I just got back from seeing Doctor Strange 2, and this is the first Marvel movie that made me feel spiritually uncomfortable. This post contains spoilers for the climax of the film, so don’t read it if you want to be surprised. I loved 90% of this film, but the 10% left a sour taste in my mouth. When it went “full-blown demonic,” I started getting a knot in my stomach. I haven’t read the comic books, so maybe this just emulating them, but I wasn’t expecting necromancy from the hero.
Just to set the stage – I have no problem with magic in movies, and I love a ton of series that involve magic (Merlin, The Vampire Diaries, Harry Potter, etc) but seem to have strong reactions to demonic activities and/or “dark magic” that resembles the occult. I had to stop reading one YA book series because the girls involved slaughtered a deer, bathed themselves in its blood, and performed a satanic ritual. I liked most of The House with a Clock in its Walls… until the necromancy and dark magic. I don’t mind that in the villain, but I especially do not want the hero to be using demonic forces, because I want them to be Different from the villain. In most fantasy series, it’s the evil characters who harness demons to do their will—and now it’s Doctor Strange. And that made me deeply uncomfortable.
At the climax, Strange gets stranded in a different dimension from Wanda / The Scarlet Witch, who wants to kill a character who can travel between dimensions to steal her powers. Wanda has been possessing alternate versions of herself in various universes in an attempt to find this character, by using an evil spell-book full of forbidden occult rituals. Strange wants to save this girl from Wanda, so he decides to also use the dark book and to reanimate his corpse in another reality to do battle with her. When demons attack him for necromancy (forbidden magic), he binds them all to his will, draws on their strength, and uses them to fight Wanda—all as a zombified version of himself. And I did not like it. It gave me the same creepy feeling that reading about killing a deer and rubbing its blood all over their faces gave me when I put down that book series.
When Strange decided to do this, I immediately thought about when the Pharisees tried to discredit Jesus and accused him of demonic activity; and he retorted that you cannot use demons to cast out another demon. You need a balance between good and evil; for goodness to be actual goodness, for the light to chase out the darkness. Possession in Biblical times was seen as evil—demons had to flee in the presence of Jesus and the disciples who had been given the authority to cast out demons. They were also told to avoid those who had anything to do with the “dead” (mediums, necromancers, etc), with the implication that they were in communication with ‘demons’/evil.
Whether you believe in actual demonic possession or not, scriptural and secular lore associates demons with the Dark Side / Evil Magic. Most “good” sorcerer / witches do not use them. But by making Strange into a Necromancer, the Marvel universe is blurring the lines between Good and Evil. It’s suggesting you can use evil to do good, and I don’t think that’s possible—evil is always evil, because it’s incapable of ‘being good.’ An evil person can be redeemed, and God can make the most out of an evil situation, but evil is still irredeemably evil. “The end justifies the means” is just an excuse to do wrong; I believe the method is just as important as the result. I wanted to see Strange find the good book (which possessed the magic that would have helped him defeat Wanda) and use that—not to watch his half-decayed zombie stagger into a pagan temple with demon heads and arms sticking out of his back. Maybe I expected too much, because I like Harry Potter. Rowling understands the distinction between good and evil, and how it’s necessary to fight the darkness with the light (using happy memories to defeat the dementors, and associating actual occult behaviors like blood rituals with evil). The only two characters to use necromancy in her franchises are Voldemort and Grindelwald, two villains. Harry is always good (though flawed). He doesn’t reanimate the dead, he doesn’t possess people, and he doesn’t use evil magic to defeat evil magic; he uses the power of love and mercy. That is what I want from a hero—for him to use goodness and light.
I don’t believe the end justifies the means; I believe the means should be as moral as the end. I don’t think you can take something evil and make it do good; it’s still evil. Evil corrupts and destroys, it does not redeem and build. So it disappointed me that Strange would use evil to defeat evil, because it’s not possible. If you do that, you are simply becoming a new form of evil. Marvel has always had dubious characters, but I think this is the first time the hero has ever used ‘evil’ to ‘do good.’ (I can’t be sure, since I have not seen all the movies.) It has ‘bad’ characters who are heroes (like the violent ‘scum’ that make up the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, all of whom are criminals), the flawed arrogant playboy Tony Stark, and the pompous Thor, but that’s different. Those are heroes’ journeys.
