The Marvel Cinematic Universe has slowly been building up to the introduction of the multiverse, from the infamous “Bohner” joke in “WandaVision” to Loki and Sylvie breaking the timeline, and of course to the amazing Peters 1, 2, and 3 in “Spiderman: No Way Home.”
Needless to say, this film was incredibly anticipated, but did it live up to the hype? Honestly, it depends on the hype you bought into.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” begins with sorcerer Dr. Steven Strange continually dreaming about a young girl in danger. Soon enough, he finds out that the girl is none other than America Chavez, who can travel across the multiverse, and his dreams are just glimpses into those other universes.
Strange takes on the task of helping Chavez escape from various threats and discovering who is sending these multiversal beings to capture Chavez. The two must battle these many threats, including other-universe versions of Dr. Strange himself, and defeat the film’s “big bad” before the multiverse becomes irreparable and millions are killed.
Now the film’s “big bad” is where it gets slightly complicated, and of course, this is an official spoiler warning.
Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch, is responsible for trying to capture Chavez in order to steal her powers, thus killing her in the process. Maximoff’s motivation is that her children exist in every universe except her own, and if she could travel to those different universes she could be with her children and whenever anything would go wrong, she could travel to another universe to find the solution.
So, if you watched the film hyped to see The Scarlet Witch reveal the true extent of her power, this is the film for you. In this movie, Wanda’s reality-altering powers are kicked up to 11 and she easily goes through some of the universe’s most powerful and intelligent beings without breaking a sweat. Seeing all the action and magic from the Scarlet Witch was definitely entertaining and engaging, but there also lies the issue of seeing the character of Wanda become unjustifiable.
If you watched the film excited to see the beloved character Wanda Maximoff, you may have left the theater slightly disappointed. After the events of “WandaVision,” Maximoff seemed to have learned her lesson and faced her consequences. She learned that “heroes don’t torture people,” but this film seems to have forgotten her entire arc through that series as she goes from not only controlling people but brutally murdering them in seconds. Maximoff goes on a rampage and massacres fleets of sorcerers and the members of the Illuminati.
While she once again sees the error of her ways at the end of the film, this “redemption” does not feel as satisfying or as earned as it originally did in “WandaVision.” While some may argue she was completely under the influence of reading the Darkhold, that is still up for some debate.
It is also worth noting that if you sat at the edge of your seat waiting for Vision, Wanda’s love interest and the father of her children, to show up in any universe, you will be gravely disappointed – as I was. Vision not being in the film at all seemed like a major plot hole on many fronts.
Firstly, in “WandaVision” we see Vision come back to life as “White Vision” and fly off, and while we don’t know where he went it is clear he is alive. Secondly, this is the “Multiverse of Madness”, emphasis on multiverse. It’s hard to believe that in all the universes Wanda searched she did not find one with both her kids and husband alive.
Now if you watched this film hoping to see the other universes of the MCU, you likely would have been satisfied enough. The movie gives us the Illuminati as the main source of multiversal beings that die-hard Marvel fans can cheer for. Seeing Blackbolt and Professor X was definitely a highlight of the film, and seeing new characters and variations like Captain Carter, Maria Rambou’s Captain Marvel, and the ever-famous fancast of Mr. Fantastic was also very exciting. But outside of the short appearance of the Illuminati, the film does not spend much time showcasing the other universes and their differences or characters.
Lastly, if you watch this movie simply because you wanted to see your favorite character Dr. Strange’s second movie, you may be slightly disappointed. Despite the film having Strange’s name in the title, Dr. Strange seems like almost a secondary character in his own film. The story focuses much more on Wanda Maximoff and even America Chavez, so much so that it’s hard to focus on Strange’s own emotional arc during the film.
All in all, the film features some great horror elements from director Sam Raimi and some very fun references and appearances from other universes. However, despite all the build-up the MCU has done for this film, the reverse character development of Wanda Maximoff, Dr. Strange not being the main character in his own film and the lack of Vision (meant as both a reference to the character and a pun) the movie has some serious issues.
However, these issues likely only affect die-hard Marvel fans who have followed these characters up until this point; for a casual viewer, this might be just a fun movie with magic, action, and a vast multiverse. But from a die-hard Marvel fan perspective, this film gets 3.5 crabs from me.