Is America Okay? (a Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review)

This line from the movie seemed like a good one to make into the title of the review, since … *gestures vaguely at whole US situation right now*

But be warned, from here on in there be spoilers.

Anyway, the line was in fact about America Chavez, a new character introduced from the comics to help us into this weird and wonderful new stage in the MCU. It was just slightly off-putting to have a name that was so easily interpretable in dialogue as being about something else. Still, that’s just by way of a bleakly amusing side note.

Sam Raimi returns to the big chair for what we are dubbing the highest-RPM (Raimis Per Minute) outing since … shit, the Evils Dead? I haven’t seen much of the stuff he’s directed aside from those and the Spiderman trilogy[1], but this was very much a return to form. I forgot to look out for Ted Raimi and The Car, and Ted at least hasn’t got this one on his IMDB credits list, but Bruce Campbell was there (and boy was he) and that was literally the only thing I wanted out of this movie. Zombie hands bursting from the ground and weird zooms and gaping mouths and camera angles, all of that is just a bonus. All I wanted was Bruce Campbell beating himself up painfully while Sam Raimi laughed behind the camera.

Not pictured: Bruce Campbell. Bruce’s part was even better.

That’s it. Review over.

Okay fine.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a gory, jump-scary, full-blown psychedelic freakshow wherein all the coolest trip-sequences of the original Doctor Strange movie were dialled to 11 and made into a workable plot / travel dynamic. It was also about obsession (because Strange), and loss (because Wanda), and the Illuminati (because why not).

Props to the Illuminati for the most abrupt and hilarious mass-death since X-Force. I’m sure our universe’s version will do better.

So on the face of it we have a very simple movie full of whiz-bangs, BSTs and thankfully fairly muted Marvellian quipcraft, laid over the bare bones of another “hapless kid with superpowers at risk from the baddies teams up with cantankerous goodie and eventually everyone learns a valuable lesson about having a second characteristic” story. Actually, that’s really all there is. Do people go to Marvel movies expecting to be enlightened and their conceptions of the human condition forever changed? Fucking sociopaths.

This movie had some nice performances. Cumberbatch is as taciturn and soulful as ever, confronted by his many failings and his horrible (and apparently multiversal) ambition; Olsen is gut-wrenching as the bereaved and obsessed mother driven to insanity by her grief and also the Darkhold helped; and Xochitl Gomez was perfectly fine as the hapless kid who ended up going yaaaa in slow motion and blasting CGI out of her fists.

Also there were a bunch of others. Rachel McAdams was perfectly Christine as Christine, I suppose Anson Mount was there as the dude whose voice kills people, Patrick Stewart was Professor X, whatsisface was Fantastic Four Guy … sorry, I’m not putting much thought into this and (as of review time) none of these are listed in IMDB because of spoilers I guess. Michael Stuhlbarg was in it, which was nagging at me and then I realised he was also in Dopesick as Richard Sackler. Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter was fun to see. And Wong, of course. Wong is always great.

None of them had much to do in a movie that was mostly about Wanda and Stephen facing their demons (oh fuck do you see what I did there) in the wake of the WandaVision TV show and sort-of-kind-of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which I would say are at least recommended viewing before you see this. Weirdly the Loki TV show and Kang the Conqueror weren’t even mentioned although I think I did see the Time Variance Authority statues in a transition scene. Between Strange and Maximoff, and the relentless Raimity of the movie, there’s really not much more there. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” really is exactly what it says on the box.

Poor Wanda. She really did have a cruel arc.

We of course get some teasing. Strange’s third eye in the mid-credits, Charlize Theron turning up (possibly in relation to the multiverse stuff we saw at the end of No Way Home), and so on. Plus of course the X-Men and Fantastic Four additions. Their arrivals were greeted with some feeble cheering in the cinema, but it was kind of silly.

I thoroughly approved of how utterly they were all destroyed by Scarlet Witch. Strongest Avenger indeed. But at the same time, should these Illuminati not have been a little more intelligent and a little less overconfident about her? They died so fucking easily compared to the Sacred Timeline / universe 616 characters. I suppose this was a way to introduce them into the MCU and future movies since it was only alternate versions who got bodied in this movie. But way to introduce them all as (like I said) X-Forcian clowns who die super easy. Not sure if this was a clever tease or a pre-emptive nerfing of the whole idea.

Gah, now I started to think about how the TVA and the Sacred Timeline relates to the multiverse, are the branches / variations of the timeline actually other universes or does the Sacred Timeline run through all these universes? The end of Loki seems to imply that the whole multiverse had only just happened due to the Lokis’ / Kang’s interference, but I guess the nature of the multiverse is that those other universes had always happened at that point. So the Sacred Timeline was preserving universe 616 until it failed, and now there have always been all these other universes. Or something. Someone else watch this movie (dreameling) and help me out.

So … many … universes!

That’s … about all I’ve got. If anyone has interest and energy, I feel like this will be one we can pull to pieces and play with way more in the comments than in an actual review. It was a fun night out and the movie was a solid Raimi, no complaints. Well worth seeing on IMAX in 3D. There’s just a lot of impact to the MCU that I think ultimately means the movies have finally fallen into the full bizarreness of the comics. This is what I was hoping for with Mysterio, so I can’t complain.

Good movie. I’ll give it an Ash vs. the Evil Dead and half a My Name Is Bruce out of a possible Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness.


[1] On further research it seems like I’ve seen a lot of his stuff, but this was clearly the most RPMs we’d gotten in a while. That’s my point.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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3 Responses to Is America Okay? (a Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review)

  1. I’m so glad RPM stuck so quickly.

  2. casparvanemdeboas says:

    Thanks for the review. My local newspaper gave it a poor review so I am wandering when I will see this one. The first one I have not seen as well.

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