Warning: This post contains MAJOR spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
It’s good the original, darker ending to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness didn’t make the final cut, both for the audience and for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general. The real ending features Doctor Strange walking down the street after having defeated Sinister Strange and the Scarlet Witch, only to fall down in the middle of the road, screaming, as his third eye opens on his forehead. Doctor Strange’s third eye is a product of using the Darkhold, and he plays with so many different dark arts in the film that it’s good to have him suffer the consequences of doing so. Otherwise, the Sorcerer Supreme and anyone else with similar powers would have carte blanche to do whatever they want in the 616 universe.
Still, the ending leaves the audience with a Doctor Strange that is in charge of his future. One of Doctor Strange 2‘s post-credits scenes has him team up with Clea to go on what will probably be a morally iffy adventure, given that she’s not exactly a superhero. It’s a clever, not exactly clean way to end the film that builds excitement for Dr. Strange’s next adventure.
Interestingly, Doctor Strange 2‘s original ending was completely different and much darker, as revealed in the movie’s audio commentary. In the earlier ending, Sinister Strange was shown to have swapped places with the main Strange, leaving the latter trapped in the incursion universe. When the third eye manifests on the streets of New York, there was going to be an iconic Vincent Price laugh, which would have concluded the film the same way that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video ends. Although that original Doctor Strange 2 ending would have felt very in line with director Sam Raimi’s style, it’s for the best it was changed. For one, it would have left the Doctor Strange franchise in a weird spot that Marvel would have had to dig itself out of with more work than it would’ve been worth. Though a murky ending can be successful, it’s nice that audiences leave the movie certain of Strange’s place in the world, especially after all of the universe hopping.
Interestingly, there is a moment in the film where it seems like Sinister Strange is inhabiting Doctor Strange’s body. When Wong asks Strange how he’s feeling after the climactic fight, Strange says, “Why do you ask?” Then Wong says, “You used the Darkhold to dreamwalk into your own corpse,” at which point Strange says, “Oh right yeah, that… fine.” If Marvel had kept the original ending, this would have been the scene that gives away Wong is dealing with Sinister Strange. As is, the scene effectively foreshadows the consequences of dealing with dark magic.
The darker ending could have also had Sinister Strange, then, teaming up with Clea, meaning that there would be no question that the bad guys won, which, again, is a Raimi staple. However, for Marvel, it makes a lot more sense to have the main universe Strange paired with her for a calming sense of heroic purpose. The true Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ending is not just better for the character, but better overall for the MCU, especially for people who have come to love Doctor Strange and want to see him in as many movies as possible moving forward.
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