Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

I was still fairly nervous of movie theatres when this film came out, so I didn’t go to see it. Now that it is available on disc I have taken a look. As it has been out for some time, I’m assuming that some mild spoilers are OK.I gather that the film has been widely panned, but it didn’t seem that bad to me. Obviously I know nothing about movie editing, but that’s not all there is to a film.

As you probably know, the film follows on directly from the events of WandaVision, in which Wanda has gone mad from grief and does some awful things. Marvel did a good job of hiding it in the trailers, but in The Multiverse of Madness Wanda is even more insane, and even more evil. She’s the main villain of the movie.

The film also follows on directly from the What If? series where there is a story about an alternate universe version of Doctor Strange. In that universe, Christine Palmer is in the car with Strange when he has is accident and is killed. Strange goes mad trying to bring her back, and ends up destroying his universe. That evil Strange also features in the movie.

So we have a film in which the two greatest sorcerers in the MCU have both gone mad and become villains. Except Wanda is a villain in our world and has to be defeated, whereas Stephen is a hero in our world and has to defeat his alternate self. It doesn’t seem fair. And Wanda is allowed to make exactly that sort of point during the film. Nevertheless, she is still a dangerous madwoman, and Stephen is still a hero.

While I am still annoyed about Marvel’s habit of making powerful female characters go mad and become villains (Jean Grey, anyone?), I am holding on to the fact that somehow the MCU has to bring Billy and Tommy Maximoff into our world. I am holding out for a Wanda solo movie. Elizabeth Olsen surely deserves one for her performance in this film.

On the brighter side, this film introduces America Chavez. That’s a smart choice because one of her powers is busting a hole in reality to allow travel into other universes. Xochitl Gomez is another triumph for the Marvel casting department. Presumably she will also have a role in bringing Billy and Tommy into our world. They are all part of the Young Avengers, after all.

From Marvel’s point of view, the main thing about the multiverse is that it allows them to kill off much-loved characters without penalty. The Multiverse of Madness introduces us to alternate universe versions of many well known characters. I won’t spoil the lot, but I will note that one of them is Reed Richards. An MCU Fantastic Four movie has now been announced. There have been some terrible F4 movies in the past. Hopefully Kevin Feige and crew can make it work.

The other notable aspect of this film is that Marvel is experimenting with horror. Doctor Strange is an ideal vehicle for this, given that he deals with magic and demons. One of the early fight sequences is against a one-eyed, tentacled monstrosity called Gargantos. In the original comics this creature was known as Shuma-Gorath, but as it originally came from a Robert E Howard story (“The Curse of the Golden Skull”) they could not use that name in the MCU.

More importantly, the movie is directed by Sam Raimi. I know nothing about zombie movies, but I understand from the extras on the disc that there are whole lot of Evil Dead easter eggs in this film. It also means that we get Zombie Doctor Strange as a character, which I’m sure everyone had a lot of fun with. The film isn’t particularly scary. If it didn’t frighten me then it won’t frighten you.

For me, the best part of the film was the post-credit scene which, at long last, introduced us to Clea. She is the daughter of Umar, and niece of Dormammu, two of the most iconic villains in the Doctor Strange comics. When first introduced in the comics, Clea was a bit of a princess-in-need-of-rescue, but she quickly evolved into a sorceress on a par with Strange himself. They eventually become lovers and marry. As Strange is (presumably temporarily) dead in the comics, Clea is the current Sorcerer Supreme.

As far as teenage me was concerned, Clea was up there with Jean Grey and Janet van Dyne as one of my favourite characters. She was also the most kick-ass of the three. Jean spent much of her time mooning over Scott, and Janet had to babysit Hank Pym, but Clea was an equal to Stephen. To have her portrayed by Charlize Theron is a dream come true. Well done, Marvel casting department.

There’s one more thing. There are several themes in this movie. One if the hero moving on from having lost the love of his life. Another is about the safety of some children. Now move on to Thor: Love and Thunder.