Why Doctor Strange 2’s Short Runtime Is Actually a Good Thing

By Matt Roembke

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is less than a month away, and all eyes are on one of the biggest projects in MCU history. It was recently revealed that the runtime for the Doctor Strange sequel is not only shorter than expected, but it is also significantly shorter than any other “event” movie in the MCU. Fans are concerned that this short runtime could rush a plot that is almost inherently complex. 

The other “event” level movies in the MCU (Infinity War, Endgame, Civil War, No Way Home, etc.) all have an average runtime of roughly two and a half hours (152 minutes to be exact). Multiverse of Madness is coming in at 126 minutes. Virtually 20% shorter than the aforementioned average. With the synopsis promising multiple versions of characters, a deep look into the MCU’s multiverse, and universe-changing outcomes, how can all of that get the time it deserves in 30 fewer minutes?

Well, there are a few different things about this movie specifically that make that shorter runtime not only make sense but also point to this movie being better for it. The director plays a huge role in this. A handful of main characters have been active in the MCU, not just since 2016’s Doctor Strange, but in multiple recent projects. And there is arguably been no movie in MCU history that has been given as much primer in the year leading up to it as Multiverse of Madness.

Here are a few reasons that the short runtime of Multiverse of Madness should not be a cause for concern. 

A Sam Raimi Film

Doctor Strange 2, Evil Dead, Spider-Man

Sam Raimi is making his triumphant return to the comic book movie genre, and he is bringing his film-making history with him. Raimi is best known for either his early 2000s Spider-Man franchise or his cult-classic horror film catalog. Regardless, Raimi has never made a film longer than 140 minutes. Ironically, that film was Spider-Man 3, a movie that revisionist critics say packs too much into one movie. 

The average runtime for a Sam Raimi joint is 113 minutes. Making Multiverse of Madness is 13 minutes longer than the Raimi average, and his 5th longest movie of all time. 

Kevin Feige was very involved in the trailblazing Spider-Man trilogy that Raimi directed from 2002 to 2007. He knows him well and would not have brought him in to handle arguably the most important film of Phase 4 if he did not trust him to handle the job. With Sam Raimi comes a shorter runtime than the average MCU film.

This is the first and most foundational sign that 126 minutes is an appropriate amount of time for Doctor Strange 2, but far from the last. 

So Earth Has Wizards Now?

Doctor Strange, Wanda, Sinister Strange

Doctor Stephen Strange is one of the most efficient characters in MCU history. He has had one solo movie and is arguably one of the most fleshed-out players active on the MCU roster. In fact, that solo movie comes in at 115 minutes. And while Multiverse of Madness has the challenge of diving into the multiverse, balancing multiple big characters, and any potential cameos, Doctor Strange explained magic in the MCU in 11 fewer minutes. 

Since his origin story nearly 6 years ago, Doctor Strange has made many impactful appearances in other MCU projects. He cameos in Thor: Ragnarok to display his growth as a wizard and explain his role as Sorcerer Supreme. He has the fifth most screen time in Avengers: Infinity War. He makes his presence felt in Avengers: Endgame as the catalyst for arguably the greatest scene in comic book movie history. And just 5 months ago, he was a major player in the biggest movie since Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home. 

All this leads to virtually an entire movie’s worth of development for the character since fans last saw him in his origin story. Unlike most movie characters who receive a sequel, there is significantly less catching up to do with Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange 2

Meaning that once the theaters hit play on Multiverse of Madness, Sam Raimi and co. will be able to hit the ground running with their lead character. And that sentiment does not stop with Doctor Strange. 

We Know Exactly Who Wanda Is

Bloody Wanda Doctor Strange 2

Wanda Maximoff has gone from villainous sidekick to New Avenger, to emotional core, to one of the biggest names in the MCU. She is now primed to have her biggest role yet on the big screen as the pseudo lead of Multiverse of Madness. A lesser studio might have seen the name “Scarlett Witch”, known how much fans love the character in the comics and thrown her into this sort of spotlight right away. But that is not the Marvel Studios MO. 

The key to so much success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is patience. Fans had to wait for Cap to pick up Mjolnir, and it was worth it. Fans watched Peter Parker for 5 years before he heard “with great power, must also come great responsibility”, and it was worth it. Now Wanda Maximoff has been through the wringer, lost everyone she loves, suffered and battled grief, and has finally become the Scarlett Witch. It seems like it is going to be worth it. 

Elizabeth Olsen was given an entire series on Disney+ to develop her Wanda from C-list Avenger to an A-list fan favorite in the MCU. Fans have never been more in tune with this character, and it took no time at all for them to get excited about her role in the Doctor Strange sequel after WandaVision came to a close

With so much time with audiences just a little more than a year ago, Wanda will need no introduction in Multiverse of Madness. When fans are so close to a project featuring a character, there is not as much need for dedicated runtime to establish the dynamics on screen. This is the second major player in this movie who is ready to hit the ground running, and again, not the last. 

