Why does WandaVision's magic look so different than Doctor Strange's? That's the question a lot of Marvel fans are now asking after seeing WandaVision episode 8. (Spoilers) In its penultimate episode WandaVision has villain Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) reveal that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is a full-fledged Scarlet Witch, uniquely capable of channeling the crimson red "Chaos Magic." Similarly, seeing Agatha's dark backstory revealed more colorful magic powers, used by the 'good' witches of Salem, and Agatha's purple-tinted 'evil' magic. None of this magic in WandaVision looks like the mystical abilities seen in Doctor Strange and that corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - so what's that deal?
Well, as it turns out, the devil really is in the details when it comes to why MCU magic looks different in both WandaVision and Doctor Strange. It also turns out that the answer was revealed to us years ago by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige himself. When Comicbook.com talked to Feige on the set of the Doctor Strange movie, he was already thinking about how different kinds of magic users in the MCU should have different visual effects for their respective magic:
"Her powers, she's never had any training, I'm talking about Scarlet Witch. She never had any training; she's figuring it out," Feige told Comicbook.com. "Arguably, you could say that that's why her powers are much more chaotic and much looser in the way that we showcased those light effects. In [Doctor Strange]... it's much tighter. It's all about focus. It's all about pulling energies from other dimensions in an organized and purposeful fashion, which is why they can do a lot more than she can in, at least, a much more precise way."
That's basically the answer that WandaVision fans have been looking for: the magic users in Doctor Strange and its Masters of the Mystic Arts order are far more trained and skilled than the witches of WandaVision.
While Feige's quote was about Wanda's wild Chaos Magic powers, WandaVision episode 8 carries his explanation a step further. Early on in the episode, Agatha has Wanda bound and trapped, and is interrogating her about how she was able to unleash the crazy levels of spellcasting it took to createWandaVision's sitcom world in Westview. During that monologue, Agatha gives scale to how her magic compares to Wanda's, saying that Wanda can automatically transform reality and/or mind-control beings on an unparalleled level. For comparison, Agatha shows Wanda the small-scale of things she can control and/or transform, after years of training herself in the magical arts.
Even Agatha's coven in 17th century Salem was not powerful enough to beat the dark magic Agatha uses and was annihilated by her (even her 'Witch Queen mother). Though each of these three sets of witches (Wanda, Agatha, Salem Coven) uses three color sets of magic (red, purple, blue), they all seem to have the same flame-like power signature. While that magic is powerful, based on what Feige said it is still indicative of lesser refined magic than the Masters of the Mystic Arts achieve, with their orange-colored magic, precise hand motions, and geometric spellcasting.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Doctor Strange's crew is a higher class of magic users - that's pretty much their job and namesake as the Masters of the Mystic Arts. The MotMA also presumably has more powerful spells, books, and magical artifacts in their possession than the average witch coven - because, again, it's their job to police dangerous magical objects, spells, and entities.
What will be interesting to see is if the visuals surrounding Wanda's magic evolve after WandaVision and/or Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness - presuming Strange gives Wanda more tutelage in how to properly master her magic powers.
WandaVision is streaming on Disney+. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Madness is supposed to hit theaters on March 25, 2022.