In 2016, fans were introduced to Dr. Stephen Strange – a renowned surgeon that becomes a master of the mystic arts after shattering both hands in a tragic car accident. Since his introduction, Strange helped save the world a few times (Doctor Strange, Infinity War, and Spider-Man: No Way Home). He’s brilliant, brave, incredibly powerful…and egotistical.
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Strange faces the biggest threat to the multiverse – himself.
The story opens with Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) trying to escape a demon while traveling in the space between universes. They’re in search of the Book of Vishanti to help them defeat whatever evil is after them. Strange awakens and realizes it was just a dream.
During the reception for Dr. Palmer’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding, a gigantic octopus creature begins wreaking havoc in the street. Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) defeat the creature and realize the monster was chasing a young woman. The mysterious young woman is America Chavez – the girl from Strange’s dream the previous night.
Chavez tells Strange he wasn’t having a dream but a vision her with a Dr. Strange from another universe. Chavez possesses the power to travel between universes but can’t control it. She explains the creature is hunting her so it can take her powers. Once Strange realized the signs of witchcraft on the octopus creature, he turns to Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) for help on how to protect Chavez.
Unfortunately, since Wanda has the Darkhold (a magical book), the book has changed her and she’s beginning to turn into the Scarlett Witch. Strange quickly realizes Wanda was the wrong person to ask for help. After Wanda attacks Karma-Taj, Strange and Chavez escape to Earth-838. While stuck there, they try to find another Dr. Strange to help them get back to Karma-Taj and save Wong from Wanda.
It’s at this point in the film where things get a little crazy and a lot Sam Raimi. The Multiverse of Madness goes from standard MCU film to a mind-bending ride trip through different universes. The second half of the film has elements of Raimi’s previous work – Evil Dead, Drag Me to Hell, and Army of Darkness to name a few. The second half of the film is different than anything Marvel has done.
For fans that want easter eggs, cameos, callbacks, and a connected film universe – all of that is there and more. Director Sam Raimi, writer Michael Waldron, and the good people at Marvel Studios use the multiverse in interesting ways. They use it to drop in new ideas, old comic references, and a very spoiler heavy scene that’s hinted at in the trailers. They use the multiverse as a license to do whatever they want, however they want.
The introduction of Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez was strategic (we will see that character again soon) and necessary to have an innocent kid caught in the whirlwind of the madness. The star of the film is Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda. Her character arc in the film is well done and a bold for Marvel Studios to try. When we last saw Wanda, she was terrorizing the citizens of Westview. Although she tried to repair the harm she caused, the last shot of Wanda in the season finale showed she really hadn’t got past the trauma the caused her to imprison all of Westview. We’re watching a character process their grief in an unhealthy way. How Wanda processes it has deadly consequences.
The same goes for Strange. Just like Wanda can’t get out of her own way, the other Dr. Stranges that are introduced destroy their universes because they think they’re the only ones that can make things right. If there’s one constant with the Strange variants, its ego. Most of Strange’s problems are because of his ego. None of the variants can get out of their own way and we see the consequences it causes.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a wild ride from beginning to end. It’s a delightful two hours of mind-bending entertainment. It’s a unique depiction of a comic book story and like nothing we’ve seen before. There’s hope comic book movies will continue to take big swings, be interesting, and entertain the hell out of us.