Doctor Strange 2 Features The MCU’s Greatest Villain (So Far)

This article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.For several years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was often criticized for its lack of compelling antagonists. And with villains like Malekith, Aldrich Killian, or Ronan the Accuser, it’s not hard to see why.

But in recent years, the MCU has largely remedied that problem, with memorable and often multilayered villains becoming much more common. Plenty of Marvel villains have been a massive hit with moviegoers, from Baron Zemo and Vulture to Killmonger and Wenwu – and of course, Thanos himself. However, the main antagonist of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness may very well be one of the MCU’s most complex yet terrifying villains yet.

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While the identity of the villainous mastermind targeting America Chavez is initially a mystery, it does not take long for Doctor Strange to figure out that it’s none other than the Scarlet Witch herself, Wanda Maximoff, behind the attacks. Despite her remorse over her actions in Westview back in WandaVision, Wanda has given in to the temptation of the Darkhold’s power, and intends to use America’s power to travel to a universe where she can be with her sons Billy and Tommy again. Strange warns that stealing America’s power would kill her in the process, but Wanda does not care – she’s willing to sacrifice as many lives as necessary in order to get her family back.


The Scarlet Witch does not waste any time showing what lengths she’ll go to in order to accomplish her mission. She arrives at Kamar-Taj and effortlessly breaks through their defenses, slaughtering numerous sorcerers along the way. As Doctor Strange himself points out, the selfless and compassionate Wanda who fought alongside the Avengers is no more. The new Scarlet Witch shows no remorse in killing innocent people to achieve her goals. Watching a once-kindhearted hero engage in such callous bloodshed only makes Wanda’s actions even more chilling, especially with Elizabeth Olsen’s brilliant performance bringing the character to life.


Indeed, Scarlet Witch is portrayed as nothing short of a horror movie villain throughout the film: she’s a ruthless, unstoppable, force of nature who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Multiple scenes with Wanda even pay homage to various horror classics – the scene in which she crawls out of the reflection in a gong is a clear nod to The Ringwhile her bloodstained massacre of the Illuminati feels like it was taken straight out of Stephen King’s Carrie. Director Sam Raimi’s horror background is all over Multiverse of Madnessand nowhere is this clearer than in the scenes featuring Scarlet Witch.


However, as horrifying as her actions are, Wanda truly believes that she’s in the right. In her own words, “I’m not a monster, I’m a mother.” She justifies the atrocities she commits by claiming that after all the suffering she’s endured, she deserves to be reunited with the family. And indeed, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Wanda when she’s at her most vulnerable. The film makes it clear that she’s truly tortured by the loss of her family – she wakes up feeling utterly empty inside after dreaming of her children, and she practically breaks down in tears when she reunited with their Variants from another Earth. Even after turning to villainy, Wanda isn’t committing evil for evil’s sake. She truly loves her children, and she’s been consumed by her desperation to be with them again.


But while the film definitely paints Wanda in a sympathetic light, she’s still very much the villain of the story. As much as one can understand her point of view, the pain and loss she endured does not justify the blood on her hands. It’s even pointed out by Strange that if she does succeed in traveling to an Earth where her children are alive, she’d have to deal with that Earth’s Wanda as well. Ultimately, while Wanda’s actions are driven by love, it’s a selfish love twisted by both her own suffering and the Darkhold’s influence.

Wanda’s hypocrisy ends up being her downfall at the climax of the final battle, when America opens a portal to another Earth’s Maximoff family. Scarlet Witch attacks her Variant out of jealousy, while Billy and Tommy scream in fear at the twisted doppelganger of their mother. And though Scarlet Witch tries to comfort the twins, claiming that she’s not a monster, she realizes right away that her words ring hollow. In her desperation to be reunited with her children, Wanda’s become so cruel and corrupt that her own sons are terrified of her. As Scarlet Witch breaks down in tears, consumed by guilt, her Variant offers a final word of comfort: “Know that they’ll be loved.”


Once the portal closes, Wanda sacrifices herself to destroy Mount Wundagore, ridding the entire multiverse of the Darkhold’s corrosive influence once and for all. It’s unclear whether she’s gone for good – though considering she did not leave behind a body, we probably have not seen the last of her. But either way, Wanda’s final act of selflessness proves that she was never pure evil, merely led down a dark path by the worst parts of herself. Yet despite the monstrous things she did, there was still good left in her in the end.

The MCU’s most beloved villains have frequently been their most nuanced – not just evil for evil’s sake, but driven by sympathetic goals that the audience can understand, even while rooting against them. Thanos, Zemo, and Killmonger all wanted to change the world for the better due to the suffering they’d endured. Meanwhile, Vulture and Wenwu were both motivated by love for their family. Scarlet Witch falls perfectly into this same mold of antagonist, but with an added layer of complexity due to her past as a hero.


Wanda Maximoff is one of the MCU’s most fascinating villains precisely because she has not always been a villain. Like Darth Vader before her, her fall to the dark side is made all the more tragic because the audience has seen the kind, courageous hero she once was. Because we’ve seen Wanda at her best, it hurts all the more to see her at her worst. And most importantly, Wanda’s turn to villainy is consistent with her prior characterization – she’s deeply loyal to her family, tormented by the years of trauma she’s endured, and is willing to cross whatever moral lines she has to in order to numb that pain.

It’s been said that a great tragedy turns its hero’s greatest strengths into their greatest weaknesses, and that’s most certainly the case with the tale of Wanda Maximoff. Her past as a hero, her nuanced characterization, Sam Raimi’s directing, and Elizabeth Olsen’s performance all come together to make her not only one of the MCU’s most multifaceted and sympathetic villains yet, but also one of its most horrifying. Whether she’s a hero, a villain, or somewhere in between, the Scarlet Witch is definitely one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


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