I’m Back… and Let’s Discuss the Multiversal Madness!

Hello all! It has been, well, well over a year since my last post on here… I got back to school in-person and completely fell back into the swing of things. The good part of COVID was allowing myself to watch content and vent about opinions, ideas, etc. on this platform. Albeit no one really read these submissions, who cares? That’s the fun of it all. I think I’ll keep doing it for the fun of it since I do love entertainment and I do intend to keep up with news regarding film and TV. Just for my sanity, though, don’t expect anything constant.

Besides all that, it has already been a fantastic year for films, hasn’t it? First The Batman, then Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, and now Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. I have been looking forward to all of these for quite some time now, and it honestly feels weird to say they exist. Right? I thought today I’d take a deep dive into my thoughts of Doctor Strange since it’s clearly one of the hottest films right now. It also brings a great question into the validity of “the multiverse” and how it affects films moving forward, both in the MCU and beyond.

SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!

As per Rotten Tomatoes, “the MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before. Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.” …Hm, that’s an interesting way to put it. I think we all went into this film with confusion over really where this whole “multiverse” would take place and how it all started. Given the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, I assumed that spell that sent all of Peter Parker’s adversaries back to their respective universes would have gone awry somehow and opened up a portal to forces beyond our heroes’ imaginations. However, honestly it seems like that film had very little to do with that plot to begin with? If anything, this was much more a direct sequel to Wandavision than anything — and I’m not complaining! Y’all know I loved that show (it’s top 2 of the Disney+ MCU series). The Doctor Strange sequel features Wanda as the “big bad”, with her mind being completely controlled by the greed and corruption of the infamous Darkhold. If we remember from the show, Agatha Harkness remarked that the Darkhold is responsible for incredibly evil power, one that would unleash that true wrath of the Scarlet Witch. Wanda seemed to have shrugged that off, though, in hopes of finding a universe where her children Billy and Tommy exist outside of the Hex. Thus, this film focuses on Wanda’s intense desire to scour the multiverse for the power to harvest multiversal travel; that way, she’d never have to be alone, and she would happily be a mother once more. She does this by targeted America Chavez, a supernatural being that wields the power to do exactly what Wanda seeks. America falls into the MCU-verse and stumbles upon Stephen Strange, who realizes that the multiverse is both real and in danger from supposed demons hunting America. Very soon after, Stephen realizes it is Wanda’s corrupted mind that seeks to destroy America for her power, and the plot descends into a beautifully chaotic cat-and-mouse chase.

I will say, I really enjoyed the film. Director Sam Raimi did a weirdly incredible job at creating something fresh in the MCU. We’ve seen films come and go that feel, well, rather formulaic; the third act feels anticlimactic, the stakes aren’t high enough, etc. The Doctor Strange sequel, though, works because it infuses camp-adjacent horror shades with visually exciting comic book superhero influences. I’ll get into that in a second. Let’s break it down:

THE GOOD

  • Elizabeth Olsen was a fantastic antagonist. I thought she really captured the elements of a horror film villain; she wasn’t afraid to be ugly and get her hands dirty. She played a few versions of herself, yet you could easily tell who was who, and how they differentiated. Not only that, but her approach to the Scarlet Witch felt like it was right out of Carrie, Evil Dead, and The Ring.
  • Danny Elfman’s score was, unsurprisingly, great as well. I loved how everyone leaned into this semi-camp angle! There were certain guitar riffs and moments that felt so reminiscent of 80s horror (like when Wanda dream-walks in that circle). The score felt inspired, purposeful, and effective overall.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch is, of course, a strong force in the MCU. He has such charisma and personality, especially as the illusive Stephen Strange. This film had a focus on the idea of “being happy”, and I thought he captured that well while confronted with his and Christine’s relationship throughout his journey. His acting felt realized, and I think him and Olsen have such great chemistry, even as adversaries.
  • The Wandavision jingle brightened my day.
  • I loved the horror elements. I honestly am not the biggest horror genre fan, but in a film like this, I can understand that it needed some dynamic/unique perspective to keep the content fresh yet digestible for the audience. The hallway chase… beautiful. The Illuminati takedown… terrifying and brutal. The final confrontation with Wanda and her kids from the other universe… intense. At large, I think the acting really helped convey Raimi’s influences (which thankfully Olsen and Cumberbatch saved).
  • Favorite scenes: Wanda’s dreamwalking into 838 Wanda’s body, the Illuminati vs. Wanda battle, the Strange v. Strange music fight, and of course, that f*cking hallway sequence with 838 Wanda. That was insane.
Elizabeth Olsen as “Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch”

THE NOT-SO-GOOD (Because there’s enough negativity in the world, no?)

