The MCU Just Got Stranger: A Review of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

Delaney Cram, Editor

  “Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness” reached theaters on May 6, and of course the anticipation for this movie was overwhelming, an electric crackling among the audience as the lights dimmed and the music swelled. The exhilarating suspense was nearly tangible, a taut ribbon waiting desperately to be cut, and I felt it spiraling throughout the crowd when I waited for tickets to this film, a current thriving in eager whispers and bated breaths.

  This film was not, nor was it expected to be, of “Endgame” level proportions. With some select exceptions, direct sequels to superhero movies are more often than not a disappointment when compared to the original, and the 2016 “Doctor Strange ” film had been hard to follow up, especially after the leading character had been involved in two Avengers movies and the latest Spider-Man. However, this movie did seem to have more connections leading up to it than a typical stand-alone superhero story does. Preceding this film’s release were the hit Disney+ shows, “Wandavision” and “Loki,” both dealing with multiversal repercussions. Couple that with the phenomenal impact “Spider-Man: No Way Home” made in theaters, and the expectations for this particular film were heightened not just due to the precedent Marvel Studios had been setting with recent films, but also with anticipation of what this movie could mean for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and its affiliation with the multiverse.

  So, what was this movie? Fair warning to potential viewers: this movie was probably the scariest film to be part of the MCU. I wouldn’t qualify it as a horror film, but the jump scares and mind-contorting sequences are definitely present. This slight shift in genre is certainly interesting, but the content and structure of this film still warrant questioning. It was, in terms of Marvel movies in general, mildly entertaining at best, and confusing at worst. 

  This movie was strange (I could not resist the pun) and left me with a lot of questions about the multiverse as it exists in the MCU. And the special effects and action sequences, of course, were just as mind-bending as can be expected from a Doctor Strange movie. But, for all of the fantastic reveals and exciting twists in this movie, there was a feeling that I couldn’t quite shake as I left the theater. In spite of all of the intensity and high-stakes, I found myself feeling more apathetic than I usually am toward Marvel characters. Though it was by no means boring, it felt like any repercussions were not as important as they should have been. Perhaps this circumstance was due to a lack of connection with the protagonist or the eternal redo button that the introduction of a multiverse has inevitably created. Or, and this is much more pessimistic, it could be a simple side effect of superhero burn-out, specifically a lack of interest in seeing the same type of film under slightly different circumstances again and again and again. 

  Disney may have fallen prey to its success, seeing profits skyrocket with crazy, unexpected, multi-superhero events as seen with praise of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “The Eternals,” and, of course, “Avengers: Endgame.” These types of movies are great. Once in a while. But, in rapid succession as they have been, the increasing need to top the next and the next and the next can get outrageously out of hand very quickly. Support from the audience can peter out, losing some compassion for the MCU at large since so many of its films seem to be the same.

  That being said, this is no slight to the actors. Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Oleson were treasures to this film, and Oleson’s performance in particular only reinforced my ongoing belief that Wanda Maximoff is one of the greatest characters to ever grace the MCU. And America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) is a much welcomed character to Marvel’s line-up, radiating just enough wit, valor, and realism in emotion and action that instantly earned a spot in the audience’s hearts. 

  This movie certainly wasn’t bad. In fact, I am confident that what it has done for the larger picture of the MCU will be monumentous. I think all Marvel fans should see it. Whether or not you would want to see it again is up to you.