Stephen Strange meets America Chavez, a young girl who can traverse the multiverses and who is being pursued by bizarre demon creatures. Needing help from someone who has experience with multiverses, he goes to Wanda Maximoff.
This movie probably sits better with fans of the horror movie genre…
- Elizabeth OIsen did really well here. Her whole performance as Wanda from Age of Ultron all the way through to Multiverse of Madness (henceforth MoM) has been pretty darn good, if not excellent. The shift from tragic figure in WandaVision to villainess here was a little bit abrupt but believable. She messed with the Darkhold too much, and combined with her grief, it drove her to complete darkness. Her “villain” lines were delivered with such cold determination that they were quite (appropriately) chilling.
- Stephen’s interactions with Christine really showed his regret at losing her, and that made him more relatable. In a way, they showed what happens when you do accept a situation and move on, and what happens when you don’t. Stephen accepted the loss of Christine and accepted that he couldn’t be with her (nor even in multiple other universes, apparently), but Wanda, under the influence of Darkhold, let the longing for her children overtake her.
- I dislike stories involving zombies and the undead and suchlike, so it’s rather to their credit that they managed to make this film still watchable for me (though I don’t feel like rewatching it). I think Stephen Strange himself managed to save the show for me because he’s interesting to watch and I thought that his having to deal with losing the chance to be with Christine was poignant. Rather like Steve Rogers trying to come to terms with missing his chance with Peggy… (Though Steve Rogers’ case was much, much more poignant and sad. But it had such a good, happy ending!)
- I do appreciate Marvel’s approach to its movies in that they have wisely allowed some of the movies to be genre films outside of the superhero action genre. E.g. Captain America was a WWII period film, Winter Soldier was a political thriller, Thor was Shakespearean family drama, and Ragnarok was full-on action comedy. The Doctor Strange movies are evidently the surrealist/horror action ones now. I don’t like horror at all, but I must acknowledge that it did kinda work here for the characters involved. There were some truly creepy scenes, which means the horror stylings were effective, so objectively it’s good in that respect. Subjectively, because I dislike the genre, I’m not so happy about that. Haha
- The scene at Christine’s wedding may well be my favourite part of the whole movie. The quiet sadness in his face, the “ooh burn” line from Dr. West about how he’s a hero but he “still didn’t get the girl”, and then the very calm and cool reaction to seeing some chaos going on in the streets below followed by his placidly handing his drink to a server and gracefully leaping off the balcony with his trusty cloak appearing so he can fly off… There was just something about that that I liked. Perhaps a little silly, but I like it anyway.
- The music was good. Dr. Strange has one of the more recognisable musical themes in the MCU, second only to Captain America. In MoM the music was handled by Danny Elfman, but I didn’t notice anything overtly “Elfman-esque” about it until the main titles music came up at the end. (In the first movie the music was by Michael Giacchino.)
- The music fight was interesting and cool and they should have done more of it instead of all the other demon/spell/spirit stuff! It was rather random and seemed to come out of nowhere, but I really liked it. Especially because they cued actual classical music to it and it was just Strange battling an alternate self with blasts of orchestral music. Loved it. Too bad there wasn’t more of it.
- I know Wanda’s the villain, but her Scarlet Witch outfit ever since WandaVision is really nice-looking. Not that headpiece, but the rest of it. It looks cool, wearable, and not ridiculous.
- My biggest complaint is: Too much demon magic, too little mirror dimension magic.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first Doctor Strange was the interesting mirror dimension sequences that were Inception folding-city visuals dialled up to eleven with a hefty dose of optical illusions and merged with some fantasy magic stuff. There was only one similar scene in MoM (when Strange traps Wanda in a mirror dimension to buy time), and that was mild in comparison.
I get it – Sam Raimi’s specialty is horror/supernatural stuff (though the only other Raimi work I’ve seen are the first two Spider-Man films with Tobey Maguire) and so it’s logical that he’s more interested in depicting the creepy stuff. Scott Derrickson, who directed the first Doctor Strange movie, also similarly favours the horror genre but that movie didn’t lean so heavily into it; it was more surreal than horror. This one is as close as the mainline MCU movies are going to get to horror. While on some level it works for Dr. Strange because of his particular powers, it doesn’t appeal to me because that isn’t what I enjoyed about the character and the first movie.
- My second biggest complaint is that the movie sometimes felt less like a Dr. Strange film and more like a vehicle to end Wanda’s storyline and also to introduce America Chavez, whom I don’t find interesting. I wanted more Strange (and more mirror dimension), not more characters and universes.
- This movie absolutely requires that you see WandaVision to fully understand and enjoy it. Half this movie is probably incomprehensible to anyone who didn’t watch WandaVision. Wanda is such a prominent part of this movie and it is clearly picking up her character story from where WandaVision left off. I don’t know what I would have thought of it if I hadn’t seen that series…
A secondary requirement would be the What If series but I think going into this movie without having seen that is still doable.
- The sorcerors as a whole were oddly ineffectual. This was most evident in the Kamar Taj fight, which was frankly pathetic.
