In Celebration of Wong’s Character Growth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

One of the breakout characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past few years has been Wong (Benedict Wong). He’s the Sorcerer Supreme, Master of the Mystic Arts, leader and former librarian of Kamar-Taj. Of course these days some, namely his bestie Madisynn, call him Wongers.

Wong’s development throughout the films and shows has been enjoyable to watch as we peel back the ways in which there is more than meets the eye. In an ensemble franchise such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is difficult to give time to any one character. Supporting characters like Wong do not always get the time they deserve, with their attributes instead sprinkled throughout everywhere they appear. Wong has appeared in six movies to date, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is his second television appearance after What If…?

Wong (Benedict Wong) walks through a portal in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Marvel Studios

Those of us who have seen 2016’s Doctor Strange may recall the differences between the Wong of that film and the Wong of She-Hulk. Certainly he has developed in the intervening years. Indeed for Wong it has been nearly eight to nine years between Doctor Strange which takes place between roughly 2016 and 2017 and She-Hulk, which presumably takes place in 2025.

In 2016’s Doctor Strange he sacrifices his life to defend the Hong Kong sanctum. This is later undone by Doctor Strange’s use of the time stone, but notable nevertheless. In his first movie appearance, Wong is incredibly stoic. He keeps a straight face in front of Doctor Strange whenever Strange attempts to use humor, and pulls no punches when discussing the dangers of the mystic arts. Nonetheless Wong proves not to as ignorant of pop culture as he pretends. We see Wong listening to “Single Ladies” as he reads in the library and Doctor Strange steals books for advanced learning. Throughout the movie Wong is very closed off, and Doctor Strange is indeed surprised when Wong laughs at the end of the movie.

Wong holds an ancient tome as the world folds around him in a poster for 2016's Doctor Strange.
Marvel Studios

Wong has always been a fighter. He is an experienced Master of the Mystic Arts and the Sorcerer Supreme after all. Doctor Strange claims that Wong got the title “on a technicality” but he undoubtedly deserves it. He is also pragmatic. He prioritizes his responsibilities above all else. In Avengers: Infinity War, Wong focuses on defending the Sanctums from Thanos because he knows that without Doctor Strange they are vulnerable and that will weaken the Earth even further. 

Since the practitioners of the mystic arts are later ready to defeat Thanos at quick notice in Avengers: Endgame, it stands to reason that he, Wong, was also keeping them prepared for battle. He keeps to his own business in Spider-Man: No Way Home and trusts Doctor Strange. That said, when Doctor Strange proves that he should not be fully trusted with matters of the multiverse, Wong keeps a closer eye in the case of America Chavez during Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Benedict Wong in Marvel's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Marvel Studios

Wong is steadfast in accepting that which he cannot change, but never gives up regardless. When Wanda captures him, he admits that he has accepted “what comes next”—that she will try to kill him. Still, he probes her with inquiries designed to question her worldview. He also does not give up on fighting for his life against the monsters Wanda has ordered to kill him.

As we have seen more of Wong in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his character has loosened up in ways that we never could have expected from that first Doctor Strange film. One clear example is how at the end of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings we see Wong joining Shang-Chi and Katy for a rendition of “Hotel California” at karaoke.

She-Hulk explores this side of Wong that we have seen only glimpses of by showing us his home life. We now know he enjoys gin and tonic and watches The Sopranos and This is Us. (Of course we already knew his favorite ice cream from Avengers: Infinity War; it’s Hunk-A-Hulk-A Burning Fudge, naturally.) The introduction of Madisynn creates a grumpy/sunshine dynamic which allows for us to see in an expanded way how Wong interacts with friends who are not superheroes. This dynamic has been embraced by many fans across Twitter who enjoy the easy friendship between the two of them.

Wong, Madisynn, and She-Hulk in court in She-Hulk episode four.
Marvel Studios

Despite all this, Wong never loses his serious nature. He is incredibly open about his actions, and freely confirms that he used Emil Blonsky as part of his trials to become Sorcerer Supreme. Admittedly he does not realize that doing so is admitting to a crime. Luckily for Wong, he has access to a quick exit. He is upfront about his beliefs and the fact that magic should be limited to those who use it responsibly—aka not Donny Blaze.

Similarly, he has lost none of his fighting prowess. He demonstrates when he and She-Hulk defeat the demons that Donny accidentally let loose. His firm convictions and wide knowledge set make him an impressive ally. More importantly, his kind nature makes him a good friend. We have always known that Wong is not someone to cross, but throughout his tenure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have grown to learn about his softer side as well.

She-Hulk consults Wong in her office.
Marvel Studios

Wong is comfortable and self-assured in the life he lives, unlike many others in the Marvel universe and in the world at large. Towards the end of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Strange asks Wong if he is happy. Wong had an interesting reply to the interesting question. “Sometimes, I do wonder about my other lives. Yet I remain grateful in this one. Even with its tribulations.” Wong would not change who he is, and I hope that other Marvel fans would agree with me when I say that I would not want him to change either.

Now, my main question has to be what happened at the Full Moon party at Kamar-Taj that caused Doctor Strange to use the Runes of Kof-Kol? Perhaps we’ll learn that next time.

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