Did It Live Up to the Hype? Review of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Luke Pietrzak '22

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MARVEL FILM DR. STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS

After a 6 year wait, the already heavily debated Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has arrived and for one of the most ambitious comic book movies of all time, audiences remain split on whether or not it checked off all the boxes.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as a whole does some things extremely well. With that being said, this is not a perfect movie. I wish I thought it was better but along with many others I’m torn over trying to decide how significant my issues with this movie are and what exactly the root issue comes down to.

All things considered, everyone’s expectations for this movie were probably a little too high. This was never going to be the next Avengers: Endgame (2019) or ultimate crossover event. We did get some of what we thought we were getting with some notable exceptions; but there are definitely more, and bigger issues in this movie than the amount of cameos and fan service or lack thereof.

The plot of this movie is not bad but it bothers me so much the things it did not address (which I will get into). First, in order to understand the plot you need to understand 3 characters: Doctor Strange, Wanda Maximoff, and America Chavez.

The movie itself explains these characters well and other than that Doctor Strange (2016) and WandaVision (2021) are necessary watches before this movie. I was part of the group who had no idea what to expect or what background knowledge would be helpful so going into this I watched WandaVision, Loki (2021), and What If…? (2021). 

America Chavez is a character who makes her live action debut in this movie. Her origin explanation in the movie is comic accurate so if you understand everything the movie tells you while having watched the 2 previously mentioned projects you will be alright.

There are reasons to be positive about the plot and characters of the movie. Xochitl Gomez (who is 16 years old) as America is awesome and it is easy to love her character. Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch/Wanda is amazing. I was never quite sold on loving or caring about her character in WandaVision but she steals the show in this movie.

People who absolutely loved this movie assume that any unsure person just surely had far too high expectations. Sure, maybe, that would make sense for the people who really did expect things like appearances from Deadpool (which almost happened), the rumored Tom Cruise Tony Stark variant, and more. Other than that this seems to be an excuse to ignore the major flaws of this movie of which I had three.

Number one: this movie does not follow any past project that involves Doctor Strange at all. To me this could have been a sequel to the events of 2 different things: Doctor Strange or Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). The plot really really should have followed either the consequences of Strange breaking the natural law in Doctor Strange or the consequences of his botched spells meant to help Peter Parker. Instead, we get a different story that completely forgets about the events of those two movies (other than Steven’s relationship with Christine) and leaves them in the past.

His relationship with Dr. Christine Palmer is one of the very few things that connects with Doctor Strange. This movie attempts to force his character development to be moving on from her. I don’t think it did a very good job of that considering he ends up falling in love with a different version of her within 45 minutes of meeting her. However I do suppose he learns the lesson that their relationship is destined to not work everywhere in the multiverse and is therefore not his fault so he can move on from it.

My second issue is the usage of Master Mordo’s character in this movie. The end of Doctor Strange sets us up beautifully for a sequel with Mordo as the main antagonist. Their friendship ends on horrible terms as Mordo determines there are too many sorcerers in the world before re-paralyzing a man by stripping him of his power. Mordo wanted Strange to face punishment for breaking the natural law and using forbidden spells to defeat Dormammu. Surely this would at least be talked about in its sequel, right?

No. In fact the Mordo we know does not even make an appearance in this movie. The only reference we get to him at all is in the Illuminati chambers when Strange tells this Mordo that his Mordo “doesn’t like him very much”. It seems like the Mordo storyline set up so long ago will go completely wasted because there seems to be no room for it in the future of the Doctor Strange franchise. It’s just an opportunity lost and it bothers me.

My last issue with this movie is my biggest and it is that Strange was pushed out of the plot of his own movie. Don’t get me wrong, he is vital to how the plot runs and the outcome of the movie but he spends every single second of it as the third and sometimes even fourth most important character. To me this was not at all Doctor Strange 2; this was a Wanda movie.. this was an America Chavez movie.. Strange was only along for the ride. This movie does not feel like a sequel to anything except WandaVision.

