At this year’s Comic-Con, Marvel Studios officially announced their sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, which will be titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and is set to bring the Sorcerer Supreme into alternate realities with Scarlet Witch.
Director Scott Derrickson is set to return and Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, and Rachel McAdams are all due to reprise their roles. The first Doctor Strange movie wasn’t terrible by any means, but it was also far from perfect. So, here are 5 Things Doctor Strange 2 Needs To Improve From The First One (And 5 It Should Keep The Same).
10 Improve: Stephen Strange being so similar to Tony Stark
With his chauvinistic attitude, materialistic playboy lifestyle, and weirdly shaven goatee, the Stephen Strange we were introduced to in Doctor Strange was basically a second-rate Tony Stark. His life of excess comes crumbling down, he has to put the pieces back together by becoming a superhero, and he learns to put the needs of others above himself.
Strange’s character arc mirrored Tony’s in some very shallow and obvious ways. In the comics, Stephen Strange’s downfall is his arrogance, so that can remain a part of his characterization in the movies, but more needs to be done to differentiate him from Stark.
9 Keep the same: Mind-boggling visual effects
Even people who hated Doctor Strange are willing to admit that the visual effects are incredible. The folding of cityscapes gives Inception a run for its money, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg – there are also hands growing out of hands growing out of hands and rainbow slides leading to the edge of reality.
Since the upcoming sequel promises not only a multiverse, but one of “madness,” we should have some equally trippy visuals in store. Doctor Strange’s CGI worked because it had fierce imagination at the helm; the sequel needs the same level of creativity behind it.
8 Improve: Banal romantic subplot
Although Rachel McAdams is an incredible actor and she performed her scenes in Doctor Strange phenomenally, the movie’s romantic subplot was pretty banal. The idea that the male lead and the female lead had already gotten together and it hadn’t worked out was a novel and fresh spin, but since it didn’t really develop at all and McAdams didn’t seem to share an ounce of chemistry with Benedict Cumberbatch, it failed.
The sequel can still salvage it, though. With Jane Foster returning to the Thor franchise and WandaVision set to give the titular couple an experimental sitcom treatment, maybe the MCU’s Phase 4 will be marked with “fixing” the franchise’s most boring couples.
7 Keep the same: Strange’s relationship with the Cloak of Levitation
One of the best things that can be done with modern CGI effects is turn inanimate objects into their own character. Doctor Strange’s Cloak of Levitation was given its own personality in his 2016 standalone movie and the two developed a real on-screen relationship.
We saw that relationship grow in Avengers: Infinity War as the two worked in tandem to fight Ebony Maw on his Q-Ship. Strange’s appearance in Endgame was so brief that the pair didn’t share any moments together, but Strange’s relationship with the Cloak of Levitation shouldn’t be forgotten altogether in his solo sequel, because it was one of the most fun parts of the first one.
6 Improve: Easily defeated villain
The MCU has been criticized for its “villain problem,” and this could be boiled down to villains who are built up as terrifying threats, but turn out to be easy to defeat. Dormammu is a prime example of this. We were told that he was the ruler of the Dark Dimension and that he was bent on consuming Earth.
However, when it actually came to fighting him, Stephen Strange was able to annoy him into submission. Suddenly, he didn’t seem like such a formidable opponent. It would be another thing if the “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain!” scene was caught in a Groundhog Day loop that seemed to last longer than five minutes, but it didn’t.
5 Keep the same: Outside-the-box final battle
Having said that, what the first Doctor Strange movie did wonderfully was subvert audiences’ expectations of a big, bombastic third-act battle that would total a city in the name of killing one guy. In Doctor Strange, the final battle sees the title character working to prevent city-wide destruction.
As far as the wider world is concerned, the Masters of the Mystic Arts don’t exist and nothing of note happened in Hong Kong that night. It wasn’t just a subversion of the audience’s expectations; it was a complete reversal of them. Scott Derrickson should do some similar outside-the-box thinking with the sequel’s final battle.
4 Improve: Humor
Ever since Guardians of the Galaxy used humor to endear viewers to obscure characters they didn’t know existed, comedy has become the cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Ant-Man films are full-on comedies and even serious movies with grave stakes like Captain America: Civil War are jam-packed with jokes.
Doctor Strange was no different, but a lot of the humor didn’t land. Stephen Strange trying to get Wong to laugh was the only bit that landed (especially that Beyoncé gag) and it all felt so forced. If the sequel will continue utilizing humor like the rest of the MCU, then it needs to be better-crafted and less cringeworthy.
3 Keep the same: Weirdness
The key to making an MCU solo franchise work is offering something that the other movies don’t. Ever since Taika Waititi fixed the Thor franchise, we know we can expect an ‘80s-style sci-fi adventure like Flash Gordon or Masters of the Universe, and we can’t find that anywhere else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Guardians movies give us cosmic adventures, comic banter, and pop music; the Ant-Man movies are wacky crime capers etc. Doctor Strange’s gimmick is that his movies are by far the weirdest that the MCU has to offer. Scott Derrickson’s greatest achievement as the original’s director was embracing the weirdness of the character and his world. The sequel should continue to lean into that.
2 Improve: Predictability
The first Doctor Strange movie was a pretty formulaic origin story. We knew that everything Stephen Strange was introduced to (the Eye of Agamotto, the title of Sorcerer Supreme etc.) would somehow end up in his wheelhouse by the end of the movie. We could see almost every plot turn coming from a mile away.
But the sequel has a golden opportunity to break the shackles of predictability and really surprise its audience. This has happened already with the announcement that it’ll be a horror movie – no one saw that coming – so it seems to be on the right track.
1 Keep the same: Emotional scenes
When the Ancient One died in the first Doctor Strange film, we really felt the weight of her death. Tilda Swinton played the scene beautifully, coming out of her body and slowing down time and telling Strange that she knew exactly how and when she’d die and always thought she could accept it, but suddenly couldn’t do it when push came to shove.
It was a really poignant moment that gave the movie some substance under its dazzling visual style. Scott Derrickson shouldn’t shy away from giving us more scenes like this in the sequel, even if it is going to be a horror movie.