Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the latest entry in the MCU, and a breath of fresh air. The film follows Doctor Strange on a multiversal adventure to protect America Chavez from Scarlet Witch. Sam Raimi is back to directing, with his first superhero film since Spider-Man 3 in 2007 and his first film since Oz The Great and Powerful in 2013.
When it comes to the MCU, things can be a bit repetitive, which is expected after 20+ entries in any franchise. Thankfully, so far, Phase 4 of the MCU has done a good job of feeling fresh. And, that is also very true of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It is definitely the most unique MCU film yet and I absolutely love it. So, let’s dive into some specifics and, since no movie is perfect, let’s start with the negatives.
If there is one trope in fiction I am tired of it’s fake-out deaths. Unfortunately, this movie does contain a pretty big one. About halfway through the film, we are led to believe that Wanda has killed Wong, but in the climax of the movie, we learn that Wong lived. Now, this is not the worst thing in the world. Fake-out deaths happen all the time in movies, especially in superhero movies. So in a movie that feels like a breath of fresh air for the MCU, it is disappointing to see this trope appear.
And to be clear, I absolutely love Wong. I think he is a great character and a wonderful foil to Dr. Strange. But, fake-out deaths are so overdone that I just find them annoying. Commit to killing your major characters off. However, these movies are crowd-pleasers, so I understand why characters are not killed more often.
VFX issues are nothing new in the MCU. Almost every project has some major VFX issue. Thankfully, the VFX in this film is mostly ok. However, there are a few instances where the VFX is not great. Most of the issues seemed to be at the very start of the film during the fight between Strange and Gargantos. And there were a few other times where the VFX felt off, but it was mostly at the start I noticed the issues. These issues mostly seemed to be poor green screen on shots of Strange flying or falling. To be clear, I don’t think these issues are huge and they don’t ruin the movie. But, they are worth mentioning. Hopefully, one day MCU will have consistently great VFX.
Sam Raimi is back in the director’s chair for this movie and it shows. Without a doubt, this is 100% a Sam Raimi movie. Firstly, there are camera movements ripped right out of the Evil Dead franchise. There are zooms and tracking shots galore. Speaking of Evil Dead, there are lots of horror moments in this movie that are very Raimi. Specifically, Wanda’s assault on Kamar Taj has a lot of horror moments: for instance, Wanda crawling out of the mirror dimension. The way that scene is shot and how her body contorts is terrifying. There are also a lot of comedy elements too. Like when Dr. Strange possesses the corpse of another Dr. Strange and winks right after giving a motivational speech. It’s so cheesy and so funny, but it works.
The other thing Raimi excels at is heart. This movie is fully committed to being a ridiculous comic book movie just like Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. For instance, there is a fight between two Dr. Strange variants where they use musical notes turned into weapons to fight. And the movie does not spend time making fun of being ridiculous or weird. Instead, the movie embraces that fact. There are jokes in the movie, but it never feels like the movie is ashamed of being a comic book movie. All of this is to say that Raimi clearly cares about this movie and it is obvious when you watch it.
Best MCU Villain
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff is the clear highlight of the movie. Olsen gives such a phenomenal performance. And it is absolutely heartbreaking to see Wanda realize what a monster she has become at the end of the film. To be sure, Wanda is the best MCU villain to date, specifically because Olsen gives such a great performance.
But, if we look at Wanda as a character, I think it becomes even clearer why she is the best. Firstly, we have seen Wanda grow and develop as a character over many years, unlike many other villains who only have one film. Sure, Thanos made many appearances over the years, but he was not really developed until Infinity War. The only other villain that comes close is Loki, but I think Wanda is better. And that is because Wanda has such a simple motivation: she just wants her children back. There is no end-of-the-world plot here. It is just a mother who wants her kids back.
And she is absolutely brutal in achieving that goal. She kills a lot of people in some pretty gruesome ways. Specifically, she removes Black Bolt’s mouth which causes his head to explode and she turns Reed Richards into string cheese pretty much. The other thing I really like about Wanda is at the end she realizes the error of her ways and destroys the Darkhold and likely herself too. It does not completely make up for her actions, but it shows a lot of self-reflection that MCU villains do not normally have. Ultimately, both her motivation and Olsens’ performance are why I believe Wanda is the best MCU Villain.
The next best thing about the movie is Doctor Strange and his arc. Strange gets a really good arc in this movie. He learns to live with the mistakes of his past. Specifically, he learns to live with the fact that he and Christine will never be together. First, we see this in a really great conversation he has with a multiversal Christine. He confesses his love to her like he never did with his Christine. And then, at the end of the movie, we get to see him repair the watch he got from Christine that damaged during the first movie. I think it is a really nice scene that symbolizes the whole theme of the movie. We cannot change the past, but we can make amends and do our best to move forward.
Also, Strange just gets some really awesome moments using magic. Raimi really embraced how weird magic can be, like the previously-mentioned musical note fight. Or, early on in the movie, Strange summons the head of a magical creature to catch something that is falling. All of this was something that was missing in the first Doctor Strange movie and made some small appearances in the Avengers movies. But, in this movie, I think we get to see Strange at his best and doing his weirdest and most fun magic yet.
I’ve gone long enough without talking about the cameos. So, let’s get into them. The movie has some pretty big cameos in the form of the Illuminati from Earth 838. First, we have the returning MCU characters: Maria Rambeau and Peggy Carter. In this universe, Maria is Captain Marvel and Peggy is Captain Carter. To be clear, this is not the same Captain Carter from What If? but a variant. Then, we get the big cameos. First, we have Patrick Stewart back as variant Professor X. He shows up using the wheelchair from X-men 93, and the theme from the show plays as he comes on screen.
Next, there is probably the biggest cameo in the movie: John Krasinski as Reed Richards. Fans rejoice as your pleas for Krasinski to play Reed have been heard. Now, I have no idea if Krasinski will be back for the eventual Fantastic Four movie or if it was just a fun little nod for fans. as I think he is probably just playing a variant for this movie. While I enjoyed his performance, I really do not see him as Reed for a full movie.
And last, but certainly not least, is my favorite cameo in the whole film: Anson Mount as Black Bolt. That’s right, Anson Mount from the terrible Inhumans show makes an appearance as Black Bolt. To be clear, Anson Mount is great; Inhumans is just a really bad show. I am so happy to see Mount play a comic-accurate Black Bolt. His suit was amazing and his powers looked great on screen. It is a shame Wanda killed him and the rest of the Illuminati.
The movie has two post-credit scenes. In the first scene, we get yet another cameo. This time we get Charlize Theron who is playing Clea. In the comics, Clea is Strange’s love interest. Clea takes Strange back into the Dark Dimension (from Doctor Strange) in order to stop an incursion. Earlier, the Illuminati explained that incursions are when two universes collide which destroys both universes. So, that is a clear setup for Doctor Strange 3 or maybe Secret Wars.
The second scene is a very fun and silly one. It has Bruce Campbell looking directly at the audience and exclaiming “It’s over now!” It is a fun little scene and a very Raimi scene with how goofy it is.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a breath of fresh air for the MCU. Raimi’s unique directing style helps it stand out and feel new and exciting. Elizabeth Olsen delivers one of the best performances in an MCU movie, and Wanda is by far the best MCU villain. The movie does a good job resolving some plot lines, like Wanda’s while setting up a thrilling new storyline for Strange and the MCU as a whole. Overall, the movie is a blast and a really fun ride with plenty of emotional moments.
Let us know what you thought about the film by mentioning us at @ReviewedCinema on Twitter. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.