This is another post in my “first impressions” series of posts, which focus on current films that include reel librarians and/or library or archives scenes that I have watched in theaters. The resulting “first impressions” posts are necessarily less detailed, as I don’t have the luxury of rewatching scenes and taking notes in the movie theater, but I do take notes as soon as I can after watching the film.
This spring, I was able to watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at our nearby drive-in theater, Rodeo Drive-In. Sorry it has taken me so long to get this post together; real-life complications got in the way, y’all, and as my husband advised, “Multiverse of mind, embrace the chaos.” 😉 And it is interesting to note that it is actually good timing this “first impressions” post got delayed because this movie will soon be available for streaming via Disney+, on June 22, so you can watch (or re-watch) the movie very soon!
Below again is the trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, to set the stage for the film’s plot and main characters of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wong (Benedict Wong), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
***SPOILER ALERTS BELOW***
1. Did Wong ever get invited to Tony Stark’s wedding?
Hear me out, I swear this random question will make soon make sense. Near the beginning of the movie, Strange attends Christine’s wedding, without Wong by his side. That made me wonder if Wong ever got invited to Tony Stark’s wedding? This connects back to a scene in Avengers: Infinity War (2018):
Wong then ultimately defeats Cull Obsidian by transporting him to a snowy region/planet and then severs off the villain’s arm when closing the portal. It’s nice to see Wong victorious in battle in this movie, especially considering his previous battle at the end of Doctor Strange, which I went into detail in last week’s post. Stark is so impressed with Wong’s quick thinking and magical skillz that he shouts, “Wong, you’re invited to the wedding!” (We had learned earlier that Tony and Pepper are recently engaged.)Jennifer Snoek-Brown, “First impressions: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’,” Reel Librarians, 2 May 2018
We never did learn that cliffhanger question in that movie, if Wong ever got to go to Tony and Pepper’s wedding. And why wasn’t Wong invited to this wedding? Obviously, as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) showed, Wong would make an excellent guest. 😉
2. Wong looks bad-ass wielding a sword.
Wong is ALWAYS a bad-ass, of course, but it was cool to get to see him literally in action. In the initial fight scene with Wong, Strange, and America Chavez battling Gargantos (a big eyeball, squid-like monster variant of Shuma-Gorath), Wong wields a lasso and a sword. Plus, we get a closeup view of Wong’s costume, which we had gotten a sneak peek of when his action figure came out earlier this year:
3. There are books kept secret from the Kamar-Taj librarian?!
When Wong and Strange debrief with Chavez after they dispatch Gargantos, they start talking about the Book of Vishanti. Wong explains how he found out about this book:
You find out there’s a secret book you get when you become Sorcerer Supreme.
So that means that when Wong was the Kamar-Taj librarian, back in 2016’s Doctor Strange, he DID NOT yet know about all the books in that library’s collection!
4. How many languages can Wong speak?
There was also a brief bit in this scene with Chavez where she and Wong start speaking Spanish to each other, much to the annoyance of Strange. (But everything seems to annoy Strange, doesn’t it?) It just makes me wonder how many languages Wong speaks… and how good he is at everything he does! #TeamWong #WongVerse
You can see the clip of their Spanish conversation here.
5. Once again, Wong is the Supreme Researcher.
Wong invites Chavez to Kamar-Taj to help keep her safe from Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. And once again, Wong proves how he is the Supreme Researcher, as he then provides the exposition about the Scarlet Witch and the prophecy:
The Scarlet Witch is a being of unfathomable magic. She can re-write Reality as she chooses, and is prophesied to either rule or annihilate the cosmos.
Wong also explains about the Darkhold vs. the Book of Vishanti. Essentially, it’s the story of good vs. evil, embodied within books. Darkhold contains spells of black magic and represents the evil, whereas the Book of Vishanti contains spells of white magic and represents the good.
And who better than to explain about books than Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme and (former? current?) Kamar-Taj librarian?! He also was on exposition duty in previous Marvel movies, including Doctor Strange (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).
Wong primarily serves the role of an Information Provider, but at this point you could argue he’s grown into an Atypical character, which are reel librarian “portrayals [that] go beyond stereotypical constraints.”
