3 Ways ‘Doctor Strange 2’ Doesn’t Do Its Female Leads Justice
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is officially playing in theaters, and the Marvel sequel is evoking mixed reactions from fans. Some of that has to do with its portrayal of its female characters, which misses the mark in more ways than one. Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) hold prominent roles in the film, and even Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) gets a decent amount of screen time. Still, Doctor Strange 2 simply doesn’t do its female leads justice. These three examples highlight that fact.
[Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.]
Wanda Maximoff’s character arc in ‘Doctor Strange 2’ is a mess
Fans suspected Wanda Maximoff might hold an antagonistic role in Doctor Strange 2. However, they weren’t prepared for just how messy her storyline would be. The sequel dubs the Scarlet Witch the villain from the beginning. And although it blames the Darkhold for her sudden descent into madness, it’s hard to reckon with the abrupt shift from the end of WandaVision to the beginning of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Sure, time passes between both projects. But it would have been nice to see Wanda backpedal on her character development rather than have it happen off-screen.
Additionally, the film doesn’t portray her with the same nuance afforded many male villains. For most of it, she’s cold and heartless — completely unrecognizable from previous projects. Toward the end, viewers get a brief glimpse of the Wanda they’ve come to love. Sadly, her return doesn’t last very long.
As though Wanda’s villain storyline isn’t disappointing enough, Doctor Strange 2 has her “die” redeeming herself at the end. It’s not a guarantee that she’s actually gone, but the movie certainly wants us to think so. And one can’t help but wonder why Wanda couldn’t have the chance to right her wrongs while still alive. If Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) got to do so, why not her?
Killing off one of its most powerful and popular female characters isn’t a good look for Marvel. Her whole arc is giving Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) — and not in a good way.
America Chavez is the movie’s other female lead — but it waters her down from the comics
The entire reason Wanda Maximoff goes on a rampage in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is that she wants America Chavez’s power. America serves as the other female lead in Doctor Strange 2. And although it’s exciting to see a beloved Latinx hero join the MCU, the film doesn’t do a particularly impressive job of adapting her.
In the comics, America is a force to be reckoned with. She’s powerful and sure of herself, not someone who constantly needs saving. Sadly, that’s what she’s reduced to in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — a character whose only purpose seems to be forwarding the plot for everyone else.
Since the MCU’s America doesn’t have a grip on her abilities just yet, she’s only able to show off their true range in the last few minutes of the film. Even then, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has to encourage her to do so. It doesn’t really send an empowering message, even though it’s meant to.
Hopefully, the MCU will push America in the direction of her comics counterpart as she continues to grow within the franchise. It’d also be nice to see some spoken acknowledgment of her LGBTQ identity.
Christine Palmer falls flat in ‘Doctor Strange 2’
Although Christine Palmer isn’t a main female lead like Wanda or America, Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) love interest shows up in multiple forms during Doctor Strange 2. Sadly, none of her appearances serve much of a purpose other than to further Doctor Strange’s storyline or showcase his character growth.
Christine’s role in this film feels a lot like Marvel’s love interests from Phase 1 and Phase 2. Despite perfectly good acting on Rachel McAdams’ part, Christine simply falls flat. She doesn’t have much spunk or personality, nor does she get the chance to shine outside of her connection to Strange. And even their interactions with one another feel incredibly cliche.
It’s nice that fans got some sort of closure when it comes to Strange and Christine’s relationship, but it’s hard to feel strongly about it after watching Doctor Strange 2. When it comes to romance, Marvel should really stick to the progress it made in projects like WandaVision, Loki, and Eternals.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is currently playing in theaters worldwide.