Doctor Strange 2’s weirdest fight scene explained by the composer

Legendary film composer Danny Elfman shares the inspiration behind this musical note fight scene in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness composer Danny Elfman shares how he set up the musical note fight scene in the film’s third act. The sequel from Marvel Studios strange doctor sees Benedict Cumberbatch’s Strange travel the multiverse as he seeks to protect America Chavez, a teenage superhero with the power to jump between universes, from Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. In an alternate reality, Stephen encounters an evil variant of himself in Sinister Strange. Naturally, an epic battle ensues between the two.

A memorable moment from the fight scene occurs when the two seem to wield musical notes as offensive weapons against each other. Doctor Strange magically levitates sheet music notes – to the tune of Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” – and hurls them at Sinister Strange. The Maleficent variant of The Stranger then responds with a counter-attack to the tune from Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”. The two pieces fit together to create a composition entitled “Lethal Symphonies” on the Doctor Strange 2 soundtrack, composed by Elfman.


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Elfman recently met to share how composition and battle came together. The idea originated with director Sam Raimi, who developed the sequence with a team that included screenwriter Doug Lefler and What if…? director Bryan Andrews. After shooting the scene, Raimi shared the concept with Elfman, who experimented with various pieces until Marvel producer Kevin Feige stepped in with another idea. Elfman said:

“Literally, not metaphorically, these notes fly off the page. It was about working various classic tunes against each other; famous genres of tunes. Then, at the very 59th minute of the 11th hour, at the very end, Kevin Feige jumped in and I said to just simplify it to Beethoven versus Bach. I did another pass where it was Beethoven’s “5th Symphony” versus Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue.” It really worked perfectly.

Doctor Strange and Sinister Strange

The music note fight scene is perhaps one of the most creative duels to take place in the MCU, and the pieces chosen were perfect for their respective characters. While Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” carries towering grandeur appropriate for Doctor Strange, Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” exudes classic horror-movie melody, alluding to Sinister Strange. Elfman has also been smart to incorporate recognizable pieces, which keeps the audience entertained by paying attention to the music between each smash and explosion of the Multiverse of Madness action piece.

As awesome as the scene may seem, Marvel audiences remain divided on its reception for Doctor Strange 2. While many think that Multiverse of Madness is as epic as advertised, others criticize the film for being convoluted and confusing – not to mention over-the-top, with some citing the battle of the musical notes as an example of pushing the envelope too far. If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s Elfman’s masterful mastery of two iconic works by Bach and Beethoven. Regardless of one’s opinion of the scene itself, Elfman’s “Lethal Symphonies” in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will surely be a favorite among Marvel fans and music lovers.

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