Movies
Published May 23, 2022

'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness': The Epic Musical Note Battle

Demystifying the Doctor Strange vs Sinister Strange third act fight!

Editor’s Note: Major spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ahead!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Leading up to the release of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe anticipated our heroes would come into contact with alternate versions of themselves as they traversed the Multiverse.

After Doctor Strange and Sorcerer Supreme Wong save a teenaged America Chavez from Gargantos, they learn that dreams are windows into the lives of their Multiversal selves. Whenever they dreamt, they were getting a glimpse of an alternate universe where their alternate selves existed. 

In the third act of the film, America sends our main Earth-616 Doctor Strange and Earth-838 Christine Palmer into the final universe as she’s abducted by The Scarlet Witch. The universe they land in is experiencing an Incursion, which the Illuminati member Reed Richards explained earlier as an event that occurs when the boundary between two universes erodes and they collide, destroying one or both entirely.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

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Strange discovers the keeper of this universe — “Sinister Strange,” who guards the Darkhold (the Book of the Damned). In speaking to Sinister Strange, Doctor Strange learns that this version of himself mirrors The Scarlet Witch, and is his most tragic alternate. Sinister Strange sought the Darkhold so he could find a universe where he could be happy — the one he’s destined to be with Christine Palmer. However, with every universe encountered, he discovered all his alt selves were just as unlucky as he was, and in a sinister act, he decided to put them all out of their misery. If 616’s Strange ever had a dream where he was falling off a building, Sinister Strange takes responsibility. Sinister Strange then offers a bargain — he’ll give Doctor Strange the Darkhold if Strange gives him Christine Palmer, who is currently waiting outside of the Sanctum Santorum. As expected, Strange does not agree to the trade, resulting in an all-out magic battle using literal musical notes.

Reflecting on the scene, during an early set visit, titular star Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrays both Doctor Strange and Sinister Strange, revealed, “I’m really excited for [fans], egotistically, to see the two of them on-screen together where you’ve got Sinister Strange and our Strange cat-and-mousing each other, finding out who the other one is and whether to be trusted.”

“Everything that boils over is used from that moment,” continued Cumberbatch. “This fight, in particular, is a very very fresh take on what that magic can do.”

Most recently, Marvel.com had the opportunity to talk about director Sam Raimi about the genesis of this scene. “We wanted to do something extraordinary because we had Doctor Strange versus Sinister Strange,” shared Raimi. “We didn’t want them to throw fisticuffs, and we didn’t even want their classic spells against each other. We wanted something that we hadn’t seen before. I thought it would be really cool if they used music as a weapon against each other.”

“With the help of my great storyboard artist Doug Lefler, we developed a sequence,” revealed Raimi. “So many people contributed to it, including Bryan Andrews, the director of What If…? We had to design the music notes in a way that would really make a dramatic impact on-screen, so Kevin [Feige] helped me bring Bryan on board to design the colors and the look of the notes so that they really have a special feel to them.”

The visual element was just one facet of this musical note battle; Raimi also sought input from his longtime collaborator, composer Danny Elfman, which resulted in the “Lethal Symphonies.” 

“When Sam first described it to me, I said to Sam, ‘I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Elfman shared with Marvel.com. After Raimi shot the scene, he came back to Elfman to show him exactly what he meant.

“Literally, not metaphorically, these notes are flying off the page,” remarked Elfman. “It was working various classical pieces against each other; kind of famous pieces. Then, in the very 59th minute of the 11th hour, at the very end, Kevin Feige jumped in and said to just simplify it to Beethoven versus Bach. I did one more pass at it where it was Beethoven’s ‘5th Symphony’ against Bach's ‘Toccata and Fugue.’ It really worked out perfectly.”

“It was a very novel use of an environment,” Cumberbatch told Marvel.com about the final sequence. “It was Strange reaching desperately at hand for what there was. It was a lot of fun to do. There was a point where it became a little bit like a weird tennis match. I was like, 'No, it's got to be more inventive. We have to explode it, and we have to use different elements.' I came up with the ideas of the sound effects, splitting it apart and coming back together. The notes were hitting Sinister Strange like sort of peppering him with bullets, and then there was one note that would go into a ball that's being held to explode."

Watch the musical note battle come to life on the big screen as Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is NOW in theaters. Tickets now available!

Make sure to follow @DrStrange on Twitter and @DoctorStrangeOfficial on Instagram, and like "Doctor Strange" on Facebook for all the latest news and updates.

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