Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Is Great Fun Are Marvel

 
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Is Great Fun Are Marvel

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Is Great Fun Are Marvel

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Thinking back on Marvel Studios' Infinity Saga—the 23-film cycle that makes up the first big overarching story in the MCU—it's amazing how well producer Kevin Feige and his team were able to thread an ongoing narrative through the whole thing that culminated in such rousing fashion with Avengers: Endgame. Sure, they made up a lot of it as they went along (uh, that gem in Loki's scepter is now an Infinity Stone!), but Feige, working with a constantly evolving team of writers and directors, was largely able to keep the big-picture story on the tracks so that each movie fed smartly into the next before the saga arrived at an immensely satisfying conclusion.

And then came the question of what's next? Well, the next step in the MCU has been the Multiverse—a loosely connected batch of stories that are built around the theme of infinite possible realities. In the Disney+ series Loki, the trickster god gets to meet various versions of himself from different timelines. With Spider-Man: No Way Home, Tom Holland's Peter Parker gets to team up with webslingers that we've seen in previous Spider-Movies. Now, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness—a movie with a title that screams "literally anything is possible"—Marvel's most prominent sorcerer (Benedict Cumberbatch) gets to rub elbows with Stephen Stranges from other universes, alternate versions of MCU characters we already love, and a certain beloved mutant who's been momentarily ported over from Fox's now-defunct X-Men franchise. As directed by the great Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films), it's all a lot of fun: chaotic and surprising and sometimes downright macabre. If you like Raimi's cornball-horror style, and you're happy to take on Marvel movies one at a time without worrying about the big picture, you're going to have a very good time watching this movie. But if you do have an eye on the bigger story at play, you may find yourself starting to wonder if Marvel has any kind of grand plan right now at all.

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First, the basics: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness details Strange's mission to protect America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young girl with the ability the travel between dimensional realities. America has two problems: she can't control her ability, and she's being hunted by someone who wants to steal her powers for their own gain. It's not long before the movie reveals her pursuer is none other than Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), the former Avenger and current Scarlet Witch, who is desperate to reunite with the children she magically willed into being in WandaVision. Wanda has learned that her children actually do exist in every other universe except for the one she lives in and becomes determined to slide into another universe where she can reunite with her children. Those who have become attached to Wanda the beloved Avenger and didn't like her darker turn in WandaVision should be warned: She goes full Daenerys-Targaryen-in-the-last-season-of-Game-of-Thrones evil in this movie, as she attempts to achieve her goal at all costs. There are basically three MacGuffins in this movie: America herself, a book of black magic called the Darkhold that's extremely powerful but also corrupts its user (which does not help Wanda's mindset), and another magical tome called the Book of Vishanti, which can be used to counteract the Darkhold. Whatever. It's all comic-book gobbledygook, and the movie uses it as an excuse to send Strange on an adventure across the multiverse. Although, in reality, that adventure doesn't end up being quite as epic as it may sound. After a brief sequence where the pair tears through a bunch of different universes in a row (a universe where they are cartoons, a universe where they are paint, etc.), the movie largely plays out across the primary MCU universe plus two others. The most prominent is Earth-838, a world where green means stop instead of go and Bruce Campbell sells something called a pizza ball from a sidewalk food cart. It's in this world where the film's writers decide to have the most fun with longtime Marvel fans. Earth-838 doesn't have S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers. Instead, it has the Illuminati, a secret cabal of heroes who protect their world. And the Illuminati's roster is made of alternate versions of characters that are going to fuel a million Internet clicks this weekend.

There's Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), a version of Peggy Carter who shows up with Captain America's shield, strength, and catchphrase. We also get Black Bolt (Anson Mount), a guy with a voice that is so powerful it can turn a man into dust and who last appeared in the failed, MCU-adjacent TV series, Inhumans. (I will pay a large sum of money for video of Mount's face when he picked up his phone and Feige was on the other end.) Also included are Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), returning from the first Doctor Strange movie, and Captain Marvel's Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who in this world actually is Captain Marvel. Even more exciting, there's Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the leader of the X-Men, and, oh my god, we've even got the MCU debut of the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards, played by John Krasinski, who fans have been insisting for years was the best choice to play the part. Can you imagine all the epic developments that could spring from such a collection of surprising heroes? And then Raimi and the film's writers have Wanda brutally and hilariously murder all of them. Yes, I said "hilariously." (Did you see what happened to Black Bolt's head?!) It's such a subversion of what the MCU movies typically do, and, quite frankly, it works like gangbusters in the movie, especially considering that it refocuses the narrative on Strange's seemingly impossible odds. But it also drives home the point that, in Phase Four of the MCU, maybe none of this matters as much as we thought it was going to matter. Maybe this is all just a few years of cross-promotional fun that entertains the fans and conveniently boosts MCU-adjacent properties that are now on Disney+ before Feige and his team leave the Multiverse behind and set their sights on the Galactus Saga or whatever comes next.
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