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Multiverse of Madness?: It’s a Letdown for the Marvel Universe

I can’t really recommend it because spectacle trumps any sense of the story hanging together and we can infer nothing from past events

The Multiverse of Madness ends with America Chavez training at Kamar-Taj while Dr. Strange and Wong have a final conversation.
All the Characters say their goodbyes and Dr. Strange returns home, prepared to move on with his life. Thing’s are looking pretty chipper — that is until a third eye opens on his forehead.

This isn’t a big deal but I did think it was a little ridiculous to have a cliffhanger ending followed by a post-credits scene. At any rate, the post-credits scene includes a mysterious woman played by Charlize Theron show up out of nowhere. She tells Dr. Strange that he’s caused an Incursion — a collision between two universes, possibly as a result of multiverse travel. And together, they are going to fix it. She asks Dr. Strange if he’s afraid and he says he isn’t.

Then Bruce Campbell shows up. That was nice.

And so that was Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. If you haven’t gathered already, I wouldn’t recommend this film. As I said earlier, the main problem is laziness.

I could be generous and say the movie was rushed. But given the fact that this film spent so much time in reshoots, I think laziness is closer to the mark. No one seemed to pay any attention to the details, take the time to watch the previous movies, or make sure the languages stayed the same. So many of the problems could’ve been fixed with just a little more thought.

Approaches to the story that would have worked better

For example, having Dr. Strange take thirty seconds to explain how Christine was supposed to defeat the Souls of the Damned. He could’ve just pointed to the clay jar in the glass case and told her what it was. That would have built the next scene up instead of making it confusing.

Or how about trading out all the pretentious dialog apparently intended to turn Wanda into a sympathetic character for a drawn-out conflict between Professor X and the Scarlet Witch?

Imagine Professor X reaching into her mind and showing her Vision. Her former lover could tell her not to do what she’s doing. He could tell her this isn’t what he wants. Such a scene could accomplish what the writers wanted to accomplish, turning Wanda into a true mourning mother as she tells Vision (and Professor X) that her boys are real to her, and she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants. You could have her reject her lover in favor of her current course, solidifying her as a villain and yet a sympathetic character — and accomplishing a truly epic fight at the same time.

And how would the conclusion of the movie play out if the writers had made better dramatic use of Dr. Strange’s abilities. Suppose Dr. Strange trapped the monster which attacked New York in the Mirror Dimension at the beginning of the film. The rest of the movie could play out as before — only to have Dr. Strange unleash the trapped monster while Wanda is trying to stop them from using the Book of Vishanti. By the time we reach the conclusion, the viewer would’ve forgotten the monster and thus be pleasantly surprised when Dr. Strange pulled out a wild card that was baked into the story.

And how amazing would it have been if the writers had taken the time to account for why the two Dr. Stranges chose musical notes as their weapons against each other. The visual was fantastic, but I couldn’t help wondering what was going on. In the world that the previous films had established, it would’ve taken only a little thought and study. Instead, the writers chose cheap clichés and platitudes in the hopes that these contrivances would distract the audience from the all the moments the script pushed the characters into a corner.

Then there is whole problem that a multiverse creates for storytelling in general. Any decision made in this film can be undone because a character or event can b brought in from elsewhere in the multiverse to change things. So the emotional stakes of the film are nonexistent.

Wanda Maximoff’s potential was sadly underused

And worst of all was the fate of poor Wanda Maximoff. I will confess that Wanda was never my favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I couldn’t help but get some Last Jedi vibes from this movie, that is to say, a conscious deconstruction of a character for the sake of making a point. These vibes made me feel awful for any Wanda fans out there. The writers kept interjecting lines that — I’m sure, they thought “We’re so clever!” — but really, the lines didn’t make any sense. And whatever truths they were trying to convey were undermined by the fact Wanda was the villain and she was brutally torturing people.

To make matters worse, her actions seem so much worse because her problem was so laughably easy to solve without creating all that suffering. Here she is, torturing and killing people, threatening to kill the children’s mother and replace her — and the whole time, all she had to do was this: Find America and help her control her powers, or control her powers herself through the mind-magic spell she uses toward the end of the film. Then she can find a universe where her children have no mother. This obvious solution sticks out like a thorn through the entire film, and the writers chose to ignore it.

