Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness 2022
I keep telling myself that I’m not going to let this site lay fallow, and yet this is the second big release after The Batman that I’ve sat on. Of course not nearly as much as I’ve sat on The Batman as I still haven’t blocked out the three hour block of time to watch that at home on HBO Max. I managed to see this film in theaters on the second Sunday of release which as of writing this first paragraph was over a week ago. Meanwhile, I am hard at work on season 3 of It’s Time to Rewind and my new musical show Lyrical Innuendo. Despite all of this, I did enjoy the film. One of the biggest complaints that I had heard about the movie before I saw it was that it was “too Sam Raimi”. And while I can understand that argument, that’s honestly what I enjoyed the most about this film. It was that Sam Raimi horror with a little bit of comedy sensibility that permeated throughout the entire film along with some of that Spider-Man 2 pathos that helped endear us to the often self-important Doctor Strange. The new characters were nice, the Easter Eggs were occasionally surprising and I will be discussing them in the main portion of the review so if you somehow haven’t heard about them by now, you will be spoiled if you keep reading.
Doctor Strange has had a fairly interesting arc in just a short period of time. He got his introduction in his first solo movie, was one of the critical members of the Avengers in Infinity War, made an impact in No Way Home, and is now back with his second “solo” film that introduces one important character and sends off a second one. He’s always flirted with his arrogance and self-assuredness and this is the first film to really get him to question that. In the previous films, he did end up making mistakes due to his arrogance, but he was eventually able to correct through his intelligence and sheer force of will. There was just a bit of letting other people “take the knife” in No Way Home where he agreed to follow through with Peter Parker’s plan of making everyone forget him rather than allowing Strange to come up with some other alternative solution. But here he sees the potential future of going it alone and hands the reigns to America Chavez in the final battle.
Aside from some of the cameos and Easter eggs, what this film really has going for it is the Sam Raimi-ness of it all. There are really three fantastic scenes, the first one is the falling through the multiverse with America and Doctor Strange with all of the various and occasionally abstract universes. The second one is the musical battle between Doctor Strange and not quite Strange Supreme. Even though the Strange in the incursion-ified universe claimed that he had stolen the power of various other Doctor Stranges, he didn’t seem like he was the supposed to be the same Strange as the one in the What If series that also absorbed all the demons. And the final scene is where Strange dreamwalks into the very Evil Dead-looking corpse of the Strange we saw in the opening scene, complete with a variety of wraiths that he eventually uses as a cape and a weapon.
The other big moment that needs to be talked about is the big Easter egg teased in the trailer of the Illuminati. The group of various superheroes in the red-means-go-green-means-stop universe that Strange and America get stuck in. They are led by the mixed Charles Xavier played by Patrick Stewart but played closer to the ’94 animated series complete with the iconic theme song that plays when he comes on screen. The semi-surprise addition was John Krasinski’s Reed Richards Mr. Fantastic in full Fantastic Four gear. He has a few nice lines but is dispatched by Scarlet Witch pretty quickly without getting to see him do much. They’re also joined by Captain Carter and Maria Rambeau’s Captain Marvel both played by their returning actresses, and newcomer Black Bolt who fewer people will recognize but is a powerful character who gets a pretty horrific death along with the rest of the Illuminati minus Mordo who, apparently got stuck in a trench fighting Strange.
The other real main character in this movie is the Scarlet Witch after she has basically gone to the darkside after losing Vision for basically the third time in short succession along with her fictionally created children who we find out were actually based on multiversal versions of them. As a villain, her plan is to steal America’s multiversal travel power so that she can more or less Single White Female one of the other versions of herself that have a healthy and non-fictional version of her two children. Or a better idea that wasn’t brought up in the film would be to find a version where the other her had died and left the children as orphans so she can be the replacement mommy with a very different sort of psychological trauma than what she causes in the red-means-go universe. This villainous version of the Scarlet Witch really shows how powerful a character she can be as she takes out the entirety of Kamar Taj and the illuminati. Even though it’s followed by what feels like a reversal of the typical horror movie chase where the healthy heroes are running at full speed while the injured villainous woman is limping barefoot behind them yet still keeps pace with them.
There really is a lot to take in throughout this entire film and all of the characters have a nice growth arc to them. Doctor Strange finally learns to release control to someone else, America learns to trust her powers, Wanda eventually sees the monster she has become and dies in a self-sacrificial effort to destroy the Darkhold though with someone as powerful as her, there’s always the possibility that she didn’t actually die. Even Wong has some great moments as the current Sorcerer Supreme, earning some respect from Strange at the very end. There were some questionable moments here and there involving the very nebulous concept of incursions which seem like they should have came up at some point earlier. The best explanation is that messing with the multiverse always runs the risk of causing an incursion, the more you mess with it, the higher the risk. But there’s always a chance of it happening, it’s never guaranteed. So Strange’s massive multiversal spell in No Way Home was a big risk and he got lucky that an incursion didn’t happen. Anyway, the Raimi flourishes were wonderful especially the Bruce Campbell cameo. The new characters were fun, and I’m interested in seeing where this phase ultimately ends up. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.