Welcome to the Multiverse, where any combinations of reality are possible. In this universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has finally dropped in theaters and it was definitely worth the wait. From the story to the characters, to the awesome cameos that people will be talking about for a long time, the film has so much potential.
So with all its potential, did the film live up to the hype or collapse in on itself? Let’s punch a star-shaped hole through the Multiverse and explore everything Multiverse of Madness had to offer. However, if you would rather avoid the spoilers, check out Alex’s non-spoiler review of the film!
[Warning: spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are below!]
Are you a Good Witch or a Bad Witch, Wanda?
Stopping the world’s strongest witch is not an easy feat, however, if anyone can do it Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) can. The film starts with a quick introduction to America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, who is being hunted by monsters across the multiverse. She believes that a demon is behind it all, wanting to steal her powers to cause destruction throughout the multiverse.
It isn’t long until Doctor Strange discovers that it isn’t a demon behind the attacks, but Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) instead. This isn’t the Wanda we’ve come to know. Following the events of WandaVision, Wanda has become corrupted by the Darkhold. Her powers have grown immensely, but the desire to be reunited with her children has pushed her toward the dark side.
Multiverse of Madness becomes a cat and mouse game through the multiverse, as Doctor Strange attempts to find the Book of Vishanti, the Mcguffin of the story. However, the true weapon necessary for defeating Wanda lies in America as she learns to control her powers.
The story poses some interesting moral questions about right and wrong. Early in the film, Wanda questions Doctor Strange as to why she becomes the villain for his similar actions. Many times throughout the two hours the question of Doctor Strange’s motives as a hero is called into question – both verbally and through unspoken exchanges. The movie pushes that THIS Doctor Strange, the one from the 616 Earth, is different, but they never explain how he is different.
Regardless of why the notion that every other Doctor Strange is the biggest threat to the Multiverse seems to be carrying over to future films. While the majority of the Stephens appear to be corrupted by the Darkhold, it’s believed that the Doctor Stranges of the Multiverse are responsible for universal incursions.
Paired with the PCS with Clea (Charlize Theron) stating that our Doctor Strange caused one already, we seem to have more proof that Secret Wars is coming.
A Girl, A Witch, and A Doctor Step Into The Multiverse…
Doctor Strange may have his name attached to the film, however, this didn’t necessarily feel like a Doctor Strange film. Instead, Doctor Strange felt more like a vessel to easily explore the concept of the multiverse.
Yes, he is a lead, however, the story felt more like Wanda’s and America’s more so than his. All that said, Benedict Cumberbatch does a fantastic job of being the audience’s guide. This time around, Doctor Strange felt much funnier than the first film, which was something I wasn’t expecting. It was nice to see him having some fun with the magic, even during the difficult fights.
Elizabeth Olsen does a lot of heavy work for this film. Watching her descend into madness so she can reunite with her children brought chills to my spine. Olsen bounced back and forth from heartbreaking moments of sadness to some of the spookiest flashes of madness was Oscar-worthy.
When her children are afraid of her in the climax of the film, watching her break once again brought tears to my eyes. I’m not sure when or where we will see her again, but Marvel Studios would be foolish if they let Olsen walk away from the MCU.
Xochitl Gomez stunned in her first MCU film as America Chavez. Seeing flashes of America’s tortured past gave some incredible scenes for which Gomez could shine. Watching as she finally gained control of her powers in the very end was a highlight of the film.
It seems possible the next time we see America is in a Young Avengers project or, as Ayla has suggested, on her own, but I cannot wait to see how Gomez continues to develop the character over the next decade of the MCU.
Benedict Wong continues to be a strong presence in the MCU as Wong, however, we finally get to see him in his full Sorcerer Supreme role. Some of the best action shots were of Wong, yet his role felt smaller than I would have liked because the movie had some much shoved into it.
An all too brief glimpse at the Illuminati
For many, the presence of 883’s Illuminati came as a huge shock to many Marvel fans. Watching my nephew’s jaw drop as Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Maria’s Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), and Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski) are shown seated.
The excitement he got from seeing this team formed was only trumped by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) floating onto the screen accompanied by the new X-Men ’97 theme music. The team was short-lived, dying spectacularly at the hands of Wanda, however, their presence has huge ramifications for the MCU. After all, if all these characters exist in that universe, then they likely exist or have existed in some form, in the main MCU one.
The idea of seeing these characters on screen together felt like a pipedream at one point. Never again did I think I would see Mount back as my favorite character after the disastrous Marvel Inhumans TV show.
Seeing Krasinski in the tight spandex blue suit was like winning the lottery. He felt like he was made for the role and I hope that we see him once again. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, or at the very least Billy and Tommy with twin bowls of ice cream, seeing both of these in an MCU movie.
Atwell’s return to the screen as well was long overdue and I hope that she continues to play Captain Carter for many years. (Yes, even despite the on-screen death, there is likely other versions of Captain Carter out there in the Multiverse)
This felt more than a series of cameos, but instead of a hint of the future. I have no doubt in my mind that we will see all of these actors back as these characters, with the exception of Sir Patrick Stewart. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get some confirmations at SDCC or D23 this year.
Problems with Multiverse of Madness
While I enjoyed this film a lot, there were still some issues with it. The pacing of the film was breakneck, never allowing for a moment to breathe before jumping to the next important scene. It may have excellent use of its time, but adding a few minutes here and there for some scenes a bit slower may have allowed some time for stories and characters to develop more.
You could also feel sections of the movie were cut for whatever reason, which might have become a detriment to the overall story. I would be interested in learning what was cut, however, the film we got was still enjoyable.
Adding some more story and context for both Wanda and America would have been important. Superfans of Wanda or the comics may have known what was happening with the Darkhold’s corruption, on the other hand, casual fans may have been lost.
The film also introduced quite a few characters that deserved a bit more time. Not only would I have liked more from the Illuminati of 883, but I would have appreciated some more scene time with Rintrah and the other sorcerers at Kamar Taj.
The film left some feeling disheartened about Wanda’s characterization. While I felt satisfied with her story, others like The Cosmic Circle podcast host Uday felt the story left much to be desired. For more on that, read Uday’s breakdown and frustrations with Wanda’s journey from WandaVision to the final moments of Multiverse of Madness.
Regardless of the flaws, this film was fantastic. I loved that it provided answers from WandaVision, connecting the shows to the films in ways that I am not used to. It also helped to establish some huge arcs that will carry the MCU forward in monstrous ways.
I think it opened the supernatural door wide open after Moon Knight unlocked it earlier that same week. Never again will the MCU be the same and for that it will be so much better. But what did you think? Did you enjoy Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let us know over on Twitter!
My rating for this film:
★★★★ / ♥♥♥♥♥
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is currently in theaters. Check out the Trailer below!