But the true tragedy is that Wanda’s story arc — before this film anyway — was about redemption. And now, all that hard work and forethought put in by the previous writers is undone. She started out well enough as a villain turn hero who spent a great deal of time running from her past. It doesn’t bother me that she turned to evil again in the end but it bothers me that this turn is treated so callously by the writers. There is no effort to convey what a tragedy this is. No effort to bring in the other Avengers to try and save her.

When Hawkeye went down a dark road in Endgame, Black Widow searched him out and pulled him out of his spiral. In fact, it was Hawkeye who helped Wanda find the courage to fight in Age of Ultron. He temporarily lost his own family because of Thanos. His story is very similar to Wanda’s, and they have a long history fighting together throughout the films. It would’ve made perfect sense to bring him in to try and save her. But the writers didn’t even bother because Disney doesn’t care about the fans, and it doesn’t care about the past, even if the past would help with storytelling. Wanda was just a cardboard cutout to be moved and placed as needed.

And if the fans hate the fact that she’s dead, they’ll just pull another Wanda out of the infinite deck of the multiverse. Even worse, we’ll never see Hawkeye grieve for Wanda, or any of the ramifications this film should have on the rest of the Marvel Universe. The interconnected world that took over a decade to build is gone. It’s gone because the writers simply don’t care to study the lore.

Hopefully, I’m wrong, but where matters stand right now, things aren’t looking good for Marvel. That’s why I’d rather as few people see this movie as possible. It’s better to remember the past fondly than to endure whatever the Mouse has in mind for the future.

Here are all the portions of my my extended review of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:

Can the multiverse really work as a plot device? That’s a question Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness begs us to ask though but the screenwriters’ answer might be disturbing. Just bringing back characters who died “in another universe” for the sake of a sequel, for example, insults the viewer’s emotional intelligence.

Multiverse of Madness features infinite problems. The extensive edits to Sam Rami’s work as a director have left it riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies. If I could describe the problems in one word, that word would be “laziness.” The multiverse provides an excuse for all kinds of incoherent nonsense.

Do life history or moral choices matter in a multiverse? In this third part of my extended review of Multiverse of Madness, I look at how characters suddenly alter with no accounting. The cinematography is fine but what has happened to Doctor Strange’s earlier powers? And why has Wanda morphed from a complex figure into an arch-villainess?

The only mad people in Dr. Strange’s multiverse are the writers. We don’t know why Wanda has morphed into a villain or why good and evil have become morally equivalent. I don’t know who gave the Mouse its moral compass, but it seriously needs to re-evaluate the ethics that underlie story developments covered here.

Marvel Universe: Being all powerful, it turns out, is very boring The Mirror Dimension in Multiverse of Madness dispenses with sharp intellectual conflict, opting for unexplained power plays instead. In the siege of Kamar-Taj, the superheroes break the rule that they have only SPECIFIC superpowers and weaknesses. That rule is what creates story excitement.

Dr. Strange finds a universe almost like the one he left… But, like Schrödinger’s famous Cat, he is alive in one universe and dead in another. Wanda Maximoff will stop at nothing to capture America Chavez and her powers — but having several universes to dominate does complicate things.

Multiverse of Madness skirts the edges of story collapse. Oh well, it IS a multiverse, so maybe, in this reality, all the heroes stink. The final conflict between Wanda and Professor X enraged fans because… it was zilch. At least now we don’t need to look up “anticlimax” in a dictionary.

It’s the end of the Multiverse — and yet no one is in a hurry? Until close to the end, everyone continues to behave as if previous events and circumstances have no consequences and vital information is optional. Close to the end we come across a very sad scene that is so well acted that one almost forgets all the nonsense it took to get the viewer to this point.


Multiverse of Madness?: It’s a letdown for the Marvel Universe. I can’t really recommend it because spectacle trumps any sense of the story hanging together and we can infer nothing from past events. Whether the high level of incoherence is inevitable in a multiverse setting or a result of the Mouse’s control — I prefer to remember past classics fondly.

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Multiverse of Madness?: It’s a Letdown for the Marvel Universe