Movies
Published May 18, 2022

'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness': The Tragedy of Donna Strange

Director Sam Raimi and titular star Benedict Cumberbatch give us a glimpse into Stephen Strange’s past.

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

Doctor Strange

While Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has audiences wondering about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four and beyond, there was one moment in the film that gave fans a glimpse into the guarded Stephen Strange’s past.

Upon his arrival to a universe experiencing the effects of an Incursion, Doctor Strange meets his alternate self who protects this universe, “Sinister Strange.” As Doctor Strange and Sinister Strange are cat-and-mousing each other to see if the other could be trusted, the generally guarded 616’s Strange reveals an intimate piece of his past that only another Strange would know — a tragic event that shaped them.

Strange shares that he had a young sister Donna, who died at a young age, while they were playing on a frozen lake. Sinister Strange simply retorts, “We don’t talk about that, now do we?”

This emotional and impactful reveal serves to explain how this fixed point is a defining moment in all Stephen Strange’s lives. Marvel.com had the opportunity to speak to both film director Sam Raimi and actor Benedict Cumberbatch on incorporating this backstory into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

“All the characters in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Doctor Strange, America Chavez, and Wanda Maximoff, have trauma in their background,” explains Raimi to Marvel.com. “Stephen lost his sister in an accident on a frozen lake, and he was powerless to save her, and he’s had to live with that. I think it’s why he became a surgeon, trying desperately to save people where he couldn’t as a boy.”

“The loss of Donna is basically the bedrock of his motivation as a character so I’m really glad that we exposed that part of his backstory in this iteration of it,” shares Cumberbatch with Marvel.com about this shared ‘psychological birthmark,’ where Stephen Stranges in any universe tries to control death through their ‘artistry, arrogance, and skill.’

“We meet him as a neurosurgeon, somebody who thinks he can control the situation through sheer determination, ego and ability. To an extent, he’s right; but what he’s really trying to do is triumph over death. He’s trying to defy medicine and science, and solve problems that result in people living rather than dying.”

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

“Having failed to do that as a young person, as a teenager with his sister drowning in front of him and being incapable of resuscitating her, that’s a pretty dark place to begin a career in medicine,” Cumberbatch continues. “It almost always feels like it’s righting a wrong, and that’s a deep scar. That’s something he still holds right up until this moment in the film where he realizes, ‘Okay, I have to face my fears. It’s not always possible for me to control the outcome of things.’ I learned that when I was young but I didn’t learn it; I buried the trauma, and it manifested in this need to try and master everything. Whether it’s with a scalpel in brain surgery or whether it’s with sorcery in the Multiverse, it’s not always the best way to think that you can try it through sheer will, effort, and ego driven necessity to control. It’s a very interesting bit of his backstory to reveal.”

“All of these things have worked to forge these heroes and help make them who they are today,” Raimi concludes.

In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, each Stephen Strange in every universe must contend with the reality of not being able to control their life emotionally, specifically in regards to what happens when they lose Christine Palmer and watch her marry someone else. 

Does Stephen Strange always have to be the one holding the knife? Find out 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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