From action, comic-book horror and the magic of the mystic arts, to offering seamless continuity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" has it all.
It's a strange place: you move when traffic lights are red, food is free of charge in some of its realities, and there are ways to travel across its dimensions. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m referring to Marvel’s multiverse, the centerpiece of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
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The Benedict Cumberbatch starrer and the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe offers us the first deep-dive into the concept of multiple realities, which it introduced on film, in Spider-Man: No Way Home. And what a deep-dive it is. From action, comic-book horror and the magic of the mystic arts, to offering seamless continuity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film has it all.
First, the time-set: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes place after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Wanda Vision. It certainly helps if you’re caught up to speed with the latter in particular, as the show goes a long way in delving into great detail about Wanda Maximoff’s life after the events of Avengers: End Game and forms the very foundation for this film.
Without giving away much, Multiverse of Madness sees Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) team up with multiverse travel expert, America Chavez (Xochitil Gomez), to take a trip across the multiverse. Their nemesis is Darkhold, an insidious force that threatens to change the very fabric of reality itself.
Together, Strange and Chavez with a little help from old friends, and some trouble from familiar foes, must team up to defeat Darkhold and restore order to these realms. Along the way, Marvel introduces us to some Multiverse Travel 101 — like its travel guide The Book of Vishanti, and the concept of Dream-walking that lets you control the mind of your counterpart in another universe.
While Multiverse of Madness sees some familiar characters reprise their arcs — like Wong (Benedict Wong) as the newly anointed Sorcerer Supreme and Strange’s rival Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) — the film’s standout performance belongs to Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. Olsen’s portrayal of grief, yearning and parental emotion is worthy of praise as her character arc braves a very significant shakeup. The film has also admirably utilized the concept of the multiverse to integrate two other prominent film franchises into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, thus ending a considerably long wait.
However, pleasant nuances that make up the building blocks of the film aside, Multiverse of Madness does make you wonder if it could have done so much more. Its potential is immense: Marvel’s budgets, director Sam Raimi’s reputation of delivering visual brilliance, and superb existing material that references the multiverse. However, it quickly becomes clear that the filmmakers want to play it safe and straight, choosing to deliver a story spanning less than a handful of universes, instead of pushing boundaries just a wee bit more.
Another criticism of the film, although less significant, is that Multiverse of Madness lacks cinematic identity simply because it is by all counts a coming-together of what can only be seen as sequels to previous Marvel productions, resulting in a super-sequel. Its events are sparked off by the blip in Avengers: End Game, its storytelling stems from Doctor Strange, and there are references to Spider-Man: No Way Home, even as Wanda Vision ends up birthing a significant portion of its source material.
On the bright side, the film warms the heart as it explores love across the multiverse exploring some beautiful relationships left behind in earlier productions. It delivers lines that make you want to pull out half-written love letters in the middle of the theatre, and complete them right then and there.
For Marvel and Doctor Strange fans, the film makes for an entertaining watch, as it expands the universe in more ways than one, boasts of great visual effects and features two prominent Marvel heavyweights — Doctor Strange and Wanda — in all their glory. Watch Multiverse of Madnes to resume Marvel’s beautiful cinematic journey and stay for the trippy ride across the multiverse. However, make sure you do that only after completing all episodes of Wanda Vision on your streaming device.