The new Marvel movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, hit theaters and I went to see it. Of course, I have things to say.
Remember Doctor Strange? I don’t mean the character, who you’ve seen in Avengers battling Thanos, and in the latest Spider-man. No, I mean, do you remember the original Doctor Strange movie? Maybe you do, but I’d forgotten quite a lot about it. It’s been almost six years.
In the first movie, Dr. Stephen Strange defeated the extra-dimensional Dormammu and the evil Kaecilius. After that, he returned for Avengers: Infinity War, only to vanish along with half the population of the universe when Thanos did his thing.
But now, five years later, he’s back. Unfortunately for Stephen, his would-be love interest is marrying somebody else and his old buddy Wong has taken on his old mantle of Sorcerer Supreme in Kamar-Taj. Strange now hangs around alone in his New York Sanctum, moping. Then he has a dream of traveling through a different dimension with a young woman with magic powers. In the dream, he tries to take her powers, but is killed, and the girl vanishes into a dimensional rift.
He thinks nothing of it, but then, at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, the girl from his dream shows up, followed by a tentacle monster. It turns out, she can jump dimensions, and is in trouble. Strange’s dream was not a dream at all…
Benedict Cumberbatch is a good actor, and a good fit for Stephen Strange. In the first movie he started as an arrogant jerk, who became a powerful sorcerer. In this movie, his arrogance is sort of in control, but he’s far from humble. He needs to be in control of everything, and still feels that he always knows best.
The girl from Strange’s strange dream, America Chavez, is played by Xochitl Gomez. She’s a teenager who can jump dimensions, but she’s also in way over her head and looking for help. She grows over the course of the movie, and does an admirable job of having character in a movie packed with action scenes.
Elizabeth Olsen returns as Wanda Maximoff. When last we saw her, she was in a cabin in the woods, after nearly losing her mind because of Vision’s death in WandaVision. Confronted with extra-dimensional monsters, Strange decides to ask Wanda for help.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a pretty spectacular movie. Marvel — and the director Sam Raimi — really went all out with the magic effects and epic fights. That makes for a fun thrill ride. However, it also makes the movie a bit chaotic.
Like I’ve said before, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is creaking under its own weight. There are so many characters and developments that it’s hard to keep track. This movie has its fair share of cameos: Maggy Carter from Agent Carter, Black Bolt from the Inhumans, and even Patrick Stewart from the X-Men movies. And to follow the story, you need to know about the events of the last two Avengers movies and WandaVision. So, that’s a lot.
The many action scenes and cameos means there isn’t a lot of time left for meaningful character interaction. It makes the movie feel rushed at times. And that’s a shame, because at its core, the story is pretty good.
It also means that the actual multiverse isn’t explored in depth. There’s a lot you can do with multiple dimensions, but this movie is not doing it, favoring action scenes instead. And that’s a shame. Although, the musical-themed sorcerer duel is brilliant.
The same applies to some of the horror elements applied. They’ve scratched the surface, but the movie is something like 80% action, 10% horror, and 10% a psychological drama. I’m not a fan or horror, but I feel more could have been with that angle.
And Wanda’s arc… Well, I won’t spoil anything, but I have to say, the beginning of it felt rushed. There is no period where she is conflicted about what is happening. Because of that it feels jarring after the end of WandaVision, even if her arc is in fact a logical progression of that series. It’s like they cut out the middle bit. And that undermines the resolution of her arc, even if it is still pretty good.
So, when it comes down to it, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not at the top of my list of Marvel movies, but it’s pretty high up.
It’s a fun thrill ride, and looks gorgeous. If you like Marvel movies, or action movies with magic and special effects, this is the movie for you.