she says her plan is to kill “her” boys’ real mother in whatever alternate universe she inserts herself in. She massacres dozens of students during her assault on Kamar-Taj. She brutally kills the Illuminati when she attacks another dimension while hunting down Strange and America, bisecting Captain Carter and turning Mr. Fantastic into spaghetti. She employs all sorts of forbidden spells and embraces evil.
But, as she says more than once in the movie: “I’m not a monster, I’m a mother.”
To be fair, the corrupting influence of the Darkhold, the book of the damned she obtained at the end of WandaVision, is helping to push her over the edge. But, still, Wanda is doing everything she does in Multiverse of Madness because she wants to recapture the feeling of motherhood she once had.
(The wild thing is, despite multiple delays, this was always the plan. Though Multiverse of Madness’s release date would move to November 5, 2021, and March 22, 2022, due to the pandemic and the reshuffling of Spider-Man: No Way Home, respectively, before settling on its current May 6, premiere, the original, pre-COVID release date was May 7, 2021.)
Now, I am a father, not a mother, so perhaps my take on this shouldn’t be considered gospel. (I can’t ask my wife, a mother, what she thinks because I’m not going to spoil the movie for her. What kind of Mother’s Day present would that be?) It is just very funny, to me, that Marvel’s Mother’s Day weekend release is about a woman who goes insane, kills people, and tries to murder a child and a version of herself who is actually a mother because she loves her fake kids.
You can make the argument that Multiverse of Madness is a celebration of motherhood, in a warped way, seeing as it shows just how far Wanda will go for her children. A mother’s love is a powerful, powerful thing, after all. In that light, Multiverse of Madness is the ultimate Mother’s Day movie, though maybe not the most flattering.
It’s also, I imagine, kind of a bummer for moms to watch. Wanda’s story ends with her terrifying “her” kids and turning them against her. Once she realizes what she’s done, Wanda kills herself. Happy Mother’s Day, Wanda/everyone else? I guess?
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will, I’m sure, piss off some Wanda fans, especially those who were excited for her to become the heroic Scarlet Witch that WandaVision seemingly set her up to be. (There was a woman in the screening I attended who was wearing full cosplay with Scarlet Witch-themed Mickey Mouse ears. She did… not seem psyched when the credits rolled.) It’s understandable to be a little upset by her heel turn. However, heroes turning evil is a classic comic book trope, and Wanda certainly has a history of bad behavior on the page. And, even as Wanda becomes a villain, she’s still mostly a sympathetic character. Raimi clearly relishes turning her into an Evil Dead-like monster, but he doesn’t make her into a cartoon. It’s also a stunning showcase for Elizabeth Olsen, who gets to be heartbreakingly evil.
Wanda’s descent into mommy madness is a natural progression of her character as seen in WandaVision. It’s maybe more challenging than some fans are used to, but it’s an extremely interesting development. None of that changes the fact that it is still pretty wild that this movie came basically on Mother’s Day 2022. I think I will stick with flowers and not get my wife a copy of the Darkhold when Sunday comes. Seems safer that way?
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out in theaters now.
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