It’s a little odd that “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” releases on Mother’s Day weekend since its antagonist’s motherhood is villainized. The latest MCU entry is one of the most anticipated films of 2022 and the excitement was elevated after learning that Sam Raimi was in the directors’ chair. Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong, this film follows Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) as he must deal with the ramifications of casting a spell that opens portals to the multiverse. I was thoroughly excited about this film after seeing the trailers and learning about some of the cameos that would appear. I’m saddened to report that my overall reaction is a lukewarm one.
First, I’ll start with the aspects that worked for me. Some of the visuals were impeccable, although it was obvious in a few sequences the usage of a green screen. The opening sequence does an excellent job of getting you back into the world of the MCU. As the film progresses we notice Raimi’s stamp as the film incorporates more horror elements. Some jump scares effectively worked on me and the gothic visuals were also welcoming to this franchise that isn’t normally known for these elements. The gore, violence, and some cool kills were delightful and welcomed surprises. The cameos were good all-around with one specific character genuinely surprising me (Please stay away from the internet if you want to be truly surprised). And lastly, the score from Danny Elfman made this view a memorable experience, particularly during a specific sequence in the third act.
The overall acting was decent with Elizabeth Olsen giving the standout performance. Her acting abilities are so great that she easily sells the poorly written dialogue. This leads me to my dislikes of this film. I rewatched “WandaVision” in preparation for this film and thoroughly enjoyed the revisit, only to be heavily disappointed by the complete dismissal of its existence in this film. How in the world do you mishandle such a complex and powerful character like Wanda? This movie did it, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as it unfolded onscreen. I won’t give away the plot to stay away from spoiling the premise but I’ll confess I absolutely despise how this movie villainized motherhood.
As a mother of four kids (all of whom I’ve carried for nine months) I can attest to the unconditional love a mother develops for her children. And it absolutely pained me watching Wanda being mansplained how she should deal with her emotions, grief and motherhood. I would normally not look too much into these types of scenarios but considering that “WandaVision” gave us an exploration of her grief and her background and journey to the woman she’s today, I figured those events would be taken into account in this movie. It’s like the writer didn’t watch the show and did whatever they wished with her character. This brings me to the other focal point that didn’t work for me, the writing.
As previously mentioned, I was anxiously anticipating this movie and one of the main reasons was the introduction of the first live-action Latina superhero in the MCU, America Chavez. First, I haven’t read any of her comics and I have zero knowledge of her character. This character was severely underwritten to the extent that I didn’t care about her outcome. For a character who’s an important plot device, America Chavez is so one-dimensionally written that we’re expected to become emotionally invested solely based on her age. There’s one scene where we learn about her “origin” but it’s superficially handled that it wasn’t allowed to breathe which diminished its meaning. How do we know she’s a Latina? Well, there’s a scene or two where she speaks Spanish with Doctor Strange for the sake of speaking Spanish. It felt unneeded, random and to some extent, forced. This has nothing to do with Xochitl Gomez who does her very best with what she’s given. Hopefully down the road with a better script, she can become a more compelling character.
For a movie with the title “Multiverse of Madness,” this doesn’t live up to its title. The film feels disjointed, concise, and with no substance or heart. The outcome of some of the characters felt meaningless. And I can’t help but notice the poor handling of the female characters. From the romantic interest (Christine) to the young lady needing saving (America Chavez) and ultimately the Mad Woman (Scarlet Witch) who must be stopped at all cost. This entry into the MCU is disappointing and a missed opportunity on showcasing one of the most powerful female characters who’s only reduced to a woman with motherhood issues. Overall, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a stylistically bold superhero entry with a number of issues that no magic or spell can improve.