Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness grossed $480 million worldwide in the first week of its release. No argument about the movie being a massive commercial success already but what about its merits? Is the movie a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? This is exactly what we will discuss in this movie analysis.
S P O I L E R S
This Doctor Strange sequel is set in MCU Phase 4 wherein Marvel Studios are leaning heavily into the multiverse trope as a storytelling device. The MCU Multiverse was first mentioned actually in Spider-Man: Far From Home but that was a falsehood perpetrated by Mysterio. The first real hint of the MCU Multiverse arrived in the post-credits scene of the WandaVision series finale where Wanda is revealed to be using the Darkhold to seek out alternate versions of her twin sons.
Then in the What If? streaming series, the MCU Multiverse was explored fully introducing several alternate versions of existing MCU characters, like Captain Carter, the Starlord T’Challa and Doctor Strange Supreme. And of course, in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Strange’s failed magic spell brings previous Spider-movie villains (Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin etc) into the MCU, thereby establishing the Multiverse as part of the MCU canon.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is essentially a horror movie trope in a superhero costume. Basically, the trope that has a monster/killer stalking a key character, whose only goal then is survival. In this movie, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch is the monster and America Chavez is the victim, as the former seeks to steal the latter’s ability to move independently between universes. Of course, Strange has to stop Wanda from achieving her aim.
A simple, straightforward premise. Now, many have criticised Wanda’s evil turn as unrealistic, but we would suggest that these critics have not been watching the MCU movies close enough. Clearly, Wanda has suffered much, e.g. the deaths of her parents, her brother Pietro and of course, the love of her life, Vision have embittered her. At the end of WandaVision, she appeared to accept her fate and removed her twin sons and Vision from existence. But of course, she was corrupted by the Darkhold, thereby setting up the events in this movie. Of course, Wanda as the villain of the piece is lifted straight out of the pages of the comic books as well!
But what about Doctor Strange, the supposed main character of this movie itself? The thread that runs through the movie suggests that Strange himself is a dangerous threat, as Christine observes that Strange must be the one who holds the knife, meaning that he firmly believes that he is the only person who can solve the problems of the universe, so to speak. Narcissism defined. In fact, the movie gives us many examples of alternate Stranges, that proved this theory correct.
We have Defender Strange who tries to kill America Chavez to prevent her power from being taken, the 838 universe Strange who is executed by the Illuminati for misusing the Darkhold and of course, the sinister Strange – with the third eye – who has destroyed his own universe. By the third act, our Doctor Strange is faced with the same choice as Defender Strange and makes a different decision which ultimately saves the day. This character development leads to America’s and Wanda’s separate arc being resolved resulting in the movie’s conclusion.
Of course, on the way, we get loads of fantastical battles with copious amounts of superhero violence and horror movie gore, uncharacteristic of a MCU movie. Presumably, we can credit that to director Sam Raimi, a horror movie pioneer in his own right! Prior to watching the movie, we felt that there was a real danger of it going over the top too much with alternate versions of characters and losing sight of the narrative. Thankfully, that was not the case – the Illuminati cameos were short and sweet – and Raimi kept the movie story on point, most of the time.
If there is a complaint about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it is probably in the two similar endings, post-climax. First is where Strange is shown getting his third eye and second is where Clea is introduced into the MCU. While the latter worked for us, the former seemed out of context. Perhaps these two should have been combined in one killer post-credit scene? Whatever, a minor quibble.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, in the final analysis, is a worthy addition to MCU canon. The MCU is expanding itself nicely and we look forward to Thor: Love and Thunder in July! Highly recommended!
MCU movies streaming on Disney+.
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