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Multiverse of Madness Skirts the Edges of Story Collapse

Oh well, it IS a multiverse, so maybe, in this reality, all the heroes stink

Just as Wanda Maximoff is about to catch America Chavez, she is met by the Illuminati, a team of superheroes which comprises Captain Carter, Captain Marvel, Black Bolt, Reed Richards, Mordo, and Professor X. Mordo and Professor X are not present, but Wanda must still face four heroes at once.

There is only phrase which can describe the ensuing scene and that is missed opportunity. To understand why, we must first look at two major factors at play. First, the actor chosen to play Reed Richards is none other than Jared Krasinski, who is famous for his roles in the TV series (2005–2013) The Office and the film A Quiet Place (2018).

Now, anyone remotely familiar with comic book films over the years knows that the Fantastic 4 franchise has been struggling. There have been multiple attempts to get a series of films off the ground and, for the most part, they’ve failed. To have an A-list actor portraying such an iconic role teases us to imagine the future. So, the impression his brief cameo leaves on the audience is important. That is assuming that the Mouse even cares about things like making money — at this point, who knows if that’s the case. It is beginning to seem like the Mouse just enjoys pestering everyone, and we’ll see why shortly. To Krasinski’s credit, the brief time he is on screen does leave an impression. Whenever he spoke, I listened.

He has the charisma to play an iconic character but the Mouse fails to see it.

The second factor is that Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor X, and this is a big deal. It teases the audience with the idea that a rather impressive contest between Wanda and the professor is in the future. No one really expects Professor X to survive because, let’s be honest, the plot needs to happen. But whatever way Wanda defeats Professor X needs to be impressive or inventive, or else an act of dumb luck. Anything other than that will leave an audience feeling annoyed.

The confrontation begins with Reed Richards begging Wanda to turn back. He tells her she can still do the right thing. Wanda ignores him so he — the Marvel Universe’s smartest man — instantly tells Wanda about Black Bolt’s power. Bolt can destroy her with one whisper from his mouth…

Wanda asks, “What mouth?” The camera shows Black Bolt missing his mouth. He lets out a scream of terror, and the inside of his head pops. He crumbles to the floor.

Let’s take a moment to relish how stupid this is. First of all, there is no way the smartest man in the universe is going to lead with telling an opponent the function of somebody’s power. This is just lazy writing.

Second of all, it’s unlikely that a man who’s spent his entire life using sign language is going to scream before he does anything else.

Third, if this guy’s voice is so strong it can destroy anything, then wouldn’t his head be able to withstand his own voice’s vibrations.

Fourth, if the guy still has his mouth, vocal cords, and everything else, then the only thing covering his mouth should be a veil of skin. Wouldn’t it be more likely that his voice would break through the veil of skin before crushing his skull?

Fifth, he still has a nose! All that power should escape through his nostrils!

Sixth — perhaps most important — we now discover that Wanda can alter reality itself. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wanda got her powers from the Mind Stone, not the Reality Stone, and — consistent with that story premise — at no point in the films do we see Wanda altering reality. Even in WandaVision, everything was, essentially, an illusion.

We can infer that the Darkhold gave her the ability to physically change the real world, but this point is never explained. And if she has such powers, why wasn’t she just blinking people out of existence before? Why go through the charade of a fight, especially considering that time is of the essence for her? She needs to reach America fast. At the very least, she must reach her before her time limit with the Dreamwalking runs out.

It all makes no sense, and the problem persists. Reed Richards tries to punch her and Wanda unravels him like a ball of yarn. He screams in pain until his head explodes. No one knows why any of this happened and fans were furious because they were excited about the idea of a Fantastic 4 starring Jared Krasinski. Now, if the Mouse tries such a thing, all anyone will be able to see is poor Jared screaming in agony as he dies a horrible death.

Next, we have the fight between Captain Carter, Captain Marvel, and Wanda. Things don’t improve. After a brief spat, Wanda hurls Captain Carter’s shield at her and cuts Carter in half. That’s right. Captain Carter, the female Captain America, couldn’t catch her own shield. Captain America’s powers are pretty limited. Catching the shield is his whole shtick!

If Captain Carter can’t catch her own shield, or at least dodge it because it’s coming in too fast, she’s pretty much worthless.

Captain Marvel doesn’t fare any better. She’s crushed by a statue. If you watched Endgame, then you know Captain Marvel is the one who flew through an entire ship and caused it to explode. But in this universe, a statue crushes her. How embarrassing. Oh well, it is a multiverse, so maybe, in this reality, all the heroes stink.

After killing the “heroes” Wanda reaches America Chavez. But before she can do anything, she is confronted by Professor X, who enters her mind.

This is it, boys and girls. The ultimate showdown between two titans of the Marvel Universe. And what do we get? Professor X tries to free the possessed Wanda from some debris which is supposed to represent the trap our Wanda has laid in the possessed Wanda’s mind in order to capture her body. But then Professor X gives up for some reason, stares stupidly at the camera while a red cloud creeps up behind him, then our Wanda springs from the red cloud and snaps his neck. The scene lasts less than two minutes. Anticlimactic doesn’t even begin to describe this battle.

Needless to say, fans were furious. The good news is Professor X was so busy dying that he distracted Wanda long enough for America and Christine to escape. They meet Dr. Strange, who has fought Mordo and broken free of his cuffs, and the three of them make for the Book of Vishanti. We’ll pick up what happens then next time.

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.

and

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 Skirts the Edges of Story Collapse