During that battle, I thought: Hogwarts was better defended. It was almost shocking just how useless the sorcerors were at protecting their sacred refuge. Wong, Sorceror Supreme, didn’t seem to do anything himself besides bark orders. Even Dr. Strange doesn’t do much! Before the battle, one character remarks on the arrival of the “Masters from Hong Kong and London” but apart from one scene, I don’t think I ever saw any of them again. I expected them to be a little more useful, or at least be seen directing different groups, like what the Hogwarts teachers did when defending Hogwarts from Voldemort and his Deatheaters.
- This next point is bad from my point-of-view but understandably people who don’t share my faith wouldn’t count this as a bad thing at all:
This particular movie leaned quite heavily on the supernatural/occult angle, though it depicts witchcraft and sorcery in very fantastical ways. It’s unsurprising, given the characters of Strange and Wanda, and also Raimi’s predilection for the related genres. The spirits of the dead and the cross-universe body posession on top of the occultic spell-casting scenes are a bit much when I consider that this movie isn’t a niche genre film but it is a summer blockbuster superhero film.
(I’m also not fond of zombies and undead storylines so from the outset I was never going to find those aspects appealing.)
- The magic aspect of the MCU is not clearly defined here. Previously, it felt like there were indeed story rules that governed how his magic worked and the type of spells he could do, though the rules were not spelled out for us. (Hah. Spelled.) In MoM it feels more random and I find myself asking how magic is supposed to work in this world. What can magic users do and what can’t they do? Strange is a “master of the mystic arts” but what exactly does that mean? Why is it that Strange can apparently control spirits (via the Darkhold)? If both he and Wanda can use the spells in the Darkhold, why can’t he do the same things she can? How exactly is his “sorcery” different from Wanda’s “witchcraft?”
- Was not keen on the gruesome (for Marvel/Disney) brutality that Wanda displayed in some scenes, especially when she took on 838’s Illuminati. I understand that this movie is taking on horror stylings because of the characters and director, and that it helps drive home the point that the villain is both crazy powerful and mad from grief, but understanding something doesn’t make it that much more palatable.
- The CGI work on Strange’s “third eye” felt weird. I don’t know if it’s just my imagination but it didn’t look all that well-done. It looked like they just pasted a video of another eye on his forehead instead of making it look like the eye was actually there on his head. Thankfully, it didn’t appear often.
- I wasn’t interested in America Chavez at all. Maybe it’s just much harder for me to be fond of young, teenage characters now that I’m getting close to forty…
- I recognised the Great Court of the British Museum as the Illuminati headquarters. haha
- Don’t know if I like the new design of the Cloak of Levitation. Why is it now sitting asymmetrically on his shoulders? I liked it better before. I don’t understand the need to change the design of something like the Cloak of Levitation in every movie.
- The sequence where Strange and America are falling through different universes would have been far more interesting had I not already seen Everything Everywhere All at Once. EEAAO had such an incredibly creative take on the different universes that it’s hard to top that. But of course, the purposes of the multiverse in these movies is quite different and objectively, I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other.
- Wanda was so hung up on her children… But what about Vision? I was really puzzled that though she brought up the loss of Vision once, she never looked for a chance to be with Vision again – just with her twin sons. Did she just give up on him or something?
- Is Wanda actually dead? Feels like her arc is closed at the moment but given the multiversal aspect of the MCU now, they might just bring another version of her in. *shrugs* The multiverse thing does undercut the weight of some stories.
- In one scene, Wanda points out in injustice of the difference in the treatment of herself and Strange: when he breaks the rules, he becomes a hero but when she breaks the rules, she becomes a villain. I think there’s a truth in those words that isn’t fully investigated. The Stephen Strange from the 838 universe broke rules and was punished for it, yes. But 616 Stephen Strange (our Stephen) breaks rules in this movie again and is, again, lauded as the hero. True, his actions help save the day. True, there is at least one consequence for him. However, it’s just brushed aside despite it being an apparently serious transgression. So once more, Wanda breaks the rules and is the villain but Strange breaks the rules (the same rule!) and is the hero.
Wanda uses a Darkhold spell to “dreamwalk” and possess her alternate self in the 838 universe. This is a terrible thing to do as it reduces her other self into a mere puppet. Strange resorts to the same dreamwalking spell to possess the dead body of another version of himself, and this is apparently even worse because the “souls of the damned” appear and tell him that possession of the dead is forbidden. (Who forbid it, I ask?) Yes, their motivations are quite different – Wanda does it to hunt down an innocent girl, and Strange does it to protect the same innocent girl. The question is, do the ends justify the means?
- I find it curious that they have no qualms about depicting demons and “souls of the damned” and witches and sorcerors but at the same time they avoid showing an opposing force in the MCU. It’s all dark magic, but no light magic? If there are demons, then surely there are angels? If there are spiritual beings, why is there not a god of some sort? Who put in place the rules that govern all these things? Was it that thing from Eternals (can’t remember what it is and I don’t care because that was a terribly boring movie)? Who made the Darkhold and its counter, the Book of Vishanti? Can there be demons if there are no angels? Can there be either demons or angels if there is no god to create them to begin with? And if there are no angels, no good “light side”, then isn’t the MCU just a horribly cynical place with little to no point to it? *wanders off*