I pity people who are Marvel fans and can’t go to the cinema on opening weekend when a new Marvel film comes out. Why? Because it becomes increasingly harder to avoid spoilers, especially with something as big as Marvel has gotten over the last years, it’s almost impossible not stumbling upon something about any of their upcoming movies, shows etc. And I am saying that as someone who isn’t looking up spoilers. I don’t follow any “news” outlets that would report “spoilers” or anything like that. And yet even I did see a few things I wish I didn’t before watching this film. Nothing major, but still wished I wouldn’t see those. Also, it seems that after Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021, my review here), everyone expected some major “cameo fest” from this film based on some leaks that we now know were false. I believe I can mention those at this stage because they never meant to happen, but people honestly expected Tom Cruise to have a cameo as Iron Man? Really? And I believe that was one of the factors contributing to the lukewarm response Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is getting. People saw some badly photoshopped images and thought: “Yey, multiverse concept will be so great!” And the thing is, this movie was great even without many cameos.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Marvel’s darkest film yet. Sam Raimi‘s handwriting was all over this film, and I loved it. While watching this movie, I marvelled (get it?), how come this movie wasn’t ‘R’ rated. A question that turned “sour”, to say the least. Anybody who dares to ask that question now seems to be ridiculed…? Honestly, the more time I spend on social media, the less I understand some people, but ok, let’s try to have this conversation properly. The conceit of the “how was this not ‘R’ rated?” question has nothing to do with the fact there were darker movies in the 80s. Yeah, there were but guess what? Those movies are the reason we have got ratings, MPAA and all that jazz. So that’s the first thing. Secondly, nobody (not even I) was trying to say: “Will somebody think of the children?” No, that’s another way of skewing this debate into something it wasn’t meant to be. The main point of this was merely to point out that if you hire a horror director like Raimi and give him more freedom, he can bring some stuff into the MCU we haven’t seen done until that point. Anyway, now I have that off my chest, let’s talk about this film a bit more before going into the spoilers.
Unlike many, I didn’t love the first Doctor Strange (2016); I “only” liked it. So I went into this film with no baggage and not expecting any crazy cameos. And maybe that is why I enjoyed it a tad bit more than your average moviegoer? Where Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness rules (besides the already mentioned Raimi effect) is cast. Elizabeth Olsen is THE highlight of this film, by far. She understood her role, and her performance was a joy to watch. I can’t say anything more about her without going into some spoilers, but before getting into some spoilers, I need to mention a newcomer Xochitl Gomez. Her character “America Chavez” got me intrigued about what role she will have in the MCU moving forward since her character seems to be the only one who can freely jump in between different multiverses. And since this is where the MCU appears to be heading more and more, she might just become one of the most significant characters in the entire MCU, and I can’t wait to see (and learn) more of her. I feel like I can’t discuss anything else without at least hinting at some spoilers, so…
Beware, SPOILERS are coming!
From what I can gather, many people thought this film undid everything WandaVision (2021, my review here) was about, specifically the growth Wanda went through. And see, this is where I would politely, yet firmly, disagree. WandaVision was about Wanda dealing with the loss of Vision (hence the name), and she was already on the path to becoming a psycho villain. After all, she literally enslaved an entire city! And even in the end, she realised that was wrong, sure. But she never seemed remorseful about it, even in the show. It seemed she was only sorry about that situation (the town people being her entrapped slaves/puppets) having to end so she could no longer continue living her fake life. Also, did people forget (or not see?) the very last scene in WandaVision, where she already was reading through the Darkhold? That is why it made perfect sense to me, her character being a straight-up villain here, where the ends justify the means, even if the “ends” here were “just” to be with her (fake) children she made up.
I thought Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness displayed cleverly how similar her character was to Strange’s character. And as always, it’s not about how similar you are to someone what matters is where you differ from that someone. Stephen Strange might be full of himself and dickish at times; we can all agree there. But his moral compass seems to be aligned well, as we see in the opening scene where one of his many different versions is ready to sacrifice and take America’s power “because her life is in the grand scheme of the universe not significant”. I liked this film played around with the idea of where the line was between good and evil. Between who is (or who gets to be) a celebrated hero and who is a villain and how/why that happens.
But, here’s the thing – hence why I enjoyed Elizabeth’s performance more than Benedict’s. She was the perfect example of a broken character who has been through so much and had to give up (or lost) everybody she ever loved (before Vision, it was her brother). I didn’t agree with what she was doing, but I understood where she was coming from and mainly why she was doing it. She might be one of the best villains the MCU has had in a while, and I wonder where will they take her character next, now since the Darkhold got destroyed. What’s that, you say? She died, you say? Nah, nobody believes that. Besides, there was a brief shot of her “red powers” being used as the temple was collapsing on her, so she did not die. It will be interesting to see whether MCU gives in and makes her go “full-on villain” or whether she gets a redemption arc.
I loved the darker tone of this film because it wasn’t literally dark (you could still see the action and characters well, hey DCEU, maybe make a note or two?), and more importantly, it was “blended” well with some moments of levity. Like the “epic music battle” scene that was superb both visually and musically, stunning set-piece. Or how The Scarlet Witch penetrated the defence of Kamar-Taj that scene was maybe the first time we could see The Scarlet Witch’s full potential and how formidable a villain she will be.
The only weakness Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has had, was the eyeball action sequence. I understand we need to get things moving somehow, but that entire sequence simply to get to America’s character felt a bit weird, and given where the tone of this film went right after also felt off. It almost felt like it was shot by somebody else before Raimi showed up on the set and said: “Ok, let’s try to infuse MCU with a bit of horror.” Honestly, next time you watch it, notice how everything changes after that sequence. And for my money, that change was needed. If we are getting MCU films for at least ten more years (according to some news), I hope Feige will invite different directors and gives them more freedom to play around with genres within MCU. That is one of the few ways to keep things interesting moving forward because the idea of the multiverse where everything goes is intriguing until you realise what that really means – no stakes. Because so what, this character died a few movies ago? There is a version of them living in another multiverse; let’s bring them back or visit them! I would hate to see MCU go down that road.
Overall, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a fun time in the cinemas for me. I went with no expectations, and when the film ended (the best after-credits scene in the entire MCU, by the way!) I left the theatre with a smile on my face, thinking about the different themes this film touched on, the characters it introduced and some fun cameos that actually happened. I wasn’t bogged down by those cameos that were never meant to happen or the fact we didn’t unleash the multiverse concept “fully”. As somebody who truly enjoyed Spider-Man: No Way Home, I would say, not every MCU film must have cameos. As the immortal quote by Dr Malcolm goes: “You are so preoccupied with whether or not we could that we should stop to think if we should.” Just because we have a multiverse now doesn’t mean we NEED to pack every single Marvel film from now on with 15 new cameos. And most importantly, let’s try to enjoy these films for what they are, rather than dislike them for “what they could/should have been” based on unreliable leaks. I can’t wait to rewatch this film, and I am glad Raimi is back directing.
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,