“Things just got out of hand.”
This powerful caution provoked audiences when the trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (MoM) dropped, shocking moviegoers and longtime Marvel fans everywhere. But little did audiences know that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Stephen Strange’s madcapper adventures would go haywire.
Just days after its small-screen comeback, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) thrusts its audience into a frenzy with MoM. Boasting cinematography and an unconventional storyline much compared to their previous movies, the film takes audiences on a complex yet riveting adventure across the multiverse, previously opened in WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
With the former Sorcerer Supreme facing endless challenges between the last two phases of Marvel films, there is no doubt that this is his most exciting one yet. After the constant hints at the multiverse, we finally get to see what it is—and what exactly it can do to a person, even one as powerful as Doctor Strange.
Magic and mayhem
Right off the bat, MoM is Marvel’s most horror-like film to date with its depiction of demons and monsters. At the same time, this film is the most emotionally bound MCU entry yet, with an almost-relatable story on all characters’ ends.
Following the chaos that Spider-Man caused in his previous film, Strange now faces the task of protecting the multiverse from Elizabeth Olsen’s darkness-ensued Wanda Maximoff, who now embraces herself as the Scarlet Witch. Donned in red and black and the Darkhold in hand, she is willing to do anything to get to her kids last seen in WandaVision, even if it means getting rid of anyone who got in her way.
Despite the bright and shiny new storyline, it has its own faults within the plotline. Perhaps the biggest misstep leaves the audience wondering how Wanda actually knows Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez, and how she tracked her down in the first place. Meanwhile, the introduction of the undead and spirits of the damned open a whole new door for Marvel. While they don’t exactly make sense in this film, the MCU must be sure to utilize them well in future features, seeing how Marvel doesn’t do anything simply for the sake of doing it. Another plot hole is the lack of The Vision’s appearances in other universes, especially considering that he and Wanda were planning on settling down.
In the multiverse of madness
The last we saw of Strange, he had just finally gotten a break from closing the multiverse—or so he thought. Cumberbatch, who seems to have grown fond of the character and its cloak, gives justice to the sorcerer’s overall moral dilemma. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Strange is forced to choose between the world and himself. The audience is shown a less formulaic Strange—and even other versions of himself across universes—in Cumberbatch’s effervescent performance as he continues to step out of his comfort zone. He proves that Strange is not only the semi-rebellious sorcerer he was in the past but one that is more responsible now.
Chavez is a newly introduced character with the power to travel across universes. At first, she is deemed as a scared kid, unable to control her powers. Over time, however, she learns how to use them to her own will. While Gomez’s screen presence is great, her character is often used as a MacGuffin for the entire narrative of the film. This is the main cause of her performance’s downfall, and one can only hope that her character has a better future as Miss America.
Benedict Wong’s character, Wong, is a funny sidekick no longer, with the actor performing his character with more sense of duty and responsibility than he ever did before. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer is not just a love interest seen at the beginning of the film; she is now vital in saving the multiverse.
But the unexpected star of MoM was Maximoff. Once again, Olsen shines as the grieving Scarlet Witch, delivering one of the most complex storylines the MCU has ever written. She’s not your typical “villain”—if we’re even allowed to call her that. Her character balances between sympathetic and despicable, considering the path to achieving her familial endgoals are brutal. Only time will tell if Olsen’s powerful, emotionally charged performance is worthy enough to get the redemption arc and happy ending the Scarlet Witch deserves.
From here on out
It’s interesting how the MCU decided to depict the multiverse in the horror genre. But we’re not complaining. With Sam Raimi in the director’s chair—a part he hasn’t played when it comes to superhero films since Spider-Man 3—he is able to capture the multiversal magic and mayhem. Within the world of mirrors, his direction keeps one at the edge of their seat.
The dark cinematography is a Raimi classic, with a multitude of whip pans, tilts, and even unconventional angles. But at the same time, the film is more vivacious compared to previous entries. As Strange and Chavez travel the inner rims of the multiverse, audiences get a quick glimpse at other possible universes: all made possible through gorgeous computer-generated imagery and animation. All in all, the film’s visuals are a stunning piece of eye candy—rivaling Taika Waititi’s technicolor-esque Thor: Ragnarok.
MoM is not your average MCU film. Raimi is a master at turning a whole film around, given that he had both the MCU budget and the creative freedom that showed audiences all over the world a different side to their favorite superheroes.
That said, the film may not be for everyone, as the intersection of a typical MCU film and a Raimi horror is ultimately confusing. The more violent and gory it got, the more unsteady this film became. And while it in itself is a near-masterpiece—steering the MCU’s direction in the coming future—the movie also proves itself to be a part of Marvel’s corporate cycle, throwing easter eggs around to hint at future productions.
Things did get out of hand as madness ensued in the multiverse. But, we’ll see more of the chaos ensue as future multiverse-centered narratives are on the horizon. Chavez will for sure be back to grace our screens; and although the future of Maximoff remains unclear, the audience is made to know one thing: Doctor Strange will return.