Since a few days have passed since the premiere of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”), there is not as much danger in making SPOILERS as you will find in this text. The world’s highest-grossing film at its opening in all of 2022 featured multiple other-realities versions of known and even unseen heroes. But where his greatest strength should have been lies his weak point.
What is “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” about?
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) takes on the responsibility of protecting teenage heroine America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the power to move freely from one universe to another. The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), to recover her children, seeks that power, thus becoming the antagonist of the film.
The best of the movie: Wanda and the Raimi style
If Elizabeth Olsen had already shown what she was capable of as an actress in “WandaVision”, this film confirms it. A nuanced performance, where she doesn’t need to say threatening things to make herself look dangerous. Unlike other MCU villains who have their debut and farewell in each film, the witch’s motivations having been exposed in a previous series allows the actress to focus on other aspects of acting work; although this assumption that the public has seen the series before going to the cinema is a problem (later, the development of the idea).
Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is aware of her power and has no qualms about exercising it, as in her attack on the citadel of Kamar Taj; where she kills countless wizards to the horror of Wong (Benedict Wong). If at that moment it was already clear that she had gone too far, the character shows that it is possible to hit rock bottom and still fall deeper. The massacre of the Illuminati, a kind of Avengers from another universe, not only shows her as someone ruthless, but also cruel.
Olsen’s performance complements very well the style of director Sam Raimi, who, despite working on a series with rules beyond his control, makes the most of what he has. Wanda, already intimidating, becomes even more so when she squirms and chases Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) through the halls of the Illuminati base; as if he were the enemy of a slasher; subgenre of horror where the monster corners and kills its prey one by one.
“A nuanced performance, where she doesn’t need to say threatening things to appear dangerous.”
“Multiverse of Madness”, more than a Marvel movie, is a movie by Sam Raimi, who takes every opportunity to use the topics and frames that resonate with him. There are the reactions of the wedding guests to Strange’s fight, somewhat reminiscent of the scenes from “Spider-Man” (2002) and “Spider-Man 2″ (2004) that cement Peter Parker’s heroism. There are also the shots from the perspective of the monster, something endemic to “Evil Dead” (1981), not to mention the inevitable appearance of the cult actor Bruce Campbell, whose post-credits scene is a love letter to the origins of the filmmaker (although in the cinema I went to, there was little emotion). Gomez’s America Chavez and Wong’s Wong do a good job in their few appearances.
The problem of giving the fan what he wants
Quite apart from “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” requiring you to have watched an entire season of television to understand the antagonist’s motivations.a requirement that is increasingly difficult to meet not only because of the demands of this life in which there is less and less time, but also because It necessarily asks you for a subscription to Disney +; the film is wrong in something basic that this saga seemed to have already understood.
The recent “Spiderman: No Way Home” (2021) deals with the multiverse, but in a different way than “Doctor Strange 2″. In no case does the protagonist travel from one reality to another, but deals with villains from other universes who come to his. All the “visitors”, classic villains who in one way or another made history in the franchise, contribute something to the development of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, maintain their own coherence and even have the luxury of evolving for the better (Doc Ock) or, even sinking deeper into his vices (Green Goblin). Not to mention the arachnid visitors, Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman and Andrew Garfield’s; that they get the closure that was denied them years ago.
The “Multiverse of Madness” is the other side of the coin. The more I try to find a motif relevant to the involvement of characters like Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski), Black Bolt (Anson Mouny), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart); Short of showing that Wanda is beyond saving, I can’t find it. They are there because, if you talk about the multiverse, the viewer expects something amazing. Their deaths have a visual impact, but not an emotional one. And when they have dialogue, the characters play an explanatory role, they are narrative resources rather than people. Even the role of ‘Fietro’ (Evan Peters) in “WandaVision”, highly criticized by fans who asked for a true cameo of Quicksilver from the “X-Men” movies, makes more sense in the context of the MCU than this appearance by Patrick Stewart as the leader of the X-Men.
I’m going to stop at Charles Xavier, because what they have done to him has no name. The character already had a satisfying close with “Logan” (James Mangold, 2017) and seeing him here, only to witness his grotesque death, is a wasted opportunity. Yes, the character tells Strange that he believes in himself, that he may be different from the villainous versions of the sorcerer from other universes, but someone from another franchise did not need to say that; at least not like this. There is a disconnect between what the story wants to tell, how it tells it, and the effect it has.
“What they have done to Charles Xavier in this film has no name.”
Written by Michael Waldron (“Loki”, “Rick and Morty”), the script, by including all these cameos, tries to live up to Marvel and not what the story requires. There are many fans who will be happy for these appearances. But does that mean they should be given what they want to the detriment of the movie? That’s a question for Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso and the other heads of Marvel Studios.
The film loses focus. If Wanda is the antagonist, where are the hero’s motivations? Is it getting Christine back? Prove to herself that she’s not a villain? It is not clear. In fact, everything to do with Strange himself feels rushed, as if the script focused more on Wanda than the title hero. Which isn’t bad, and I hope we see more of the Witch in the future after her “death of her.” But that does not excuse the carelessness with which the sorcerer has been treated.
Perhaps the highlight regarding Strange is the little story arc about happiness. “Are you happy?”, they ask him several times throughout the tape, which remains floating; but it is in the last scene (not post-credits scene) where he, seeing him walk carefree down the street, he smiling; that we have an answer. Sure, then the consequences of using the Darkhold show up and the movie ends. A typical horror movie ending. Again, Raimi saves the show.
3.5 stars out of 5
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