- Directed by Sam Raimi
- May 2, 2022 (Dolby Theatre) / May 6, 2022 (US)
Doctor Strange helps a mysterious teenage girl who can cross the multiverse as she is chased by the Scarlet Witch who seeks to take her power for her own.
A woman upset over the death of her imaginary family sets off to take the powers of another woman that can travel across the multiverse so the first woman can find a reality where the imaginary family did not die.
Yeah, that’s what the plot comes down to being all about. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness starts there and while it does not get worse it does not improve very much. In the very first scene between Strange and Wanda, Strange (Bandersnatch CinnamonToastCrunch) says just that! Wanda’s (all the Olsen’s look alike to me) whole motivation is to get back a family she conjured up and somehow for some reason that is framed as justification for killing entire realities and slaughtering anyone that stands between her and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who can reality hop. Apparently power theft was Wanda’s Plan A rather than helping America get control and then asking for a favor.
And there is another issue. The longer the MCU runs the more you need to watch. Interconnectivity is fine but in order to fully appreciate this film I am guessing I needed to watch WandaVision as this was connected to the events of that. The thing is I did not want to do that. I still don’t. I have only so much free time and there is so much more to watch than every MCU product that comes down the road. That is a weakness in the storytelling. Not everyone will consume everything.
Yet another issue (these keep mounting) is that Wanda’s plot is laid out pretty early on. There is virtually no buildup to it. We get a mysterious eyeball creature terrorizing New York and then Strange travels to Wanda to get some help in protecting Chavez and in one of the laziest bits or writing in the MCU a verbal slip lets Strange know who the baddie behind it all is.
After that it is one big battle or cool visual to pad out a story that really does not support a two hour and six-minute runtime. There is no meat to the story. There’s no feeling of a threat. At no point do you think Scarlet Witch can win even though she’s mowing everyone down left and right. Sam Raimi is a good director, and he has done a great job with other superhero films. If you want a darker superhero film look at Darkman. Absolutely great. He just seems to have fumbled the ball here.
Character development? What’s that? The closest we get to defining a character is that America Chavez accidentally sucked her mothers into another reality when she was a kid and she doesn’t know where they are. She ends the movie with her powers under control after a bit of trite philosophy but really there’s no character development to speak of in this film. Everybody just is from beginning to end. It makes the hero and their motivations weak and makes Scarlet Witch ultimately an unimpressive and rather forgettable villain.
I know I’m not the only person to point this out but how stupid is Reed Richards (John Krasinski) in this movie? He’s the smartest man in the world and he knows a powerful multiverse hopping individual is coming and when they arrive, he does nothing to stop her. In fact he gives her valuable information on each of them that she can use against them. Black Bolt (Anson Mount) could have wiped her out with a whisper and she knew nothing about him up until the moment Richards blabbed. As the meme(s) point out, all Richards had to do was prompt Black Bolt to say something the moment Wanda arrived and everybody was saved.
The hero of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness-the gentleman whose name is in the title-often gets sidelined or is just plain secondary to other characters in the film. This is a common thing in Marvel films and usually occurs when they have guest characters but what guest characters do we have here? He is sidelined by every other character! In the end Strange doesn’t even get to really save the day but rather America Chavez is the one that ultimately does something to end it all. Strange just gives her some armchair philosophy that somehow fixes everything emotionally in her and allows her to do what must be done.
Wanda’s motivation for her actions are bad enough but after she kills countless people and her universe hopping has caused realities to collapse in on themselves or collide and die, she is seemingly given a pass from all the horrors she has committed because she destroys the lead evil magic spell book which allowed her to do what she did and does so in every reality. I guess genocide on an unimaginable scale is okay if you decide to do the right thing in the end.
There’s a lot of spectacle and cool stuff which helps prop up a thin story. In a weird way that is a strength of the MCU. They can certainly stretch out a weak story with action filled set pieces. It is a skill that has gotten better as they have perfected the Marvel Formula. It also means that writers can be lazy, and directors can be just fine with that.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a passable film. It looks cool and that will get you through it. Heck you may even see it again but if you think too much about what happens in the movie you’ll realize just how bad it is. It’s a bitter pill with a sugary coating. I say if you want. And that’s tepidly.