  • Look, I thought America Chavez could have been a really dynamic or punk installation in the MCU, but this film literally diminished her to just her powers. Don’t get me wrong, Xochitl Gomez did the best she could, but I felt overall Chavez was… boring. Also, let’s be honest, the scene where Strange and Chavez are drugged by Mordo in 838… that was not her best acting moment (“What was in this-” *immediately slumps in chair so as to pass out).
  • The title “Multiverse of Madness” does capture the film’s scope at some points. It’s funny, for a film about the multiverse, they only travel to, like, three universes. Otherwise, sometimes the plot felt like it just had to keep going because there was so much to get through. I don’t think pacing was an issue, but my head was all over the place trying to wrap all the information around my brain.
  • I guess, to be fair, it definitely doesn’t feel like a Doctor Strange sequel at all. Especially considering the first film’s events, this felt like a jump to something new. I love Wandavision, so I didn’t really mind, but it could be said that the film feels somewhat out of place.
  • What was really the point of NWH then? I guess we need to wait for more of Phase Four to know of Peter Parker’s fate, but this multiverse story feels completely separate (minus one reference).
  • The Illuminati is/was useless — which, honestly, was kind of funny, and I hope that has ramifications moving forward in multiversal circumstances.
  • Where was Vision? I read somewhere online that someone viewed his absence as purposeful — we never saw him in the other universe with Wanda and her sons because our Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, knows subconsciously that he is the only person that could stop her intentions. She doesn’t want to lose him again and doesn’t want to endure responsibility. So, he’s gone because she wants him to be. I guess that could make sense. I just love Paul Bettany.

Should we also talk about the mid-credit scene? Charlize Theron’s Clea comes to 616 Stephen’s universe and the MCU now has higher, more incredibly galactic stakes than before. For those who are unaware, Clea is “the daughter of Prince Orini, son of the Olnar, in line to rule over the Dark Dimension– the same dimension where the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) drew her power from. She’s also the niece to Dormammu, the villain from the first Doctor Strange movie,” (Loftus, Collider). She also is Strange’s wife in many comic iterations.

This means, well, we are getting the Dark Dimension. Holy shit. For those who are unaware of what that is, here’s a description. I for one am excited because Theron is a powerhouse and I think Phase 4 and beyond has potential. That is the biggest question now, after all. How will we pivot from Infinity War/Endgame and see the MCU grow into something more dynamic?

Overall, I think the film did a great job at taking risks and making a splash in the very-established MCU. Raimi’s vision came to fruition, in my mind, and I appreciate his and the writers’ point-of-view for Wanda’s character. She isn’t dead — she can’t be — but we won’t be seeing her for a little awhile. I know some people didn’t love the ending of the film/Wanda’s wrath, but in my opinion, the reveal of the Witch to Tommy and Billy was insanely powerful and I thought Olsen acted the hell out of that scene. Wanda is such a unique character, and in the MCU, she has been through irreparable loss and trauma.

But that’s another thing — why are we talking about Wanda so much? It’s Strange’s film, yet she clearly overshadowed him. Though, I will say, Zombie Strange was legitimately terrifying yet awesome at the same time. I do wish we got more Strange vs. Scarlet Witch battles. Oh well.

Some final questions:

  1. Did NWH really matter? MoM was originally supposed to come out before NWH before COVID, so I wonder how the timeline will now shift and include Parker’s future.
  2. How will Kang/the whole Loki situation play out now? Will there now be separate universes played out in individual films? Then they eventually all come together?
  3. How and when will we see Wanda again? There’s no way she’s dead, but I wonder.
  4. How will the 838 universe cope with the Illuminati being killed off? I assume they don’t have their own Avengers, so how will that fallout be of importance?
  5. Will there be connections in Thor: Love and Thunder? Hm. Only time will tell.

-H

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