You’ve read the title, and now you’re here to figure out why I’m writing this review as if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I promise you; I didn’t! Instead, both sides of my pillow were frosty. But unfortunately, that’s also how Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness left me feeling as I walked out of the theatre.
I often say in Marvel-related reviews that Marvel has their formula figured out, so of course, they won’t make a bad movie. But in this case, they might have due to their perplexing reliance on the audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief. Multiverse of Madness doesn’t start slow or try to build a foundation for its story. Instead, choosing to cast aside established stories and character arcs favouring campy nitrous fuelled fever dreams.
Within minutes of the film’s beginning, you meet America Chavez, meet the antagonist, and learn why this cosmic clash is happening. Unfortunately, it leaves nothing to the imagination, and the rest of the film telegraphs what’s to come just as quickly, making for a dull viewing experience.
That isn’t to say that Multiverse of Madness is without its moments! The stunning visuals depicting the multiversal travel turn what would otherwise have been a movie you have on in the background into an eye-catching experience that leaves you questioning what you just watched. America, Doctor Strange, and Wong’s playful banter bring levity and laughter to even the most awkward moments, nailing the nonsensical nature of the film. It’s almost as if you’re watching an old married couple raising their rapscallion daughter who manages to get them involved in her hijinks.
Similarly, they also add heart and depth to the movie where there is none. Stephan’s protectiveness and paternal tendencies slowly shine through as cracks appear in the suave, sarcastic veneer he wears to project an air of contentment. Which is surprising given that we all know the person most likely to be a tidal wave of obsessive parental behaviour is Wanda.
This brings me back to Multiverse of Madness’ greatest sin, its betrayal of Wanda’s growth and development as a character.
Wanda Maximoff has never been a character without flaws. She’s possessive, careless with her powers and prone to flying off the handle when triggered. But from the moment we met her in Age of Ultron, she’s made strides in growing into a more mature, self-aware person. When we last parted ways with her during WandaVision, she had gone through some serious self-discovery with a couple of aggressive pushes from Agatha Harkness. Although Wanda blossomed into her power as the Scarlet Witch, she had learned the human cost of letting her emotions and repressed trauma get the better of her. Before she flew off into the distance with the Darkhold to find her sons, she kept stressing that she never meant to hurt anyone, a wonderful sentiment.
One that Multiverse of Madness took, crumpled into a ball and threw into the garbage.
All the progress and self-actualization our favourite maroon magical maven achieved was immediately flushed down the toilet and replaced with a shell of a woman whose sole focus is to be with her sons. The same Wanda who killed her husband on two separate occasions and removed her sons from existence for the greater good becomes hellbent on getting them back no matter the cost to the multiverse. If you take the corrupting effects of the Darkhold into account, it makes sense, except we never see that transformation happen!
To the viewer, Wanda goes from meditating in a cabin in the woods to indiscriminate bloodshed in minutes. The experience is so jarring it completely takes away any sympathy or understanding you had for Wanda’s plights from before the events of Multiverse of Madness. She doesn’t become a ‘problematic fav’ you defend even though you know better. Instead, she becomes undeniably bad in the worst way possible.
Maybe if Director Sam Raimi had made better use of the movie’s 126 minutes, he could’ve wheedled together a more satisfactory conclusion to Multiverse of Madness, but sadly, no such thing happens. Instead, things feel half done and unnecessarily rushed as the film ends, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and disheartened. Disheartened because projects like No Way Home and Moon Knight that tackled similar themes of loss, regret, grief, & trauma do so in such a cohesive and thoughtful way that it raises the bar for other Marvel titles, and rather than follow their lead, Raimi’s Multiverse of Madness brings back unwanted flashbacks of the disastrous final season of Game of Thrones with Dany’s rapid descent into insanity.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a letdown if we’re putting our cards on the table. Especially after watching the multiversal masterpiece of Everything Everywhere All Of The Time, it came off as a pale disjointed attempt at imitation compared to the humour, heart, and humanity that it brought to screens. All in all, I give the film a 5 out of 10. Harsh, I know, but it is my honest opinion that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was mediocre at best.