'Dr. Strange 2' Just Made Death Meaningless In The MCU
You know that red tint on all the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness posters? Apparently that was blood all along. This is the goriest movie in the MCU so far and will probably remain so until they do one that's just the Punisher continuously machine-gunning Wolverine for two hours. Without getting too spoilery, let's just say that anyone who forgets this movie was directed by the guy from Evil Dead will be violently reminded before the credits roll. Multiverse of Madness might have the second biggest kill count in an MCU movie after the one where half the universe dies -- but at the same time this is also the film that officially made death meaningless for Marvel characters.
Yes, Marvel Studios has brought back dead characters before, but it's never done lightly. Avengers: Endgame spent like three hours un-snapping Thanos' victims via a combination of time travel and unrepeatable cosmic forces. Those same time-traveling shenanigans also brought back Loki in Loki, but it's established that he can't even exist in the MCU without time cops immediately jumping on his ass. Vision is rebuilt in WandaVision, but that only worked because he's synthetic -- we're guessing the same government scientists wouldn't get such great results if they tried to scoop together Mickey Rourke's exploded body parts after Iron Man 2. And S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Agent Coulson came back on TV but, confusingly, not in the movies (because Marvel didn't give a crap about TV at that point).
Multiverse of Madness is different, and this is where we get into spoiler-heavy territory. After being corrupted by the Necronomi-- sorry, the Darkhold, Scarlet Witch does some pretty nasty stuff but ends up sacrificing herself to prevent others from being seduced by, uh, the Darkhold Side. It's very sad and all, but here's the thing: we already know that there's another perfectly sane and apparently just as powerful Wanda living in a neighboring reality. And thanks to the multiverse-punching powers of Doc's new sidekick America Chavez, another Wanda is always one punch away should the Avengers need her.
Wouldn't the time cops bust Wanda 2 if she came to stay in the regular MCU? Apparently not, since Strange and America spent several hours visiting other realities without a single one bugging them. Either the Time Variance Authority considers "time-displaced variant" and "other reality variant" different things, or their job description changed dramatically after whatever happened at the end of Loki. This makes it a lot harder to care about not just death but also heel turns, redemption arcs, and arguably character development in general in these movies. Michael B. Jordan wants to do another Black Panther? They can bring him back as Erik Lifemonger from another reality. Robert Downey Jr. decided he wants to buy another Flintstones-looking mansion? "Hi, I'm Tony 336 and my world was destroyed or something, let us never mention where I came from again."
And then there's the scene where MCU Wanda slaughters all those nerd-pleasing cameos, which was pretty cool, but ... we all know those deaths are meaningless, right? At least two of those characters are definitely coming back as different versions in the main reality. (Personally, we're hoping MCU Reed Richards ends up looking more like Rainn Wilson.)
During our comprehensive guide to all the Doctor Strange ripoffs in the multiverse we mentioned the comic where Radioactive Man's pal Plasmo the Mystic gradually replaces all his superhero teammates with multiversal variants when they die until he's the only original one left. We're starting to think Disney bought Fox and The Simpsons just so they'd have the rights to that story. But even if they don't, it's hard to imagine taking death scenes seriously in Marvel movies again now that we know the multiverse card can be played at any time. From now on, if they want to make us cry about a character they'll just have to turn them all into Joe Biden-looking old men (yes, the women too).
Top image: Marvel Studios