DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022) -A THRILLING EXPLORATION OF THE MULTIVERSE IN MARVEL’S LATEST OFFERING

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a 2022 American superhero film is the sequel to Doctor Strange (2016) and the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Sam Raimi and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, alongside Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Rachel McAdams. It is one of the main films in the second phase of the MCU post-events of Endgame.

This instance of Doctor Strange however, seems more like a film dedicated to the Scarlet Witch rather than Doctor Strange himself. The movie begins with America Chavez and a version of Stephen Strange being chased by a demon in the space between universes while searching for the Book of Vishanti. Strange is killed and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that transports herself and Strange’s corpse to Earth-616, where that universe’s version of Strange rescues Chavez from another demon with help from the Sorcerer Supreme, Wong. Chavez explains that the beings are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the multiverse.

Recognizing witchcraft runes, Strange goes to consult with Wanda Maximoff for help but realizes that she is responsible for the attacks. After acquiring the Darkhold and becoming the Scarlet Witch, Maximoff believes that controlling Chavez’s powers will allow her to reunite with Billy and Tommy, the children she created during her time in Westview (In WandaVision). When Strange refuses to surrender Chavez, Maximoff attacks Kamar-Taj, killing many sorcerers. Chavez accidentally transports herself and Strange to Earth-838 while Maximoff uses the Darkhold to “dream-walk”, taking control of her Earth-838 counterpart, who lives a suburban life with her own Billy and Tommy. A surviving sorceress sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold and break the dream-walk. Enraged, Maximoff forces Wong to lead her to Mount Wundagore, the source of the Darkhold’s power, to reestablish the dream-walk.

While searching for help, Strange and Chavez are apprehended by Earth-838’s Sorcerer Supreme, Karl Mordo, and brought before the Illuminati, a group consisting of Mordo, Peggy Carter (an alternate of Captain America), Blackagar Boltagon, Maria Rambeau (an alternate for Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel), Reed Richards (interesting to Jim from The Office showing up), and Charles Xavier (for a potential crossover with the X-Men franchise). They explain that through reckless use of their universe’s Darkhold in an attempt to defeat Thanos, Earth-838’s Strange triggered a universe-destroying “incursion”. After defeating Thanos, the Illuminati executed their Strange to prevent him from causing more harm. Mordo believes that Earth-616’s Strange is similarly dangerous, but Maximoff reestablishes her dream-walk at Mount Wundagore and arrives in her Earth-838 counterpart’s body before they can pass judgment. She kills all of the Illuminati except Mordo, whom Strange subdues before fleeing with Chavez. The two escape with help from the Earth-838 counterpart of Strange’s ex-fiancé, Christine Palmer, a scientist working with the Illuminati.

Strange, Chavez, and Palmer enter the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti, which is the antithesis to the Darkhold, but Maximoff appears and destroys it. She then takes over Chavez’s mind, using her powers to send the others to an incursion-destroyed universe. Strange defeats the destroyed universe’s Strange, who has been corrupted by his universe’s Darkhold, and uses it to dream-walk into the body of his deceased counterpart on Earth-616. With Wong’s help, Strange saves Chavez from Maximoff as she tries to take Chavez’s powers, and encourages Chavez to use her abilities. She transports Maximoff to Earth-838, where she sees Billy and Tommy recoil from her in fear while crying for their real mother. Maximoff relents and uses her powers to bring down Mount Wundagore, simultaneously destroying all copies of the Darkhold throughout the multiverse and apparently sacrificing herself in the process. Chavez returns Strange and Palmer to their respective universes.

Sometime later, Kamar-Taj is repaired and the surviving sorcerers, joined by Chavez, continue training. Strange develops a third eye as a result of using the Darkhold and dream-walking into a corpse. In a mid-credits scene, Strange is approached by a sorceress who warns him that his actions have triggered an incursion that he must help fix. Strange follows her into the Dark Dimension.

Now all in all, this instance of Doctor Strange is entertaining – it also has some real moments of horror which were missing from the MCU and this seems like a movie wanting itself to be taken seriously. However, the true driver of the movie is Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch – who shines in both the emotional moments as well as the terrifying moments. She along with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow have been the stand-out female casting within the MCU and are perfect examples of good casting decisions. Brie Larson as Captain Marvel was dreadful however and the less we see of her the better. Anyways, coming back to the Scarlet Witch, who finally get to see exploring the full extent of her powers – Elizabeth Olsen truly proves she can deliver as both a Superhero and a Supervillain.

The Illuminati were dreadful though being destroyed by the Scarlet Witch in a matter of seconds. But it was interesting to see a different take on the superheroes we love so much in the MCU. Wong is brilliant as the sorcerer supreme as always but seems to always lean more towards comic relief than as a serious performer. Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer is acceptable if nothing more. America Chavez is nothing great and to be honest could be played by just about any teenager. The concept of the multiverse which is explored in this movie is fascinating and would be enjoyable albeit tad confusing if brought up in the upcoming Marvel movies. Now, at last we come to Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. I don’t know why but he still seems like a supporting character in this movie even though the movie is solely about him. Perhaps, the fact that the Scarlet Witch outshines him in every exchange or even Wong when it comes to humor. Hopefully a more individualistic movie would allow us to see Doctor Strange in his element once again but I guess it can’t get more individualistic than a movie bearing the character’s name.

JAY’S VERDICT

Be prepared to be entertained in this brilliant follow-up to Spider-Man No Way Home by Marvel – two entertaining movies back-to-back seems to hint that the future of MCU is in good hands.

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