Doctor Strange Is The Worst

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, up to and including "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Doctor Strange is the worst. He really is. I'm siding with Mordo on this one. No wonder Wong decides to sit out most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies he's in. He just can't stand being around Stephen Strange for more than 15 minutes at a time.

In "Spider-Man: No Way Home" we learn that Wong is actually the current Sorcerer Supreme ("on a technicality," Doctor Strange grumbles) because Stephen got blipped for five years. Wong is not a very good Sorcerer Supreme; going out and taking part in illegal underground cage fights with Abomination is a poor way to represent wizards on the world stage, and when Doctor Strange announces he's going to cast a potentially reality-destroying spell in "No Way Home," Wong just says to leave him out of it (unlike Trailer Wong, who at least gives stern instructions not to cast the spell). But even a cage-fighting absentee Sorcerer Supreme is better than Doctor Strange, who was promoted to the position at the end of his first movie after an extremely short stint at MCU Hogwarts.

Doctor Strange has only had one solo movie so far, which goes some way towards explaining why he's still The Worst. MCU superheroes have a tendency towards a multiple-movie character arc that starts out with them being kind of an arrogant d*** (see: Thor, Star-Lord, and Iron Man, though not Captain America because he's the Good Steve) and ends with them learning a bit of humility and selflessness. Next on Doctor Strange's agenda is "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," and the trailer has already revealed that we'll get to meet the "evil" Doctor Strange from another universe in that movie. We may need to label them to tell the difference.

Disclaimer: This is not an article criticizing the movie "Doctor Strange," or the filmmaking team behind it (loved "Sinister," big fan of Ethan Hawke's big woolly cardigan in that movie), or the actor Benedict Cumberbatch (loved "The Power of the Dog," big fan of Benedict's big furry trousers in that movie), or the MCU, or the writing or directing of Doctor Strange in any of the MCU movies. This is an article criticizing a fictional character as if they were a real person because scolding fictional characters is easier than dealing with real world problems right now.

Got it? Okay, time to displace some emotions!

His Origin Story is Bad Driving

Spider-Man got bitten by a radioactive spider and began fighting crime after the tragic loss of his Uncle Ben (in some universes, anyway; "No Way Home" changed up the Uncle Ben role). Batman witnessed the violent death of his parents at a young age. Daredevil was blinded by chemicals while saving a man's life and then suffered the tragic loss of his father (yes, there's kind of a theme here).

Doctor Strange? Doctor Strange is just a really irresponsible driver. His origin story scene in "Doctor Strange" feels like the screenwriters challenged themselves to fit as much obnoxious behavior into the space of a few minutes as humanly possible, and they did a great job. Stephen is speeding along a sheer cliffside road in the rain at night in a midlife crisis sports car, taking a call in which he rejects patients on the basis that his odds of saving them are low and could hurt his high score in surgery. While taking this call he is illegally overtaking other cars on the road. Though he at least uses his car phone rather than holding a phone up to his ear, he takes a pause in the middle of speeding and overtaking to look down at an X-ray ... which is when his car gets bumped off the road and down the cliff. 

He Did a Gap Year in Asia

The car crash is followed by a "well well well, if it isn't the consequences of my own actions" montage, except even that gives Doctor Strange credit for accepting responsibility for his injuries, which he does not do. Instead he shouts at everyone who tries to help him, harangues a guy trying to have a nice game of basketball for information, and then goes off to Tibet (sorry, not Tibet, because Disney needed that sweet, sweet Chinese box office and China's government really doesn't like it when people talk about Tibet) to harangue more people for information.

There's a brief moment of respite when Tilda Swinton's Ancient One sends Strange's soul spinning through various trippy alternate dimensions to teach him a lesson. Yet his response to learning that he is merely a tiny ant in the vast cosmos is not to become more humble, but instead to realize, "Wow, this is an opportunity to become even more smug than I already am." His soul is barely back in his body before he's demanding that the Ancient One teaches him magic.

Initially the Ancient One says no and kicks him out on the street where he belongs. Unfortunately, she doesn't leave him there.

He Got Pwned By Space Voldemort

In "Avengers: Infinity War," Earth is under attack! Fortunately, the planet has a Sorcerer Supreme who wields one of the Infinity Stones and is the master of powerful magic charged with defending Earth from — oh no he's unconscious and now we have to rescue him. 

After being treated to a free acupuncture session by Ebony Maw, Doctor Strange is saved by Spider-Man (this will become a bit of a theme), who kills Maw by throwing him into the vacuum of space. If only there was some magical way that Doctor Strange could have done that ... say, by using one of those magical portals that he uses constantly.

And no, I'm not done backseat wizarding.

He Gambled Countless Trillions of Lives on a Rat

Yeah, yeah, he looked into 14 million possible futures and there was only one where the Avengers stop Thanos and it required the sacrifice of Iron Man and also letting half of all life in the universe get blipped for five years. But ultimately, Doctor Strange handed over the Time Stone to Thanos solely on the basis that one day a rat would inadvertently release Ant-Man from the Quantum Realm so that he could go to the Avengers and say, "Hey, why don't we try time travel?"

