Maddened Witches and Fearful Doctors: “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness” (Review)


Official movie poster

DOCTOR’S IN THE HOUSE: Steven Strange watches over Kamer Taj and prepares to face the most powerful sorceress in the entire multiverse in order to keep balance in the world and protect those around him.

*Spoiler And Graffic Images Warning*

From witches to green giants, Marvel has been pushing out massive amounts of entertainment in the past couple of years, mostly attributed to making up for their break during COVID. With this, Marvel welcomes their next installment to the ever-expansive universe, Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness.

The movie begins by bringing us into a world with a new Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), which we can quickly deduce due to the large, flashy ponytail and robes. This doctor talks about sacrifice and then is promptly killed within the 5 minutes he is on screen. This signifies Marvel lunging into the deep end of the horror aspects of the film. The newfound horror is all due to the influence of the director, Sam Raimi. Raimi is well renowned for his earlier horror films like The Gift and Evil Dead II but has now begun working in the Marvel universe. While one could say that there have been thriller-like themes within Marvel before nothing stands close to this film in gore and horror.

Raimi’s influence can be seen through the reference to older horror movies. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) walks disjointed through a mirror and reconstructs back together, much like the girl in the movie The Ring. There are also plenty of other recognizable images, like the classic slasher film trope of the villain breaking the fourth wall for a short few seconds. Quite honestly, no amount of references and imagery from before can compare to the contents of this movie and Sam Raimi’s influence on it. Again, this can again be seen through the gruesome deaths of the 838 avengers-like team, the Illuminati; Wanda ripping Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski) apart into rubbery bits leaving his bloody brain to implode on-screen, and Black Bolt’s (Anson Mount) skull imploding due to his superpowers causing blood to drip out of both his nose and eyes. These are just a few of the instances that Marvel would never have dared enter a mere 5 years before this.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad direction to take, it is far from the bloodless deaths Marvel has produced prior. This movie steps away from that and shows just how scary a superhero movie could be. With this in mind, Sam Raimi brilliantly brings superhero movies and horror together elegantly. While some do not enjoy this concept, overall the movie is seen as a hit or miss because of its thematic choices. I think the horror adds to the thrill of the movie and finally makes the deaths of characters show the power and skill of your villain while also giving you the thrill of a gory kill on the screen – one where the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you wait for what will happen next.

Marvel is finally starting to take risks again and growing their ever-expansive multiverse. The witchcraft is different than any other Marvel movie and is even more interesting than the magic we have seen in Wandavision. It is creepy and shows us how corrupt Wanda is. Along with how much of a grasp the Darkhold (dark magic book) has on her, the movie demonstrates how powerful and magnificent Elizabeth Olsen is in the role of Wanda Maximoff. The magic shown by Strange and America Chavez is interesting and again different and gives rise to the most interesting music-themed fight I’ve ever seen in a live screen setting – which as ridiculous as it sounds, is thrilling and intriguing thanks to the scoring of Danny Elfman.

Then in comes Wanda as a villain. While you may not like that idea, she is the most interesting part of the film. While it can take away from Doctor Strange in certain aspects, Elizabeth Olsen nails this part. Even though she had already grown with the character for the past 8 years, she takes it to another level in this movie. She allows us to sympathize with her due to the loss of her children which is coupled with her want to get them back, knowing she might be the only version of herself in the multiverse lacking her two sons. Wanda shows her power in the movie by wiping out another dimension’s version of the Avengers within minutes and is horrifying with her magic in other scenes. While I do think that her emotional curve has been confusing between the movies, Elizabeth brings it all back with her acting skills and finally gives a female villain that other movies should strive for.

With that said, the movie is not perfect in the slightest. For instance, the second act of the movie turns into a hunt for a McGuffin that will save the whole of the multiverse from Wanda – with a magic book that conveniently has all the answers to everything (in essence a literal Ex Machina to all of the problems of the world); however, their whole search is in vain because Wanda destroys it anyway, thus making the whole plotline a huge waste of time. In the end, it’s the power of trust and hope that saves the day and brings Wanda back to the good side so she can promptly crush herself under her “temple of witchcraft”. Overall, it’s a lackluster end to such an amazing character recently turned villain. We never see her body and since this is a Marvel movie, she will probably come back in the next installment.

Marvel Entertainment

It is also worth mentioning how underused this new multiverse team known as the Illuminati is in the movie. For the most part, they are useful for only two reasons, to bring all the characters near each other and to also kill them all to show that Wanda isn’t messing around. While I can understand this, it is extremely frustrating to watch characters that we know and love like Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski), and even Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) into a movie with actors we love and have them in 10 minutes of the runtime. But again, they serve their purpose and one can always use another version of them in another universe.

I also have to address the lackluster post-credit scenes. I miss the days when the post-credit scenes did not require the whole audience to whip out their phone to ask who a character is – when it was a snarky comment or a snippet of something that we might know like Thor’s hammer in Iron Man’s post-credits scene. I enjoyed those much more than seeing Clea, a purple lady who is a sorcerer supreme in another demotion and has a magic swishy knife.

I would much rather leave a movie theater thinking about how amazing the movie was rather than ask why Doctor Strange had three eyes and some purple lady just dragged him into a portal.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. I think that it displays a good message about needing to sacrifice happiness and being content with your life for the betterment of others without abusing the ability to change it and hurt others instead. For instance, Doctor Strange wrestles with the fact that he was inadvertently the reason why so many people dusted. He tried to have control over everything and was cursed to never be with Cristine (Racheal McAdams) which led to him eventually putting down the knife and trusting others. I also think this movie is the segue to a new generation of Marvel movies with darker tones and horror elements. Honestly, I think that this movie is good and worth a watch, but could have been great if they expanded and cleared up a few things in addition to better forming their post-credit scenes. Marvel is starting to become a franchisee you may not be able to bring your smaller kids to since it is much more mature in its standards.