Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been at the top of my list since it was first announced. I may have set the bar a bit too high for it, because it didn’t quite hit the right notes for me. The latest MCU offering had its fun moments, though, so it was worth the cost of admission.
This review will have spoiler warnings before any section that has spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Don’t read those sections if you wish to go into the film surprised! You can skip to spoiler-free sections accordingly.
One thing I want to warn people about with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is that it has some strong flashing light elements that may hurt viewers with photosensitivity or photosensitive epilepsy. Some theaters have warnings for this with signs, but others – including mine – did not. It gave me a migraine that lasted through the night.
As I wasn’t warned ahead of time, I didn’t take note of when these scenes took place and, unfortunately, can’t give timestamps appropriately. Hopefully, someone will, though. I’ll drop a link here if someone posts it somewhere. If you can get through them, it’s worth it.
Besides the flashing light issues, the film was visually beautiful. The reason I was so excited about this film was because magic is my favorite element of the MCU. It’s just fun to watch. If you’re into that, this film definitely delivers on that front. There’s wizards and the Scarlet Witch and magical energy blasts and all that good stuff. There’s even some magical technobabble about dreams, which is total nonsense but cool nonetheless.
Overly complex and often contradictory magical world-building is totally my jam. And I’m not even joking. More, please!
One of the chief complaints about Doctor Strange 2 that I’ve seen is about Sam Raimi’s style and influence on the film. His style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so if you don’t vibe with it, there will be moments where you struggle. However, if this is totally your jam, you’ll love it. His style is all over the film. Bruce Campbell even makes an appearance, so you know it’s a Raimi film!
Your mileage on how much this bothers you will be entirely dependent on your own taste. For many, this will actually be a boon.
The following section will contain minor spoilers about America Chavez.
One of the coolest new elements in the MCU is America Chavez. She’s an incredibly interesting character that I hope comes back in future projects. Xochitl Gomez is a talented young actress who brings a lot to the role, and she plays off Benedict Cumberbatch well. I truly felt those characters had a bond and it was very sweet. I am a sucker for Found Family though, so of course, I was going to love them.
Her ability to punch holes in the multiverse is pretty neat both visually and functionally. She can definitely use the power beyond the straightforward multiverse reasons, too. She’s shown using the power to increase her combat ability a couple of times, even before she fully has control over it. Now that she knows how to wield her power, she’d make an excellent addition to any future superhero team-ups. The Young Avengers team certainly seems to be coming together, so maybe we’ll get her for that.
The arc of the film very much centered around her growing into her own powers. For most of the film, she’s a victim, running for her life and just trying to survive. Had that been all she was, her character may have fallen flat. But this arc led somewhere fantastic, and now we have a brand new superhero in the universe who can do some super awesome things. It’s just as much her film as it is Doctor Strange or Wanda’s.
How LGBTQ+ issues were handled will definitely be talked about, and probably have a split of opinions.
America’s sexuality wasn’t mentioned in the film, but I’m actually somewhat forgiving in this case. I’m pretty hardcore about LGBTQ+ inclusion in media, but in this situation, I’m not terribly fussed. Your mileage may vary on this, too. People certainly disagreed with me when I expressed gratitude for Loki being confirmed as bisexual, so you may not agree with me here, either.
There wasn’t really an opportunity to talk about it since she was running for her life. She didn’t have a chance to talk about much of anything on a personal level besides her general origin and powerset. But if she comes back in future projects, there’s definitely a chance to fit it into a story then. It’s a downside, but not one that we can’t turn around in the future.
They didn’t completely screw it up like they did with genderfluid Loki. That one will take a lot of effort to fix. I don’t have high hopes for Loki’s issue making a turnaround, but I’ve got hopes for America. Especially if she comes back a bit older and ready to move on from this extremely traumatic period of her life. All she’s known since her powers activated is terror and unpredictability. Now she can make friends and discover who she is as a person.
Additionally, she was shown to have two moms, which Disney refused to cut for foreign markets. When I heard the scene was only about 20 seconds long, I was bracing myself to be disappointed. But it was actually fairly substantial compared to, say, what we got in Endgame. It’s even more substantial than how Loki’s bisexuality was depicted, in my opinion. The scene was still brief, though, and I hope Disney continues to increase LGBTQ+ inclusion in future films.
The following section will contain spoilers about the multiverse and cameos.
The multiverse also had some major developments. I’m not really sure I’m too thrilled with them. My reasons for not being totally jazzed about them are pretty petty, though, so feel free to disagree. You are probably right. I’m being incredibly nitpicky. It’s completely my fault.
