As is now commonplace with almost every new release from Marvel Studios, the days leading up to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness were riddled with fan theories, pre-emptive analysis, and very high expectations.
A wise man once said, “sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectations.” I think this aptly summarizes what’s happening with a lot of the fandom, who once thought the Multiverse of Madness to mean the ‘Multiverse of cameos and intense batshit craziness’ and are now sulking because, apparently, Marvel Studios didn’t play ball.
What we get from the final cut that made it to the cinemas is a story that pays tribute to both the diehard fans of the MCU with its multiple cameos and callbacks (variants, as the learned now call it) and the director that strung all the moving pieces together, this time – Sam Raimi.
When we meet Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) here, everything seems to be going well for him. Real-life has the regular, mundane stuff happening -like attending one’s ex’s wedding- while his dreams are more exciting. Only that we soon learn they aren’t just dreams. Almost as soon as we realize this new concept with the simultaneous introduction of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who I think was awesome and is a welcome addition to the MCU, the action just won’t stop coming.
One of the best things going for this movie, apart from the abundance of magical spells and runes flying all over the place, is the horror elements brought to life by genre maestro Sam Raimi. In case you didn’t know, this isn’t Raimi’s first foray into the world of superheroes. He directed the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy (for Marvel Studios) in the early 2000s and with classics like Evil Dead (1981) and Drag Me to Hell (2009) also under his belt, he’s well-versed in the art of horror. We see these vast experiences come together in sweet, scary harmony in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in a way that feels fresh to the MCU, stretching the limits of what’s an acceptable PG-13 movie in this present time.
But if ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is so beautiful, why then are some people complaining?
It’s simple – they had really, really high expectations.
I understand surmising a myriad of possibilities into the simple phrase above feels too easy, so I’ll stretch it out a little more.
After closing out the Infinity saga with Avengers: Endgame, fans, naturally, wanted more, and Kevin Feige and the rest of Marvel Studios knew this. It’s only natural that they’d offer something to make Thanos and the Infinity Saga look like child’s play and so… ENTER THE MULTIVERSE. With this new direction and countless teasing from projects like Loki, What If…?, and, most recently, Spider-Man: No Way Home, comes a fandom that is now super-charged and very eager to get to the crux of it all. And if you dangle a movie subtitled In The Multiverse of Madness before them, it’s not far-fetched to think they’d have really high expectations.
But like another wise man once said, “reality is often disappointing.”
There’s also the sect of people annoyed about the direction Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes with Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), with most of this condemnation going to the creative decision to focus on Wanda as much as the movie did. I understand – after all, it’s Doctor Strange’s name in the title. But here’s the thing, The Multiverse of Madness is as much Wanda’s story as it is Doctor Strange’s – if not arguably more- and we’ve known this was going to be the case since WandaVision concluded its run in February 2021. That means enough time to manage said expectations some more. This movie does a good job wrapping up Wanda’s arc from her titular Disney+ series and leaves the character feeling a little fresh for a potential new chapter.
I truly don’t think Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness deserves all the hate it’s been getting for choosing to tell a self-contained multiversal story, rather than an explosive one we definitely know the current MCU phase-4 is building towards; it’s the same way I’m sympathetic to fans who had their high hopes crushed. Could the movie have been better than what we got? Of course, it could’ve; there’s always room for improvement. But I believe this is an entertaining MCU adventure with enough new energy in it that’s worthwhile.
If there was a middle ground to meet, I’d say it’s one where fans can continue to trust the MCU’s working process as we’ve done over the last 14 years, better manage our expectations, and have fun as we tag along for upcoming multiversal adventures. — Arinze Talius Dike
Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness is a unique and refreshing cinematic experience summoned from the dark pages of horror by the magic of Sam Raimi’s hoary wand.
The plight of unsated fans is clearly down to Marvel falling victim to their own high standards. But prior to the culmination of the MCU phase 3 — the end of the Infinity Saga — this would have earned a solid near-5-star rating from these same begrudged fans.
However, there’s now a recurring weakness in these MCU phase 4 movies and TV series; too many unnecessary stories and the absence of a villainy villain.
Candidly, the feeling that Kevin Feige and the once creative geniuses at Marvel might be slightly running out of ideas, is becoming palpable.
Thankfully, there are still a couple of upcoming features left to save name, as we delve depper into this multiversal saga. Would the fans be anxiously anticipating those fixes? I’d say: “most definitely.” — Dominic Okolie