Plot: “Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff.” -IMDB
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens with the titular doctor and a young girl running toward a shining object and away from another beast of calamity. How Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) got here and who this girl is are not important at this moment. All that matters is escape. Escape comes as an impossible choice, which forces the doctor to violently wake from a dream. We do not know it, but this is more than a dream.
The girl running for her life is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). She possesses a unique power she cannot control that allows her to jump from one universe to another in the multiverse. If you have watched any film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you know a power such as this will be in high demand by those with less than the best of intentions; enter Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
What makes this film interesting is Wanda’s reasoning for chasing the power across the multiverse. After sacrificing so much, including the love of her life, Wanda longs for a life with her kids; kids she never got to have in this universe, but knows she has in other timelines. So begins an epic battle between an all-powerful witch hellbent on a normal life and Doctor Strange protecting an innocent girl who is just discovering her powers.
What grows from there will require the viewer to hold the storylines of 34 films and television series together in a complex web of battles spanning the galaxy and multiverse. Without a doubt, I cannot imagine someone using this film as their entry point into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With no prior knowledge, you will find yourself royally confused and disappointed.
Luckily for me, I have seen all the movies, but have spent no time with the Disney+ series. This means I have missed important details holding this universe together. This is the birthplace of my frustration with this film and this phase of the MCU (which is feeling like the last season of The Office—we all know it should be over, but we continue to watch).
Following the same premise of Spider-Man: No Way Home, this film forcefully collides universes together to continue broadening the breadth of the universe and the characters in which it contains. I know I am in the minority here, but I am finding this age of never-ending calamity and world building exhausting. This exhaustion is not necessarily the fault of this film, but it is symptomatic of a bigger concern.
This film delivers on an interesting idea and gives a more nuanced villain who longs for something normal. Doctor Strange yearns for something similar in the form of a love that will never be his. This longing is interesting but is not enough to support the weight of an entire film meant as nothing more than a vehicle delivering us to the next stage in the universe.
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