Wong: Friend, Trainer, Sorcerer Supreme

Wong Doctor Strange 2

In the same vein as Doctor Strange, Wong has been busy since his debut in 2016’s Doctor Strange. While he has never been spotlighted as a major piece of any MCU movie’s puzzle since his cameos have told a story of Wong that has given him significant character development. 

He played a role in Infinity War and Endgame protecting the world and universe from the attack of Thanos. He appears in Shang-Chi not just as a recruiter for the Avengers, but also as an underground MCU fight club participant. And in Spider-Man: No Way Home it was revealed that Wong has taken over the title of Sorcerer Supreme ever since the snap. 

So, while it has not ALL been shown on screen, fans who have seen the entirety of the MCU know that this Wong in Multiverse of Madness is a very different Wong than the librarian they met in 2016. This may seem less significant than Strange and Wanda’s development heading into this movie, but this is a game of inches. 

When you are able to take such a big player in the Doctor Strange franchise and throw him into a sequel already more established than when fans last saw him in that franchise, you are saving valuable minutes to focus on the plot and story. With Multiverse of Madness being 30 minutes shorter than the average MCU “event” movie, every minute is precious and Wong’s established role in the MCU will be a significant advantage for Raimi. 

The Multiverse is a Concept Fans Are At Least Aware Of

Doctor Strange 2 Characters

When the runtime for Multiverse of Madness was released, the majority of concerning comments were along the lines of “how can you explain the multiverse in that amount of time?“. Which is a valid concern. Except for the fact that Phase 4 has dedicated 40% of its projects so far to building up the idea of the multiverse in the MCU.

Much like the three main characters listed above, the main plot of this movie is ready to hit the ground running

It began in the WandaVision finale with Wanda peering through the Dark Hold, and then promptly hearing the voices of her non-existent children. Leading many fans to assume that she has tapped into the Multiverse in some way, shape, or form. This could explain why Doctor Strange goes to Wanda for multiversal advice. So, that is the first seed that was planted in the first project of Phase 4. 

Then came Loki, which some could say acts as the prologue to Multiverse of MadnessLoki delivers the idea of multiple universes, the way the multiverse is supposed to run, and even how it has been broken from the norm. It explains the idea of variants, nexus events, and how one timeline can drastically affect another. And it even introduces He Who Remains, AKA Kang the Conqueror, a character from the comics synonymous with the multiverse and the weaving between different universes. 

Loki was able to use all of those plot points as the narrative for the MCU’s most-watched Disney+, while simultaneously planting seeds for Multiverse of Madness. It was written by the same writer as Loki, Michael Waldron. 

Moving on to What If…?, this is a series that is essentially dedicated to making fans comfortable with the idea of the multiverse. Each episode features an alternate reality of an otherwise familiar MCU story or character. While it is unknown if anything from this series will be directly referenced or impacted by Multiverse of Madness, when you have something in canon making audiences comfortable with the idea of Multiverse, it means less work for Multiverse of Madness. 

And finally, Spider-Man: No Way Home joins Loki as somewhat of a prelude to Doctor Strange 2, as it DIRECTLY works within the multiverse for the majority of the film. Variants, other universes, and cracks in the multiverse itself are all featured in one of the biggest movies of all time. 

The concept of the Multiverse has been a major focus of the MCU ever since Phase 4 began. Multiverse of Madness will be able to take all of that setup and allocate that time to explaining as opposed to introducing. Which makes for good storytelling. 

Multiverse of Madness Is Ready To Hit The Ground Running

Doctor Strange 2

Think of Multiverse of Madness as a gourmet meal. Think of Sam Raimi and Michael Waldron as the master chefs. And think of WandaVision, Loki, What If..?, and No Way Home as the sous chefs. 

The sous chef came in and prepared the ingredients for Doctor Strange, Wanda, and Wong. They have also preheated the idea of the Multiverse, so it is at the perfect temperature to be utilized. Now all Raimi and Waldron need to do is come in and start cooking. No prep is needed. 

Sure, the master chefs could have prepped all the ingredients themselves and this gourmet meal could have been made in 2 hours and 30 minutes. But if everything is primed and ready to go, it is possible fans can get the same meal in just over 2 hours. 

No one likes waiting LONGER for a gourmet meal. As long as the ingredients are properly prepared, and the oven is set to a perfect temperature, fans are able to enjoy a delicious dish while also not waiting too long for it to arrive. 

Multiverse of Madness has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Thankfully, it has a significant head start. 

The Doctor Strange sequel hits theaters on May 6

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