First and foremost, our universe has an official name. We are in 616. Lots of people are jazzed about this because it’s an iconic part of the comics. I’m strangely disappointed that they didn’t give this MCU its own number, though. I was hoping they’d separate it from the comics into its own universe. This is a silly thing to be upset about, and I know I’m in the minority on that, so feel free to dismiss my pettiness. Still bothers me, though. I can’t help it.
The multiverse-inspired cameos in the film actually felt like a weak spot. My original reasons for being excited about the film had nothing to do with them. I was excited for the magic! But as the marketing push for the film rolled out, it became clear that the cameos were a selling point just like Spider-Man: No Way Home. I hope Disney moves away from its reliance on cameos to hype their films. I want the stories to stand on their own. Now that we’ve had two major films with these cameos, perhaps they’ve gotten it out of their system.
Weirdly enough, I think the leaks about these cameos helped hide an even bigger bombshell from leaking. Or, at the very least, they didn’t leak to the extent that it trended on Twitter or on my Reddit feed. It’s possible it leaked somewhere out in the vast Internet, but it wasn’t as widespread as the cameo leaks. And that, my friends, leads us to the last section…
The following section contains MAJOR spoilers for Wanda in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
I’m serious. This section contains a huge spoiler. Turn back now if you don’t want that.
So let’s talk about Wanda in this film. I’m of the firm belief that if there’s no body, there is no death. Therefore I will remain in denial about how her story concluded for the rest of my life or until she actually gets brought back. I’m not going to even say that she’s dead. I refuse.
We also have a multiverse, so a different version of her can be set down in the plot with little issue. It won’t be our original Wanda, but Loki isn’t our original Loki either, and I adore him anyway (genderfluid problems notwithstanding). We have seen multiple Wanda’s in multiple universes now. We’ve even seen characters who are dead switching into a new universe. This is absolutely possible.
I’m going to continue believing she’s coming back and you can’t stop me.
The way her story unfolded felt weirdly reminiscent of how Daenerys Targaryen’s unfolded in the last couple of episodes of Game of Thrones. I was incredibly unhappy with how that panned out. Amazing and powerful women just have to turn to the dark side in their rage and get killed off. In fact, there’s a name for this trope: Unstable Powered Woman. This trope doesn’t always end in death, but it doesn’t usually end well for them at all, either.
I went into this film ready to be a Wanda Apologist, and I’m going to live up to that.
I’m a Daenerys Apologist too. I don’t care what the plot did to either of them. I’m going to defend them. Did they turn ‘evil’ and murder a bunch of innocent people? Yes. But they looked good doing it. I don’t care. Kill them all, ladies! I’m here to back you up.
I didn’t hate Wanda’s character in this film at all. Unlike Daenerys, Wanda’s rage and fall into madness was thoroughly fleshed out through Infinity War, Endgame, and WandaVision. It wasn’t a sudden and inexplicable shift. It did make sense. Her arc had all the necessary character beats spread throughout her appearances, and it wasn’t entirely surprising. I generally have no problems with the concept of Vengeful Homicidal Wanda.
Honestly, the only part of it I hated was her death. Another favorite character of mine, Loki, also killed a bunch of people (granted, under the influence of the Mind Stone), and he got a redemption arc before they offed him (and then used the multiverse to bring him back). Wanda had a brief redemption arc at the end, but I wish we could have had more.
Killing a character immediately after redemption is another trope I hate: Redemption Equals Death. Unfortunately, Marvel seems to like using this trope for a quick and emotional gut punch to the audience.
Is Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness worth it? I have some spoiler-free concluding thoughts.
While it’s not my favorite MCU film, it’s something I would happily watch again. It’s a mid-grade installment of the franchise at worst. Not a total disaster, but not one I’ll be immediately running out to watch in theaters again. It’ll be something I watch passively in the background while I work or as part of a rewatch for future MCU installments. It won’t be something I seek out to watch solo like I do Thor Ragnarok or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Part of the reason it may have felt a bit weaker is that it came directly on the heels of Moon Knight, which was surprisingly top tier. I’m almost prepared for anything MCU to feel weak for me for a while after that, so my reviews of things may lean a bit harsh as a result. Would I have enjoyed it more if the bar hadn’t been raised so damn high? Very possibly. Moon Knight may have ruined me for a while and nothing will live up to it.
If you haven’t Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness yet and have skipped the sections above to avoid spoilers, I recommend you go see it in theaters ASAP. Spoilers will start spilling out all over the Internet very soon. In fact, they started leaking before the film was even released, so it’s already dangerous out there. For that alone, it’s worth the cost of a ticket and a two-hour viewing in theaters.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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