6. Are we seeing the missing book from the Kamar-Taj library in this movie?
Could either the Book of Vishanti or the Darkhold be the missing library book from the Kamar-Taj library’s “forbidden section,” as glimpsed in Doctor Strange (2016)? I would suspect it is likely the Darkhold, rather than the Book of Vishanti, because Wong only found out about the latter when he became Sorcerer Supreme (see #3 above).
Ryan Arey from ScreenCrush also theorizes it’s the Darkhold that went missing from the Kamar-Taj library:
7. Wong is also a man of action.
When Wanda the Scarlet Witch attacks Kamar-Taj, Wong wastes no time in snapping into commander-in-chief mode — he IS the Sorcerer Supreme, after all! — and shouting orders to the students:
Kamar-Taj must now become a fortress. Stop the teaching, arm the students.
Defensive positions, now!
Fortify your minds!
8. Reel librarian Wong helps destroy a book!
Yep, (former?) reel librarian Wong helps destroy a book. But not just any book. The Darkhold, the book of dark magic, the book of evil. Do the ends justify the means?
Wong tries to save Chavez from the Scarlet Witch, but he ends up getting blasted by Wanda and banging his head and passing out. When he wakes to finds himself tied up, he spies one of the students, Sara (Sheila Atim), sneaking her way into the room. He tries to stop Sara.
Sara: I need to destroy the book.
Wong: No, it cannot be you!
The Darkhold does gets destroyed in this scene. I know that the Darkhold and the Book of Vishanti serve as this movie’s MacGuffins, but if we’re not going to get to see the Kamar-Taj library again, then at least we’re getting a Wong story focused around books!
9. Did the Kamar-Taj library get destroyed?
We see Kamar-Taj in rubble after the Scarlet Witch blasts it to pieces. Did the Kamar-Taj library get destroyed, or is it still intact? Is there a new librarian? Where is the library located within the monastery? Inquiring minds want to know!
Here’s a quick look behind-the-scenes of destroying Kamar-Taj:
10. One of Wong’s superpowers is his humanity.
One of Wong’s greatest strengths, or superpowers — and a big reason why I think he’s become a fan favorite — is his humanity and belief in people. But this superpower can also be manipulated.
Although the Darkhold gets destroyed, Wanda figures out that Wong must know about more the Darkhold. (Because he’s the librarian and knows everything, right? Kinda slow there, eh, Wanda?!) Wong says that she will have to kill him to get that knowledge. But Wanda has also already figured out about Wong’s humanity — and that his humanity can be manipulated — so she threatens to kill the other students, including the Rintrah (a green-skinned minotaur that was part of Marvel’s Build-A-Figure marketing ploy with Wong’s action figure).
Of course, Wanda’s evil ploy works, and Wong confesses that the Darkhold that got destroyed was a copy, and the original is at Wundagore Mountain. (Did anyone else hear this first as Wandacore? Sorry, I don’t read the comics, so I was unfamiliar with it.)
Here’s a quick video that explains the significance of Wundagore Mountain:
11. A library of one?
So although we don’t get to see the Kamar-Taj library again — no, I’m NOT letting that go, such a wasted opportunity in a storyline about forbidden books! — we do get a scene of the Gap Junction, “a plane between universes” where Strange hid the Book of Vishanti.
Essentially, this serves as a library of one, right? Riiiiiiiiiight. 😉
12. Wong still has his sense of humor.
After Wanda throws Wong off a cliff on Wundagore (RUDE!), he uses his lasso to climb back up. He also picks off one of the guard monsters to help distract them for Zombie Strange.
When Zombie Strange shows up, Wong quips:
I don’t even want to know.
Never change, Wong. Never change. 😀
13. Wong is wrong!
Wong is… wrong?! I know. I was shocked, too.
When Zombie Strange is trying to rescue America Chavez while simultaneously battling Wanda, Wong conjures up a cage to contain Wanda (ever helpful, our Wong). Zombie Strange hesitates between untying Chavez or usurping her magical powers (and therefore killing her) in order to beat Wanda once and for all.
Wong urges him to do the latter:
It’s the only way!
But Wong is wrong.
The only way forward is for Strange to save Chavez, so she can finally believe in her true power and and wield it to save herself.
