Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is the latest edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The multiverse, a concept Marvel has been introducing through its movies and TV series, is indeed fascinating. We are told that many universes exist, and all have a unique version of most of the characters in it. Often these alternate universes are created through major choices made by those characters. We get to see about 4 different Dr Strange variants in this film, each from a different universe.
This is the only way
The movie begins with a scene where one of the versions of Dr Strange realizes that the only way to destroy the demon and save the universe would be to take someone else’s power and use it to enhance his own powers. He has to do it himself. He can trust no other. According to him, this is the only way.
In fact, this is a characteristic of Strange across all universes. His former love interest, Christine Palmer, criticizes his desire to always be the one to ‘hold the knife’. In other words, Dr Strange, and in fact most superheroes, believe that in order to get the job done, there is no one better person than themselves.
The ability to do things by ourselves, being independent, is often celebrated as a positive trait in our society. Asking for help is considered as a sign of weakness. Growing up, we are taught that we need to learn take care of ourselves and be equipped to manage things independently. “This is the only way”, we are told to overcome the difficulties in life. In fact, when we involve others, things can get complicated. We may see results which may not be according to our standards and expectations. Most importantly, we won’t get all the credit.
There is another way
But the transition of the original Dr Strange’s character at the end, is the discovery that there is another way to be a superhero. There is another way to save the world. He needs to trust others to help him (Christine Palmer) as well as trust others to do things better than he can do (America Chavez).
This leads him to learn to respect his colleagues and friends. More importantly, it gives space to a novice hero to trust herself, discover her abilities and make a difference. Thus, giving rise to another superhero.
As human beings, we were never designed to be just independent, but rather, to function inter-dependently as well. Even though it can be harder to involve others, there are healthy and tested ways to help us work well together. Despite bad experiences, we can learn to overcome our fears and trust others again. As we learn to work with others, it may take longer, but will eventually multiply our impact. More importantly, we will have someone to share the good and the bad experiences with at the end.
The movie ends with a reflective conversation between Dr Strange and Wong, where he asks Wong the same question he was asked by the evil alternate version of himself.
Dr Strange: Are you happy?
Wong: That’s an interesting question.
Dr Strange: You’d think that saving the world would get you there, but it doesn’t.
Wong: Sometimes, I do wonder of my other lives. Yet I remain grateful in this one. Even with its tribulations.
Dr Strange: At least we don’t have to do it alone.
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