Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: The Dark Hold of Isolation

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: The Dark Hold of Isolation

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Editor’s note: some spoilers ahead.

 

We may have been driven to isolation by the pandemic, but many of us are already schooled in its ways—especially when it comes to dealing with sin.

And as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness shows, it is a dangerous way to live.

In the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Doctor Strange must protect America Chavez, a girl with the ability to traverse the Multiverse, from another being who wants to steal her power. Joining the adventure are Sorcerer Supreme Wong and Avenger Wanda Maximoff.

Now, it may be Doctor Strange’s name in the movie title, but it’s actually Wanda’s story that comes in full circle here. At the close of the Disney+ series WandaVision, Wanda had secluded herself in a cabin in the mountains after claiming her identity as the Scarlet Witch and ownership of the Darkhold, a book she believed would teach her more about her powers.

By the time Doctor Strange caught up to her in Multiverse of Madness, her study of the Darkhold had enhanced her mastery of Chaos Magic immensely—but she had also turned into a self-centred villain who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.

 

Isolation makes us believe that we are the centre of the universe—even the “Multiverse”

On the surface, Wanda’s objective in Multiverse of Madness sounded quite innocent—she just wanted to get her sons, whom she had to give up at the end of WandaVision, back. Those who have followed her story in the MCU would know that Wanda has lived a life of grief and trauma, and it does seem like a little thing to want to go to a place where she’s happy.

But as her thoughts got twisted, wistfulness became obsession, and love became possession. When confronted on her use of the evil tome, Wanda replied, “The Darkhold only showed me the truth—everything I lost can be mine again.” And when asked what would happen to her variants if she succeeded in her quest, Wanda had no answer, but her actions spoke loudly enough—when she was not using her doppelgangers as tools, they were obstacles to be tossed aside.

The movie emphasised that the Darkhold was an object that corrupted all who read it, but the book was only able to weaponise Wanda so effectively because there was already darkness in her that had been left to fester unchecked. She became blinded by the lie that her pain, her desires, and her needs alone mattered. The lack of a community to pull Wanda back from the wrong path hastened her slip under the book’s evil influence.

Something similar happens to us when we choose to isolate ourselves in our battles against sin. Whether it’s clinging to bitterness or wanting to indulge ourselves, we have all experienced how much more sweetly the tempter whispers to us when we’re on our own. How strangely sensible his reasoning sounds when he croons, “you deserve a break…”

The devil counsels us to keep the temptations we struggle with to ourselves because he cannot allow anyone the opportunity to shine light into our darkness. When we do entertain thoughts of confession, he feeds the fear in us of being judged, dismissed, or misunderstood.

In the Bible, it was when David was alone that Satan struck, leading the man after God’s own heart into sin (2 Samuel 11:2). And as David kept the sin to himself, his fear of its exposure brought him to commit murder by proxy (2 Samuel 11:15).

When we fall into sin, the devil proceeds to push us further into self-exile so that others won’t be able to pick us back up and remind us of the grace of Jesus Christ.

 

Superheroes need a support system too

Wanda’s downward spiral happened largely because no one looked out for her after all the losses she experienced. Multiverse of Madness revealed that even after the events of WandaVision, she still had not received any emotional support from her friends or teammates.

When Doctor Strange first approached Wanda, he didn’t have much trouble locating her, which implied he had been keeping tabs. He knew what had happened in Westview. But in their opening conversation, he brushed off the incident with a simple “you put things right in the end” and pushed on with his agenda until he was blindsided by what was really going on with her.

Perhaps, if the other superheroes had offered Wanda a shoulder to cry on, and a healthier way to process her grief and pain, she would not have turned to the Darkhold for answers.

The simple act of checking up on a friend who’s going through a hard time could be one that steers them away from a dangerous path. There are times when we are the ones who are strong and are in a good place. And when we are in that position, we mustn’t neglect to reach out to those who aren’t doing so well.

As Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we are to “encourage the disheartened” and to “help the weak.” We may meet some resistance from the one we are reaching out, and thus we must act with sensitivity. But for someone who’s struggling, even just knowing that someone is there for them can make a difference.

In Multiverse of Madness, it took someone holding up a mirror to show Wanda what she had become—a monster in the eyes of the children she wanted so badly. In a moment of compassion, that person reached out and assured her that the children are loved, causing Wanda to finally turn away from her selfishness and become a hero at heart once more.

There are times when we don’t realise that a friend has already gone off the deep end, and it may seem like it’s too late, but let’s not be held back by the thought that they’re too far gone. The Bible shows through numerous instances that the grace and love of the Lord through His people, including us, can turn even the most hopeless cases around.

 

Those who are strong should be careful not to fall

While Wanda’s villainous turn shocked Doctor Strange, he learned in the course of his multiversal journey that he was, in fact, the one who had the most potential to fall to the Darkhold. His most notable trait had always been his arrogance, as several other characters pointed out. It was this hubris that isolated him in a more subtle, insidious way, because he thought he alone knew best. He had to be the guy who called—and took—the winning shot, “the one to hold the knife,” as one character puts it.

And the Darkholds in other universes used this to great effect. Several of his variants caused just as much if not more destruction than Wanda did when they took up the book. One character told Doctor Strange of how one of his variants chose to act alone despite being part of a team, turning to the Darkhold in an attempt to defeat Thanos in that universe. Another variant went around the Multiverse with the express intent of killing his alternate selves because he believed there was no universe where Doctor Strange is happy.

In the movie’s final act, Doctor Strange was once again faced with “holding the knife”. But this time, he chose to accept support and to pass the knife to others, empowering them in the process.

Multiverse of Madness provides a cautionary tale for Christians who hide from community and try to handle darkness on their own—it’s a battle we won’t win. Peter warned us that the devil is “always looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and when we opt to stand alone and refuse to be accountable to others, we leave ourselves vulnerable to his attack.

And so let us remain connected to our fellow believers and “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

2 replies
  1. Plexerific
    Plexerific says:

    It’s a great article, but to be honest I think it’s also quite idealistic. The truth is there are a lot of Christians who are struggling and alone. All too often Christians can also act like worldly people. When someone is smart, well-off, charming, good looking and all that, that person will probably have fewer hurdles finding someone willing to support their cause. To the rest who may not be as appealing or has a dark past, finding a true friend can be very hard, even in the Christian community. When someone truly hits rock bottom there are even fewer people willing to be involved in their mess. I really do wish everyone can have Christian friends, who unlike Job’s friends are biblically understanding, kind, supportive and most important of all loving. But a true friend is quite frankly a rare find anywhere (especially Male friendships).

    But ending on a positive note there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. I do believe that is referring to Jesus Christ Himself. God bless you! Thanks for the good read! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jacq
      Jacq says:

      Thank you – I’m glad the article was able to bless you!

      I agree that it can be very hard to find a safe space in the church – it’s something I have experienced myself. That’s why it’s so important for us to serve as the support we’d like others in our respective Christian communities to be. When we step out as examples of that kind of Christian friendship – understanding, kind, supportive, and loving – others, especially the ones we end up helping in the process, are often inspired to do the same.

      During His time on earth, Jesus surrounded Himself with community too – most of the time, they weren’t the best support to Him either. But He found comfort in their presence nonetheless, and was able to entrust them with His church. So even though there is no perfect Christian community or even circle of Christian friends, by God’s grace we can build communities that are faithful to love, support, and encourage one another

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