“WHAT IF… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of Hands?”. MCU in a dark and depressing tone
Last year, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuted in cinemas. In Sam Raimi’s movie, the title character travels through other universes, also meeting alternate versions of himself. This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a different Strange in the MCU.
In 2021, the first Marvel Studios animated series – What if …?, based on the comic book of the same title, debuted. In subsequent episodes, we return to the events already known from the Marvel universe movies, but we watch their alternative versions. In this way, we have the opportunity to see, for example, how T’Challa presents himself as Star-Lord and what results from the meeting between Killmonger and Tony Stark. Although the 9 episodes of the first season (the second is already announced) did not manage to maintain an equal level, one of them stands out in particular on the plus side.
It’s What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of Hands?, written by A.C. Bradley and directed by Bryan Andrews.
Beware of minor spoilers.
In the episode, we meet Strange as a recognized surgeon who has successfully performed a difficult hemispherectomy. Strange and his girlfriend, Christine Palmer, are going to a gala where he is to receive an award for this operation. Just like in the original 2016 film, an accident occurs, but this time Strange’s hands – which have suffered numerous damages in the MCU – are fine. Another tragedy touches the hero. Christine dies.
At this point, Strange’s fight to save his beloved from death begins. It is this motivation that prompts him to go to Kamar Taj, where he trains to become a Master of Mystic Arts. Two years later, Strange discovers that the Eye of Agamotto can travel through time, and he concludes that by doing so, he could stop the accident that killed Christine. Despite the Ancient One and Wong’s warnings, he returns to the day Christine died, not knowing at the time how fatal his decision would be.
Without going into further details of the plot, it is worth saying directly – What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of Hands? is one of the most depressing and darkest parts of the entire MCU. The creators took advantage of the possibilities offered by the premise of the series and created a plot in which it is futile to expect positive solutions for the characters. In the main series, a similar effect was achieved only in Avengers: Infinity War, which also ended on a dark note when half the universe died after Thanos snapped his fingers. What drives Strange in this episode hits the heart. In the film’s genesis, the hero wanted to regain the use of his hands to be able to continue his medical career, but here he cannot cope with the loss and desperately tries to bring his beloved back to life. The writer of the episode based the story on her own experiences – she herself wanted to somehow save her deceased older cousin. That’s probably why in Strange’s alternate history, you can feel the emotions raging after Christine’s death so well. Although Strange in his mission follows the principle of “the end justifies the means” and loses himself in his obsession with every step, subconsciously we hope that he will succeed and all this effort won’t come to nothing. It’s easy to identify with Strange if you’ve ever experienced the loss of a loved one and had recurring thoughts about what should have happened for that person to still be with us.
Animation and voices
What if…? was made in a characteristic style of animation, reminiscent of picture stories. The cartoon form fits perfectly with the story of Strange, because it allows for an attractive visualization of the magic surrounding this hero, including the spells. The visual side is complemented by a voice cast consisting of actors already known from the MCU, which was not alway common in What if …. For example, Tony Stark in his episode was not dubbed by Robert Downey Jr. Here, however, both Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams return to their roles, as well as Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong in the background. Cumberbatch is great at dubbing, convincingly playing with his voice emotions tormenting his character.
A great addition
While the episode’s alternate Strange does not appear in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (and he might, given the tone set by Sam Raimi),watching this episode of What If…? it’s worth planning on the occasion of refreshing or the first screening of the MCU movie It resonates perfectly with the touching cinematic line of Strange telling Christine that he loves her in every universe. It is the alternative story from the series that best shows to what extent and what a tragically lost love can lead to in a superhero world.