Honestly, I thought this was a pretty cheap and manipulative use of Wong in this movie. (And don’t get me started with the cheap and manipulative use of Wanda and her motivations and lack of agency in this movie!) They showed Wong’s humanity when he gave up the secret of the Darkhold to help save the Kamar-Taj students, but then they flipped the script — and Wong’s personality — at the end in order to make room for Zombie Strange to show his ultimate humanity and character growth. (That was an odd sentence to write. It’s a weird storyline with lots of characters, y’all!) It didn’t have to be either/or; both Wong and Zombie Strange could have had cinematic space to show their humanity.
14. Strange is finally Wong’s right-hand man.
There’s a running gag throughout the movie that Strange can’t be bothered to bow to Wong, even though Wong is the Sorcerer Supreme. (Shades of White supremacy, anyone?) But at the end, Strange finally does bow to Wong, showing his respect. About time!
Throughout my analysis post of Doctor Strange (2016), I kept pointing out how many times Wong is visually shown to be Strange’s right-hand man (note: he stands on Strange’s right side, which reflects opposite onscreen), which fits his role in that movie as a supporting player. But Wong has grown as a character — and as a fan favorite! — and is now the Sorcerer Supreme, at least in this universe. Therefore, Strange is now Wong’s right-hand man, and it’s fitting that he finally accepts that. Again, about time! 🙂
15. Is Wong a Nexus being?
At the end of the movie, Strange asks Wong a question.
Strange: Are you happy?
Wong: That’s an interesting question. Sometimes I do wonder about my other lives. But I’m still grateful of this one. Even with its own tribulations.
Wong sounds very wise here, being grateful and content for this life in this universe. But although we see many variants of Dr. Strange in this movie, we never see variants of Wong, even though Wong references “my other lives” in this brief exchange. In the other universes we see, the Dr. Strange variant is also the one serving as Sorcerer Supreme. But in this reality, Wong serves as Sorcerer Supreme, not Strange.
That got me thinking… could Wong be a Nexus Being?
A Nexus Being is someone who exists in all parallel worlds of the Multiverse, serving as anchors to that reality. America Chavez proves to be a Nexus Being in this movie, because she can travel between worlds, and she always remains herself. It is my understanding that the Scarlet Witch is a Nexus Being in the comics… but because this movie’s plot depended on there being variants of Wanda, doesn’t that mean that she isn’t a Nexus Being in the movie versions? If I have misunderstood this, leave a comment!
This Screen Rant article ponders the question of Wong being a Nexus Being:
As his appearances have grown more frequent, Wong has also become more powerful than audiences had ever seen him before, perhaps indicating that the sorcerer is dealing with a larger power that he is perhaps unaware of. Given that he will no doubt accompany Dr. Strange on his multiversal exploits, it may be revealed that the beloved character has been a Nexus being all along.Jordan Iacobucci, “MCU: 10 Characters That Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Could Reveal To Be Nexus Beings,” ScreenRant.com, 29 April 2022
If Wong does end up being a Nexus Being, that would be AWESOME. And befitting one of the most beloved reel librarian characters ever.
16. Wong shows up when you need him.
The opposite of a bad penny (turning up when no one wants you), Wong turns up exactly when you need him. Or rather… when the plot needs him! That’s why he’s often used for exposition, to explain things in order to move the plot forward.
Here’s the way my husband put it:
Wong shows up when you need him. Not like “deus ex machina,” but like “sorcerer and the script.” It’s like plot armor!
I agree with this article that argues that Wong is “the real one holding it all together” in this movie:
Despite what you may have been led to believe, the hero of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not Benedict Cumberbatch’s [Stephen] Strange. At least, he isn’t the real one holding it all together. Sure, he may get top billing on all the posters where he towers above everyone else. However, the real protector of all that is good across the various multiverses has proven time and time again to actually be the reliable Wong. He is the true Sorcerer Supreme, the protector of the New York Sanctum, and the dedicated librarian of Kamar-Taj.Chase Hutchinson, “Benedict Wong Is the Real Hero of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’,” Collider, 6 May 2022
17. Why is Wong so popular?
Obviously, I am just one of millions of fans who love Wong. I think the way Wong’s character was rewritten for the screen (which I go into more detail here in this “Perspectives about Wong’s reel librarian character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” post); Wong’s humanity; and also, actor Benedict Wong’s humor and screen presence, have all helped make Wong a firm fan favorite.
Below are a couple of other perspectives on why Wong is so popular.