Maybe Strange is also on a hero’s journey; it’s worrying that he realizes midway through this film that many other multi-verse versions of himself have fallen prone to corruption or gone to the dark side. One version of himself spent so much time possessing other versions of himself, he created an Incident that caused the destruction of two words. Another has used the dark magic so much, he has a third eye (possibly a symbol of his evil). Another version was willing to kill a young woman “for the greater good.” So the moral ambiguity of Strange is apparent throughout, with the suggestion that he is just one step away from becoming a villain himself. If that’s true, and the evil repercussions of this incident are going to carry him through into the next film, that’s one thing… but it still won’t erase the spiritual aftertaste of this installment.
I didn’t read your entire post because I want to respect my own perspective, develop it more, then fully consider other points of view. With that being said, here are my initial thoughts having just finished the movie 5 minutes ago.
God, Yahweh, is in control of all things including evil. And while I did not see DrS Strange as a God like figure, I did see that his intentions were good. As part human, part whatever he is, he is at war with his flesh, as we all are in someway. But, since there’s a couple if ounces of good in him, that little bit ( think mustard seed faith), is enough to triumph over evil. I was reminded that all things work together for good for those who love God ( and no, Strange doesn’t love God), and if we are willing to sacrifice the flesh ( give up our selfish evil nature), good can be the result. We saw this when he decided not to take Anerica’s power, but instead encouraged her to use it to defeat evil. We saw it again in Wanda, when she let love for the boys humble her heart, and step back ( down rather). When she saw tbe pain dhe was causing, the few ounces of good that were deep within decided to do tne right thing. In this case, that was destroying the witch version if herself, her throne, and a traces of the darkhold. Neither Wanda or Strange were purely evil. It just takes a little bit of good in a human, a lot of might and determination, and the hand of God working through you to bring about good for the betterment if humanity. I see many aspects of this movie asva reflection of th fact that even evil is under control and can be controlled…it can be turned over on itself. I don’t think Marvel us suggesting that evil can push out evil, because whain, neithet Strange or Wanda were pure evil. They were hurt humans trying to navigate their painful pasts where they both lost people they dearly loved. We all have some element of that pain or loss as humans. Their challenge as super humans was to use their super powers for good, as they both eventually did when truth was revealed ( the chat betwn the illuminati and Strange; seeing the fear in the boys eyes and realizing that she could not be their mother).
I liked this movie. It has so many layers of meaning to unpack. The intersection of religions, the book of life vs the book of Vishanti, the book of the dead , the mysteries, the henchmen and soldiers fighting on both sides ( and that the soldiers went to battle for a fight that wasnt theirs, but Scarlet’s and Strange’s), the third eye, how light killed the demons,the name America Chavez, how they threw in the two moms foreshadowed by the rainbow button worn by Chavez, that Captain Marvel was a Black woman, Captain America was agent Carter, the use of all the spiritual symbols, the other universes and that we have other galaxies and solar systems wherr there might be other forms of life, the idea that dreaming is seeing ourselves as we exist in other universes, that NYC was covered in beautiful, lush flowers and greenery, but it’s inhabitants wore dark, depressing colors, that statue of Strange and the truth behind it, that food was free in other systems, though there was still “that guy” who always gets paid….
I’m rambling now… and I know this sounds like gibberish…but it’s 3:04 am in my neck of the woods. I’m going to watch this movie again.
In an unusual way, it reminds me that there is a true and living God ( his son’s name is Jesus), good triumps every time, even when there are casualties, and that well..maybe…satan is a female. Like why else would he/ she be so petty and starved for attention. Gossiping in the garden and getting Eve to second guess the man in her life is what catty females do, right? They can’t be happy so they don’t want to see you happy either. But I digress .
I’ll finish reading your post after watching the movie again and evaluating my own thoughts.
I’m glad that the movie made you happy and gave you much food for thought. Thank you for sharing your insightful opinions, I enjoyed reading them even if it doesn’t change how uncomfortable certain moments of this film made me. 🙂
I was so excited for this movie, but now it’s down at the bottom of Marvel movies in my personal ranking. I think you may have liked it overall better than I did, because I didn’t even like the first 90% of it. America Chavez was nothing more than a MacGuffin, we never got to really travel the multiverse other than visit a couple places, and several other things I have issues with. I really think they’re steering Strange down a villain path, at least for a while. He may redeem himself later, but there were several very pointed conversations about the decisions he made in the past, and every version of him we see here or hear about has taken a dark path, Our version thinks he’s different but then he promptly chooses the dark path. I think that was deliberate, and there will be far more consequences than just what we see in the movie, but who knows. I just know this is one I don’t need to ever see again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this movie since I saw it, and while I DID like it up to that point, there are also glaring plot holes — not to mention the fact that Wanda has a complete character assassination in this film (how did she go from supposedly learning her lesson in the series to being a psychopath in this story? did she just think she was going to slaughter her alternate self? did she not care about finding Vision at all? where was he, in all the alternate universes?). The plot also slowed down a lot when we met the Illuminati and dealt with alternate-world Avengers (none of whom we have a personal connection to, so their deaths are non-impactful except for Professor X, at least for me).
