Ever since the idea of the Multiverse was released in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” fans of the MCU were anticipating the return of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and how he would handle the dangers of the Multiverse. With a startling beginning, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” quickly introduces us to America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young teenager who is able to travel through different realities with a unique power that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) desires. Doctor Strange, along with the help of Wong (Benedict Wong) and Christine (Rachel McAdams), attempts to save America from her grasp.
The film plays with the theme of desire, particularly with the characters of Wanda and Doctor Strange. Many MCU fans who have been following its various projects will understand the grief and pain that Wanda has suffered ever since she was first introduced. After enduring the loss of her children and partner, Wanda becomes determined to regain her family, leading her to fully embody the darkness of the Scarlet Witch. Her obsessive desire to be with her children again is depicted well in terms of developing her anticipated hero to villain transformation.
The film continued the depiction of Wanda’s grief that was first brought to light in her own series, “Wandavision.” There are moments throughout the film where you are rooting for Wanda to reunite with her children again, but the film quickly reminds you of the harm she has caused. Her character undergoes the complexity of an antihero and can often cloud viewers’ opinions over her motives and actions.
Doctor Strange is forced to finally confront his emotions while also battling against external forces. It is the first time that we see his character reflect upon his actions and how they have affected his romantic relationship. Doctor Strange’s quick-witted humor also served as a warm welcome for audiences. From being an arrogant doctor to becoming a humble and fatherly figure, his character development has certainly become memorable throughout his time in the MCU which is pushed further in his latest movie.
The film does not disappoint in its intricate set design of various realities that Strange and America travel through in one scene. From turning into colorful paint to traveling through a dimension of an animated world, the scene highlights the genius creation of what the Multiverse looks like. In a similar fashion, the depiction of Wanda venturing through the different realities where her children exist is shown as little orbs floating around her. The artistic choices made for these scenes are only a portion that showcases both the beauty and danger of the portrayal of the mystic arts.
Unlike past Marvel projects, Doctor Strange’s latest film contains aspects of horror within it. With minor jumpscares and Wanda similarly reflecting the odd and bone-cracking movements of Regan MacNeil’s character from “The Exorcist” in one scene, the film does have some potential in being labeled as a scary film. It was an interesting path that Director Sam Raimi took for this project that differs greatly from past Marvel films who are mainly known for their heavy action sequences and gut-wrenching plots. Its genre mixture of humor, horror and action created a unique Marvel film that has never been done before and has led to arguments over whether the film was rated correctly as PG-13. Its somewhat disturbing scenes can leave many scratching their heads and wonder if the film is appropriate for young viewers.
As the MCU becomes increasingly bigger, many familiar faces appear next to Doctor Strange that will surprise yet disappoint fans with their unexpected outcomes. It’s one of the first MCU films that require audiences to understand various plots and characters from previous Marvel projects, which may cause a bit of confusion for some who have not immersed themselves into the MCU as a whole.
There are a few moments where awkward choices of transitions between scenes are made, and the choice of music for some scenes feels out of place. The film, unfortunately, did not live up to the expected high standards that many fans have been waiting for, especially after having to follow the success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Verdict: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a convoluted film that continues Marvel’s legacy of portraying intense scenes and mind-bending plots. Though some aspects of it failed to live up to its heightened expectation, the film is a unique piece that leads into Phase 4 of the MCU.