The secret is probably Benedict Wong, the actor chosen to portray the character. Fans seem to love this character, one that was once a dull stereotype and a reminder of a more unpleasant age. Thanks to a new take and a stellar casting choice, Wong has become the universe-hopping fixed point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wong is everywhere and nobody is complaining, in fact, they want more. Let this once-minor character continue to outgrow his start and become as important and iconic to the MCU as Steve or Tony. He’s earned it.Joshua Kristian McCoy, “MCU: Why Is Wong In Everything?,” GameRant.com, 4 June 2022
And straight from Benedict Wong himself:
So, we created this no-nonsense, midfield general librarian with hints of Roy Keane [former Manchester United player] in there. This character has progressed now, and I found out when [director] Sam Raimi was on a conference call and talking me through the story. Here was this legend. He said, ‘Of course, you’re going to be the Sorcerer Supreme,’ and as this geek, it’s so great what they’ve done with the character and how he stands toe-to-toe with Doctor Strange.Benedict Wong, as quoted in “Marvel Fans Are Loving Wong’s Dominance in Phase 4” by Aaron Perine, ComicBook.com, 18 May 2022
18. It’s the WongVerse, and we’re just living in it.
Wong has so rapidly become a fan favorite, it’s really the #WongVerse now! Benedict Wong has appeared thus far in 7 MCU movies and series… and counting:
- Doctor Strange (2016) — check out my “Sorcerer librarians of ‘Doctor Strange’” post here
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018) — check out my “First impressions: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’” post here
- Avengers: Endgame (2019) — check out my “First impressions: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019)” post here
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) — check out my “First impressions: Wong’s cameos in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ (2021)” post here
- “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” episode from What If…? (2021, TV series)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) — check out my summation on Twitter here
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Plus, Benedict Wong is credited to appear in at least one episode of the upcoming TV series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. So we will see Wong again… and not a moment too soon!
So there’s my round-up of random thoughts, questions, and first impressions I had while watching Wong and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). What other thoughts, questions, theories, and observations did you have? Please leave a comment and share!
- Arey, Ryan. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Easter Eggs and Breakdown: Every Marvel Cameo” [Video]. ScreenCrush, YouTube, 6 May 2022.
- “Doctor Strange.” Wikipedia, 6 June 2022. CC BY SA.
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Dir. Sam Raimi. Perf. Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Marvel Studios, 2022.
- “Features of the Marvel Universe.” Wikipedia, 5 June 2022. CC BY SA.
- “Gap Junction.” Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki. Accessed 6 June 2022. CC BY SA.
- “Glossary: Nexus Beings.” Marvel Database. Accessed 6 June 2022. CC BY SA.
- Hale, Lyra. “Watch: America Chavez Speaks Spanish in Exclusive Clip from ‘Doctor Strange 2’.” Remezcla, 6 May 2022.
- Hutchinson, Chase. “Benedict Wong Is the Real Hero of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’.” Collider, 6 May 2022.
- Iacobucci, Jordan. “MCU: 10 Characters That Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Could Reveal To Be Nexus Beings.” ScreenRant.com, 29 April 2022.
- McCoy, Joshua Kristian.”MCU: Why Is Wong In Everything?.” GameRant.com, 4 June 2022.
- Nemetz, Dave. “TVLine Items: Doctor Strange 2 on Disney+, Percy Adds Five and More.” TVLine.com, 2 June 2022.
- Perine, Aaron. “Marvel Fans Are Loving Wong’s Dominance in Phase 4.” ComicBook.com, 18 May 2022.
- Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First Impressions: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019).” Reel Librarians, 8 May 2019.
- Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First Impressions: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.” Reel Librarians, 2 May 2018.
- Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First Impressions: Wong’s Cameos in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ (2021).” Reel Librarians, 8 Sept. 2021.
- Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Introducing Wong’s New Action Figure.” Reel Librarians, 23 Feb. 2022.
- Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Perspectives about Wong’s Reel Librarian Character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Reel Librarians, 26 May 2021.
- Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Sorcerer Librarians of ‘Doctor Strange’.” Reel Librarians, 25 Apr. 2018.
- Zachary, Brandon. “Scarlet Witch, Kang and Every Other Marvel Nexus Being, Explained.” CBR.com, 23 Sept. 2021.