I’ll double down on what I said earlier (something that should not be a very unpopular opinion) and say that this should have either followed the events of Doctor Strange or Spider-Man: No Way Home. Instead we get a brand new story that disregards the events of both and locks us into a plot with no breathing room for character development. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the character development specifically for Strange in this movie was as bad as Morbius character development (2022). They both have the same issue: They want to use their powers for good and stop their equals from using it for bad but in order to stop them they turn to the darkness in their powers and slowly embrace it. We see this in the end when Morbius teams up with Vulture and in this movie where Strange uses the darkhold. 

Some of the smaller issues I have include the script which is at some points unexciting, the fact that we only explored a few unique universes, and some of the jokes didn’t land. They also tried too hard to make some legendary moments out of lines that became too cringy to stick. The best example of this is Captain Carter while fighting Wanda delivering Captain America’s famous line “I can do this all day” moments before getting sliced in half like a sandwich by her own shield 

Above anything else this movie suffers from delays, cuts, uncertainty, and rushed changes. Director Sam Raimi said that the original cut was forty five minutes longer which I can only imagine would have solved so many of the pacing, script, and character development issues. This has been a problem with many Marvel projects lately, for example Morbius which was delayed for over two years. On the other hand projects like Moon Knight and No Way Home showed the importance of very patient and careful planning as those two weren’t delayed and delivered on their purposes effectively without compromising excitement and entertainment.

Speaking of Sam Raimi, the best moments of this movie are those in which you can tell he has absolute creative control. Other than being most known for directing the Tobey Maguire Spiderman franchise, he is an infamous horror director who really got started with his 1981 movie The Evil Dead. This movie incorporates elements of horror, gore, death, violence, blood, and everything else that screams “don’t bring the kids”.  Raimi himself called it Marvel’s “first horror film”. Don’t get me wrong, the horror is awesome but it seriously pushes the boundaries of its controversial PG-13.

Talking about the violence brings about a great opportunity to talk about the Illuminati. In the trailers and teasers for this movie you could see Professor X, Captain Carter, and Captain Marvel so they weren’t necessarily surprises. Black Bolt and John Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic was incredible and shocking. However I do think they were wasted a little bit. The purpose they ended up serving was just telling Strange he can never be trusted based on the actions of a Strange variant and then getting absolutely slaughtered by Wanda (which to be fair was realistic and gave us some cool moments). 

The last important thing to touch upon is the post credits scene which features Charlize Theron as Clea. Clea is a character from Doctor Strange comics who is actually the niece of Dormammu and goes on to marry Steven. She tells him he has caused an incursion (which is when two universes crash into each other) and they need to fix it. 

I’m fuzzy on the details of how this connects exactly but if you watched Loki you would know of Kang the Conqueror who is likely to be the next Thanos-level big bad in Marvel. With the killing of Kang’s variant and the creation of the multiverse in Loki there will be lots of incursions and multiversal issues caused by other Kangs. Paired with Strange having to clean up his own mess we can assume Doctor Strange 3 will be about just that – traveling around the multiverse and the dark dimension cleaning up his mess and discovering bigger issues at hand setting up the next Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame level crossover movie event. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness isn’t necessarily a movie that has too many issues. To me it’s a movie that doesn’t accomplish what it needed to and doesn’t serve enough of a purpose going forward. Other than Morbius (since well, we all knew what we were getting with that) this I would say is Marvel’s first project since before Spider-Man: No Way Home that simply isn’t all great. That speaks more to the success of Marvel Studios lately more than anything else. I’m not really sure what to think or feel about the future of the MCU after this but I know what to think about this movie: an out of place but good story with some issues but some strengths. 

There is nothing wrong with loving this movie; I did love it. It is very far from perfect and maybe I have a long list of changes I’d make but for a film that was forced to accomplish a lot it wrapped itself up nicely. It’ll be interesting seeing where Marvel takes this storyline especially when there are many more very important projects set to come before Doctor Strange 3 like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania (coming in 2023), Loki season 2 (which begins filming next month), and more that will change the course of the MCU. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness does live up to its name of showing the madness of the multiverse and pushes the limit of what we know to be true in the MCU.