Multiverse Of Madness More Like A Mid Tier Mess Of A Marvel Movie

Joshua Geaughan, News Editor

Dr. Strange in the multiverse of madness realised to controversial acclaim by many, but does it deserve this praise? Dr. Strange is and will always be my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU, movie. It’s a story about a self-centered man learning that he doesn’t have to be the most important person in the world, and also a story about healing and letting yourself go for the sake of others. The movie did not change things for the MCU universe other than introducing magic and the titular character of Dr. Strange. Its self-contained nature led itself into a really weird and interesting exploration into what makes a man a “superhero”, but there were movies to follow that, and ever since his first appearance, Dr. Strange has become a more important and focal part of the MCU. With the release of Multiverse of Madness, the weight of the interconnected story of the MCU utterly crushed all introspection and intrigue of the character Dr. Strange and made his movie feel like another required watch for longtime Marvel fans. Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not a movie any more than itś an introduction to concepts and characters to be used in a more interesting way later, the product of the final straw of corporate meddling breaking the back of the MCU. 

It didn’t always start out this way, and actually, along with a lot of other MCU sequels (Iron Man 2, Avengers; Age of Ultron), it was supposed to be a lot more of a movie. The original director of the first Dr. Strange movie, Scott Derrickson, was supposed to come back and lead the sequel, and rumors of what this project would have looked like circled the internet, but before long it was clear he was not coming back. According to an interview he had with Imagine Games Network, C. Robert Cargill, the script writer for the original Dr. Strange, talked about the director leaving and himself leaving. “Scott Derickson wanted to do one movie and Marvel wanted to do another movie, so he sat there and said, ” Well, I’ve got this script I wrote with Cargill that I’m really proud of.” They both left the project not long after it was clear they couldn’t get the movie they envisioned. From what the team has publicly talked about the Dr. Strange sequel, it was supposed to be a dark movie and an exploration into the horror of the Marvel universe, but instead, the studio stepped in. 

The reason why the original team couldn’t return was that between their original movie and Dr. Strange 2, there were four movies that the titular character showed up in as a pretty important side character. In those movies they moved the direction of the universe around Dr. Strange even as he didn’t get his own solo movie, he was the reason that the two-part Avengers movies (Infinity War and Endgame) ended with the heroes winning, he was the reason that Spiderman No Way Home happened, even producer Kevin Feige said that he was the “anchor” for this “phase” of Marvel movies. Dr. Strange isn’t as much of his own character anymore but rather the inciting incident for other characters’ movies. That is why when the original writers wanted to take him back and give him his own movie standing alone from the rest of the universe they met so much push back from the studio. 

This bleeds right into the heart of the movie. It’s not a movie that cares about the characters any more than needed to become the inciting incident for the future of the MCU. Even with the last-minute addition of Sam Raimi, the tone and atmosphere of the movie feel so surreal and sterile. Why is it that the director of one of the landmark superhero trilogies feels so constrained in the MCU format? Wherever Sam Raimi could add his own flare he could. Harkening back to his horror roots, he turned the main villain of the movie into a killing steamroller worthy of an 80’s horror movie or used visual effects to bleed the camera between shots in weird and interesting ways. This surreal tone can also be attributed to the film’s composer Danny Elfman, the star composer behind the works of the Spider-Man trilogy and the Tim Burton Batman movies. Although there were attempts to push the movie in their own directions, the weight of the MCU simply proved too much for the team of Elfman and Raimi as their stylistic choices seem plastered on the traditional MCU format, and any attempts of horror or shock are rendered useless as a viewer can’t garner any fear that something bad would happen to our main characters as they either have been through the wringer of marvel movies and their fear to shake up the status quo or commit to actual stakes of the movie, and the more casual viewer is not supplied with enough actual fear to worry for the main characters as the villain proves just a little more violent than any other superhero villains. 

Most of the problems that I had personally with the movie are that of the characters not feeling like anything close to real people. The air of dialogue in this movie always seems airy and dry, expositional at worst, but there is no care or currency put into preserving the careful building of characterization of the last movie. This includes Dr. Strange himself as there were clear nods to a possible character arc for him, but in the end, they went nowhere at all besides half-heartedly reverberating old thematic messages and character arcs from the first movie. 

This goes the same for America Chaves, the newest addition to the Marvel mythos. America is a bright and spunky kid whose inclusion in the story drives the whole plot, and a face I enjoyed seeing whenever she showed up, but instead of the movie giving her more time to explore the intricacies of the character she becomes a plot device and just another superhero with dead parents. That’s the most unfortunate part of the movie, when it shines it shines like gold, the first 30 minutes of the movie shining with style and personality, but as the movie goes on the more formulaic and downright boring it becomes. The two hours of the movie seem to go by in six as the colorful visuals and practical effects become numb and tie tropes as the movie offers up nothing of actual substance aside from trying desperately to puppet and bend characters that have been established in ways that the rest of the MCU begs they shouldn’t. 

That’s where a lot of this movie lies, in between a director pushing his own creative vision with characters he doesn’t own or control, and a studio trying their hardest to keep a constant storyline through multiple movies. When seeing Dr.Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I knew deep in my heart that this was a product of 14 years of a storyline that has run its course, begging for more introspective moments but being pushed into worrying more about the state and direction of the multilevel media conglomerate of the MCU. I thoroughly did not enjoy my time with Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and I think it deserves a 2/9, only go see this movie if you are a diehard Marvel or Sam Raimi fan and nothing more.