[Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) features Elizabeth Olsen's second showing as the beautiful - and dangerously powerful - Scarlet Witch! Continuing my series exploring the secondary characters of Marvel's latest epic, it's time for me to take a look at just how the film handled her...
Who is Scarlet Witch?
In the comics, Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver were introduced as members of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They switched sides pretty quickly, winding up members of the Avengers, and Scarlet Witch has been associated with the Avengers ever since!
Scarlet Witch is perhaps Marvel's most powerful sorceress. Some writers have tied her to a power known as 'Chaos Magic', and as a result she's literally able to rewrite reality at a whim. This was demonstrated most horrifically when she went insane and created the "House of M" reality; although the normal Marvel Universe was swiftly restored, she issued a final curse - and depowered 98% of the world's mutants.
The theme of mental instability has thankfully been dropped in Scarlet Witch's recent comics, and the current writer - James Robinson - is tapping into a much richer vein of witchcraft, ignoring the Chaos Magic too.
On a personal level, Scarlet Witch has a fascinating history of love-interests. X-Men First Class showed her briefly dating Angel, but her most notable lover has been the android Vision. They even had children together!
How has Scarlet Witch been brought to the MCU?
Marvel had little choice but to radically redesign Scarlet Witch for the MCU. The rights to Magneto and the Brotherhood - and, in fact, to all hints of mutants - are off-limits, owned by Fox. So Avengers: Age of Ultron crafted a different origin, with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch submitting themselves to Hydra experiments in order to protect their homeland from what they perceived as the Avengers' threat. In another twist, Quicksilver died during the Battle of Sokovia.
The two siblings were exposed to the power of the Mind Gem, and both gained tremendous power. In the films, Scarlet Witch is no sorceress - she's a telepath and telekinetic. Given Doctor Strange is about to add magic into the MCU, that seems a bit of a shame.
Where does Captain America: Civil War pick up?
Captain America: Civil War picks up with Scarlet Witch as one of the Avengers, and the quality of teamwork displayed from the outset is tremendous. The team-mates play to one another's strengths, with Wanda tossing an enemy at Falcon. Scarlet Witch's powerset has clearly grown, and - where Avengers: Age of Ultron focused on her telepathy - this film shows the power of her telekinesis.
Unfortunately, Scarlet Witch in the films is as controversial as she is in the comics. Wanda uses her telekinesis to restrain the explosion from Crossbones' suicide attempt, and casts him into the air; unfortunately the explosion exerts too much force, and her telekinetic field breaks.
What follows is fascinating, as a shellshocked Wanda blames herself, and receives comfort from Captain America. She's left in a very vulnerable place, and there are some intriguing scenes with her and Vision. Ultimately, Iron Man's decision to put Scarlet Witch under house arrest forces her to pick a side, and she demonstrates her power rather incredibly as she takes on Vision.
Wanda is a major player in the airport battle, tossing objects and people around with effortless ease. She's imprisoned, and put in a straightjacket, which is clearly assumed to limit her power.
How well does this play out?
The MCU version of Scarlet Witch has introduced some intriguing inconsistencies. Scarlet Witch's power is reconfigured as telepathy and telekinesis, with the sorcery completely absent; unfortunately this leaves an oddity in her trademark hand-gestures. Traditionally, telekinetics have used hand-gestures to help focus their concentration, but the amount of finger-waving for Scarlet Witch just doesn't work for that idea. As the straightjacket evidences, there seems to be an assumption that Wanda's gestures are somehow essential for her powers to work; given that her powers are mental, not mystical, that seems odd.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Scarlet Witch's general portrayal in Captain America: Civil War, though, is her relationship with Vision. The two are tied together by the Mind Stone, and there's a rather touching fondness between them that could easily blossom into the romance familiar to comic book fans. The scene where Wanda unleashes her power on Vision is spectacular, richly imbued with both emotion and power. It's character conflict at its best.
All in all, Scarlet Witch comes out of Captain America: Civil War as one of the most powerful of the Avengers, and easily one of the most fascinating. The film is a credit both to the character and the concept.