That could be true of Strange. He’s always been foolish, short-sighted, and reckless, asking the unhealthy Ti-driven question of “what happens if I tinker with this?” and then doing it, with no regard for the potential consequences. It would be an interesting arc for him to become the villain of Marvel for a while — although since I do like him in spite of himself, I hope he would find his way “home.” What seems the weirdest about him is that he is so unbelievably arrogant, he can find out that his incarnation in various universes has screwed up everything, every single time (with Christine and their relationship — they are never a couple; and even with destroying entire universes), and he STILL decides to use the dark book!?!
Interesting, very interesting…
I probably won’t watch this simply because I don’t like Dr. Strange, so I don’t care enough about him to root for him. Like, if the story goal is “Dr. Strange must defeat Wanda,” then I’m not going to have a good time regardless of the demonic stuff.
I like Doctor Strange fine, but if you are a Wanda fan, you will hate this. She’s the villain. Not a secondary villain, but a occult priestess full-blown psychopathic witch who possesses people, and is trying to murder a teenager so she can steal her magical ability to shift between worlds. She wants to find a universe where her children exists and steal that Wanda’s life. (She does redeem herself in the end — her children see her, reject her as a “horrible witch,” and then she destroys the dark temple and dies in the process. But it was like “… wow, this took a dark turn from WandaVision.”
So now Wanda is just… dead?
Thanks for warning me, I WOULD hate that movie very much. As it is, I’ll just never watch it and pretend it doesn’t exist, like I do with Age of Ultron, lol.
Yup. They turned her into a psychopath and then killed her off. Nice job, Marvel.
Proving once again they don’t know how to handle powerful female characters…
I mean, just reading this post and your descriptions of what happens in the film made my stomach twist. Soooo…yeah, definitely not watching this. (Not that I had any big plans to anyway, since the MCU more or less ended for me with Spiderman: No Way Home. But at least now I won’t randomly pick it up at the library when it’s available.)
Thanks for writing this!!
I knew it was going to be dark (and it IS dark… Scarlet Witch basically murders everyone in an alternate universe’s Avengers team — including cutting the female Captain America in half), but I didn’t expect Strange to fight fire with fire. I hate that it went occult, because up until then it had been one of the coolest movies I have ever seen.
The trailers for this have always disconcerted me, in that they had this undertone of “anything is possible, so anything is permissible,” and I have moral compunctions about that idea.
Like you, I read fiction with magic in them without a problem — LOTR, Narnia, Harry Potter, Eragon, and a few others. But as soon as they switch from obviously pretend magic to anything resembling actual black/satanic magic, I’m outta there. I was really disturbed by The Princess and the Frog, for example, even though good supposedly triumphs over the evil. It was just a little too realistic/close to real magic.
I didn’t pick up on that in the trailers (I think I only saw one?) so this caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting the deviation into occult / satanic activities and it put a real ‘weight’ on my spirit. I went instantly from “this movie is awesome” to thinking “wow, I really feel uncomfortable about this.” And that’s sad, because ten minutes of it wrecked the rest of it for me.
Yeah, the voodoo in The Princes and the Frog was a bit much, not to mention the fact that they kill one of the sidekicks (the little firefly bug) — that seemed especially dark. I also get unsettled by anything with evil ghosts in it, for some reason (maybe my mind associates it with demonic activity, I don’t know).
Charity — the trailers just felt like I wanted to hold them at arm’s length and not get close to them. I saw a couple different ones, and they always felt… off-putting. I didn’t necessarily get a sense that it would delve into black magic/occult, but just that it was NOT something I wanted to see.
Eva — I watched the whole thing, and I won’t be letting my kids watch it. Not at all. Which is sad, cuz Tiana herself is really sweet!
I used to scoff at people who said Harry Potter was going to open the door to darker, more occult material, but in hindsight, the popularity of wizards/witchcraft might have done just that. It seems like in the last few years especially there’s been a lot of “dark” / occult material that has gone mainstream.
Rachel, I have tried to watch The Princess and the Frog two or three times now, but I always get to a point where the ‘magic’ is just…too creepy.