It seems like, if Doctor Strange knew that was the winning future, he could have just told Tony Stark to try time travel right after Thanos left Titan. Just write it down on a piece of paper, as insurance in case the rat doesn't show up. After all, Doctor Strange himself says in "No Way Home" that the "the multiverse is a concept about which we know frighteningly little." Maybe don't pin the fate of the entire universe on something that you know "frighteningly little" about? Just a suggestion.

He Wears College Sweatshirts After Leaving College

(Full disclosure: I'm a hypocrite for this one, but I never said that I'm not also The Worst. Also, I wear my University of Toronto sweatshirt to express my love for the beautiful nation of Canada, not to show off my academic credentials. Though U of T is quite a highly regarded institution. Just stating facts.)

In "Spider-Man: No Way Home," Peter Parker arrives at the Sanctum Sanctorum to find that Doctor Strange has some wizard interns shoveling snow while he pointedly does not attempt to help them (the Ancient One definitely would have helped them and turned it into a fun philosophical exercise) and instead comfortably sips coffee while wearing lots of warm layers. Among those warm layers is a suspiciously fresh-looking Columbia sweatshirt, which suggests that it's not an old item of clothing from his student days, but rather one that he has bought since graduating. It just goes to show that Ivy League graduates can acquire wizard powers and save the universe and still feel the need to advertise "I went to Columbia!" with their wardrobe.

He Broke the Multiverse and Then Tried to Blame it on a Teenager

Just in case you thought Doctor Strange had redeemed himself slightly by trolling Dormammu into leaving our universe alone and doing that finger gesture at Iron Man in "Avengers: Endgame," he's back to being The Worst in "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

When Peter Parker humbly comes to him for a bit of magic help (he's been searching for a new mentor now that his Tech Daddy is dead, and thinks that Wizard Daddy might be able to fill the void) Stephen tells him that there's a nice easy spell that he's used to clean up after wizard parties before, and that making people forget Spider-Man's secret identity will be no problem at all. Wong tries to warn him that the spell could have reality-disrupting side effects, but Stephen blows him off and reassures Peter that Wizard Daddy knows what he's doing.

Peter can be forgiven, then, for rushing into the middle of the spell to make a request for an adjustment. Rather than calling off the spell or warning Peter that such adjustments could be dangerous, Doctor Strange complies. And then adjusts it again. And again. And again. He doesn't have to do this; he could have just told Peter, "sorry, no take-backs," or shut down the spell early. But apparently he doesn't want to admit that the spell isn't as easy as he made it out to be, and he keeps adding extra clauses until it rips a hole in the multiverse — at which point this 40-something wizard blames the magic-less teenage boy in front of him for messing up the spell.

Perhaps the most satisfying moment in "Spider-Man: No Way Home," even more so than Peter 3 helping out Peter 2 with his back problems, is when Doctor Strange tries once again to blame Peter 1 for messing up the spell — only this time, M.J. is in the room, and she's not having it. She points out to Stephen that it was his spell that caused all the problems and what he's actually doing is asking three teenagers to clean up the mess that he made. I want M.J. to be in every "Doctor Strange" movie from now on: just following him around and calling him out on things.

He Was Rude To Ned

As a professor (I think? The Sanctum Sanctorum's curriculum is a little hard to follow) at MCU Hogwarts, you'd expect Doctor Strange to take an interest in young people who say that magic runs in their family and that sometimes they get tingly fingers. Instead, Stephen immediately dismisses Ned and tells him to speak to a physician (um, he was speaking to a physician, Doctor Strange).

In the second most satisfying moment of the movie, Doctor Strange gets webbed up and left to dangle in the Mirror Dimension by Spider-Man, who steals his sling ring and gives it to Ned. Ned, without any training whatsoever, is almost immediately able to pull off the portal spell that took Doctor Strange himself months of frustration and beard-growing to learn. Yes, Doctor Strange had to overcome some psychological hang-ups about his busted hands, but his response to finding out that Ned actually can do magic is disappointingly muted. It's just as well that Ned got his MIT scholarship, because Doctor Strange doesn't even think to offer him a place at MCU Hogwarts.

He's Probably Going to Do Something Stupid in Multiverse of Madness Too

We don't yet know the exact details of why the multiverse goes mad in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," but until proven otherwise I'm going to assume that it's Doctor Strange's fault. Maybe it's the fallout from "No Way Home." Maybe Dormammu has been angrily stewing in the Dark Dimension and finally returns for revenge. Maybe Stephen puts a foil container in the Sanctum Sanctorum's microwave because he didn't read the cooking instructions properly. Somehow, it's going to be his fault, so I'm pre-emptively including the entire plot of "Multiverse of Madness" in the reasons why Doctor Strange is, as we've established, The Worst.

You can watch Doctor Strange being The Worst in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" when it arrives in theaters on May 6, 2022.