Sam Raimi loves mirrors — not literal mirrors, though having Scarlet Witch use reflections as a weapon was a stroke of genius. Instead, Raimi is a huge fan of creating mirrors and parallels between the heroes and villains of his stories. To Raimi, a hero and a villain aren’t simply two people who fight or whose contrasting ideologies clash. They are individuals whose very natures are intertwined in the stories he tells.
And that is on full display in two of Raimi’s superhero pictures, these being his latest film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and his first big-budget venture, 2002’s Spider-Man. In the former, Strange and Wanda’s journeys reflect each other and how they confront the lives they desire hidden away in alternate realities. Similarly, the Green Goblin and Spider-Man are direct mirrors of each other in Raimi’s original film, which is used to explore their respective roles as super-powered individuals.
At the beginning of Multiverse of Madness, Christine asks Strange a simple question: “Are you happy?” Doctor Strange puts on a brave face and says yes, but the truth is he feels he cannot be happy living a life without Christine. However, he accepts the reality he has been presented with and tries to move on. Wanda is much the same; she knows she cannot be happy without her children. But instead of moving on, she rejects reality in search of her dreams, leading her to find her children in the Multiverse.
Similarly, Norman Osborn and Peter Parker’s journeys in Spider-Man revolve around each other. This is obvious in the literal sense, as both characters get their newfound abilities at similar points in the film. But this goes further, as Norman is very explicitly a dark reflection of Peter. Though Peter initially uses his abilities for personal gain and then revenge, he later grows into a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. In contrast, Norman presents the ‘what if’ scenario of what would happen if Peter continued down that dark path. The Green Goblin also starts by taking revenge on those who have wronged him. But unlike Peter, Norman doesn’t learn or grow.
These similarities are further evident in how both Wanda and Norman attempt to sway the heroes to their side. The Green Goblin proposes an alliance with Spider-Man, as he believes those with abilities should stand above those without. Similarly, Wanda realizes that Strange has the same desire as her, so she offers to find him a universe where he can be with Christine.
Sam Raimi loves to make interesting character dynamics and explore the naturally rich scenarios that come from these dynamics. Multiverse of Madness‘ Doctor Strange and Wanda are direct mirrors of each other, their wants and desires perfectly reflected but made distinct in their actions. And the same is true for Spider-Man‘s Peter Parter and Norman Osborn. These conflicts go beyond what audiences expect from a standard hero and villain confrontation, and that’s what makes them so strong.
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