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Benedict Cumberbatch Explains the One-of-a-Kind Fight in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

doctor strange multiverse of madness

Now that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has arrived in theaters (and consequently blown many Marvel fans’ minds), the main talking points about the film have been its steep jump into the horror genre, Elizabeth Olsen’s performance, and one particularly eye-catching fight between (spoiler alert!) two different versions of Doctor Stephen Strange. recently spoke to both Benedict Cumberbatch himself (the actor who plays all versions of Doctor Stephen Strange in the Multiverse and the Marvel Cinematic Universe) as well as Sam Raimi, the director of the Marvel film who is responsible for its shift to horror-movie jump scares.

While meeting with an alternate version of himself, “Sinister Strange and our Strange [are] cat-and-mousing each other, finding out who the other one is and whether to be trusted,” Benedict Cumberbatch said. It doesn’t take long before the truth is revealed: Doctor Stephen Strange discovers that this new version is actually “Sinister Strange”, a Doctor Strange who used the Darkhold Book of the Damned too much and turned villainous.!

A magical fight commences after Sinister Strange threatens Doctor Strange and tries to take Christine Palmer (Doctor Strange’s love interest, played by Rachel McAdams) for himself.

Wanda and Doctor Strange

The Scarlet Witch Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen) and Doctor Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Many Marvel fights are fairly similar: the Marvel superheroes use their signature powers or signature combat moves until an enemy is defeated. But director Sam Raimi specifically chose to do something very different for the fight between Doctor Strange and Sinister Strange: a fight composed of music notes!

“Everything that boils over is used from that moment,” Cumberbatch said, describing the surreal and almost whimsical battle. “This fight, in particular, is a very very fresh take on what that magic can do.”


‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ film poster. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams. Credit: Marvel Studios

“We wanted to do something extraordinary because we had Doctor Strange versus Sinister Strange,” Sam Raimi confirmed. “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.”

Storyboard artist Dough Lefler, Bryan Andrews (the director of What If…?), and Kevin Feige were all involved in designing the music notes’ appearance “so that they really have a special feel to them”. Sam Raimi also turned to composer Danny Elfman to create the “Lethal Symphonies” that drive the battle forward.


On left: Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Credit:

“Literally, not metaphorically, these notes are flying off the page,” the composer Danny Elfman said. “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,” Benedict Cumberbatch summarized for “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.”

Many Marvel fans will agree that this particular fight scene was a memorable one (even compared to so many Wanda Maximoff combat moments in the movie)! Have you seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness yet, or are you holding out for other upcoming Marvel movies like Thor: Love and Thunder?

About Sharon

Sharon is a writer and animal lover from New England. Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures!

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