This post contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has a hero-turned-villain in the Scarlet Witch, in turn making her a more horrifying version of the MCU’s previous main villain: Thanos. Thanos is the biggest threat the Avengers have ever had to face, being the main antagonist of the two-part epic events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Following Thanos, audiences were left wondering who would become the next main threat to the Avengers in terms of power level, and Wanda Maximoff may provide the answer.
With Doctor Strange 2, then, Marvel Studios may have provided the answer in Wanda Maximoff. While Wanda, now the Scarlet Witch after the events of WandaVision, isn’t necessarily gearing up to be the next main villain in the MCU, she is certainly the main antagonist of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In the film, Wanda comes to blows with Stephen Strange, Wong, and their allies when she attempts to steal America Chavez’s power to travel the multiverse.
Wanda, still reeling from the loss of her children and Vision at the end of WandaVision, attempts to capture Chavez so that she can travel the multiverse to be reunited with her children. Strange, however, decides to protect Chavez, putting him at odds with the Scarlet Witch. It is across the course of Doctor Strange 2 that Wanda truly comes into her own as a villain, becoming a much more terrifying version of the Mad Titan himself.
In Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Thanos’ motivations for his actions are presented extremely clearly. Thanos truly believes himself as the hero of his own story, convinced that the ends justify the means. For Thanos, the end goal is halving all life in the universe to save it from overpopulation and prevent the same from happening to every planet that happened to his. This goal, however, involved Thanos collecting all six Infinity Stones, and committing mass genocide against the people of the MCU. It is in the way both Thanos and Wanda view themselves then, that the similarities between the two begin to show.
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Wanda, like Thanos, views her own actions as justified in order to achieve the goal of reuniting with her children. In searching for her children, Wanda becomes increasingly villainous and evil. At the beginning of the movie, Wanda is shown to send others to do her bidding, much like Thanos with Loki and the Chitauri in The Avengers. After this fails, Wanda takes matters into her own hands, again like Thanos eventually did in Avengers: Infinity War. Upon doing so, Scarlet Witch attacks Kamar-Taj, killing the vast majority of sorcerers tasked with defending the sanctuary and Chavez. As Scarlet Witch then persues Chavez and Strange through the multiverse, Wanda’s desperation grows and she begins a murderous rampage through the multiverse, even killing Earth-838’s Illuminati. While Wanda’s actions aren’t quite as bad as the Mad Titan’s, at least in terms of kill count, their reasoning is very similar. Both Scarlet Witch and Thanos view themselves as justified and are vehemently committed to their end goals, no matter the cost or loss of life.
Scarlet Witch becoming the villain, as well as her and Thanos’s brief fight in Avengers: Endgame, begs the question: who is more powerful? It was shown during the fight between the two that Scarlet Witch almost bested Thanos. During their fight, Wanda looked to be triumphing over Thanos, until the latter called for an airstrike at the cost of his own army in order to save his own life. Just from this alone, it is safe to assume the Scarlet Witch is more powerful.
However, Doctor Strange 2 only provides more evidence of this. The film continues from where WandaVision left off, showcasing Wanda’s powers in a way never before seen in the MCU, including her reality-altering powers. At multiple points throughout Doctor Strange 2, Scarlet Witch is shown to be incredibly powerful in her chaos magic capabilities. Not only does she eliminate the Illuminati with comical ease, but she is shown to be much more powerful than even Doctor Strange himself, as stated in the Darkhold. Wanda’s power base is shown to be much more vast than Thanos’s, at least without the Infinity Stones. For example, the Scarlet Witch’s power to rewrite reality alone would be difficult for Thanos to handle. From the convincing illusion of Wanda’s idyllic countryside life that she conjures to trick Strange, or her removing Black Bolt’s mouth before killing him, Wanda’s reality-warping powers have increased tenfold. This, combined with her telepathic abilities and her rivaled ability of Doctor Strange’s magic, only goes to show that the Scarlet Witch may just be more powerful than Thanos himself.
While Scarlet Witch becomes more like Thanos in Doctor Strange 2, the way in which her villain arc is presented is much more horrifying. One of the leading reasons behind this is Sam Raimi, the director of the film. Given Raimi’s prolific horror career, it was undoubted that he would carry some of his horror techniques into the film. In doing so, Raimi presents Scarlet Witch as by far the scariest MCU villain to date. Using his horror expertise, Raimi sometimes depicts Wanda as a slasher villain, stalking her victims down dark hallways before jumping out and killing them to continue her hunt for America Chavez. Also, Thanos was always portrayed as a very intimidating threat to the Avengers, but he was never scary in the same way Wanda is thanks to the masterful horror work of Sam Raimi in Doctor Strange 2.
Outside of Raimi’s influences, Wanda’s story in the MCU up to this point makes her villainous turn all the more horrifying than Thanos’s. Up until this point, Wanda was mainly shown as a hero in the MCU. While she and Pietro started off as antagonists in Avengers: Age of Ultron, they defected to the Avengers and helped defeat Ultron by the end of the film. Across her future appearances, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, Wanda was shown as a hero working with the Avengers. While the Disney+ show certainly went out of its way to portray Scarlet Witch’s actions as more morally questionable, she was never the outright villain of the show like Agatha Harkness was in WandaVision. With Doctor Strange 2 then, it is made all the more terrifying seeing someone that has, up to this point, been heroic in the MCU go to these murderous lengths. Also, given the emotional weight WandaVision provided for Scarlet Witch’s character as a whole, it is horrifying to see her go down such a dark path. While Infinity War did go to some lengths to present Thanos’s motivations in a sympathetic light, it was always easy to see him as simply the Mad Titan that wanted to commit genocide over an uncertain future. However, understanding Wanda’s humanity on such a deep level, mainly due to WandaVision, makes her villainous actions unendingly horrifying.
Towards the end of Doctor Strange 2, Scarlet Witch gets her wish and reunites with her children, Billy and Tommy from WandaVision, albeit from another universe. In doing so, her children see her for what she has become. Upon their outright fear of Wanda, she breaks down and begins to see the error of her ways. Wanda comes to realize her actions were misguided, something Thanos was never able to do, destroying the Darkhold of every universe and seemingly sacrificing herself. However, does this redeem Scarlet Witch’s actions in the film enough? While Wanda certainly makes the right decision by the end of the film, it is a far cry to say they fully redeem her villainous turn. Throughout the movie, Wanda kills a vast amount of innocent people in order to get to Chavez, an innocent child. While she realizes the error of her ways, destroying the Darkhold isn’t enough the wipe clean her slate. Should Scarlet Witch be revealed to have survived the collapse of Mount Wundagor, she will have to continue making up for her actions in this Doctor Strange 2, especially given the number of lives she took.
While Wanda’s villainous actions in this movie make her a more horrifying version of Thanos, it is safe to assume Scarlet Witch won’t become the next major MCU villain given this film’s conclusion. Given the MCU’s gradual build-up to Kang the Conqueror as well, Wanda is saved from becoming the next Thanos, despite this film portraying her as worse in a lot of ways. Although, as many of Scarlet Witch’s best storylines from the comics come from her villainous stretches, such as House of M (a possibility in the MCU), it is possible she returns in the future after Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Whether the all-powerful Scarlet Witch returns as friend or foe though, remains to be seen in the future of the MCU.
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