Film Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

It’s been quite some time since I watched the premiere and I just rewatched it since the film is now available on Disney+. To sum it up I think it’s like watching one season of Marvel’s What If..? in one feature film, and the film is a live action one. Also put some horror elements in it. There you go, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (MoM).

Inclusivity, the Good or Just for Marketing

The more I consume western products of motion pictures, whether distributed the old fashioned way in cinema or digital ones, the more I see inclusivity in them. There was a time that I enjoyed watching CW shows, waiting for this Monday to see the stories revolving around one hero, and the other days for another. It’s not recently but not so distant either. But around that time I noticed that show runners and filmmakers for many series/films were trying to tell not just for the “mainstream”. It’s starting to touch things that moslem audience might relate to, or people of colour, Asians, and also LGBTQ+ community. 

At first sight, a wider range of stories might be good for audiences but actually not really. The more you see it, the more you realise that some or most of them feel forced to just be there. They tell a story of a relationship of a gay couple just for the sake of “well here it is, we have one”. Certainly not a pure narrative of humans that have life. 

This is what we’ve seen on Doctor Strange MoM. In the very first sequence, Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is at Christine’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding. We see quite a range of people, Asians (including Indian alike), black people, women with hijab, and so on so forth, you name it. Also don’t forget about lesbian parents of America Chavez Still that made Saudi banned the film. Per Marvel doesn’t want to censor / trimm those parts.

Doctor Strange at Christine’s Wedding (Disney/Marvel Studios)

I don’t see the context of all of them. It seems to be back to the marketing trap hole that was set up by western motion picture makers. You could say maybe they are just Christine’s invitees, since she is a doctor that might have many associates. Or maybe his husband’s friends. Unfortunately it’s just in the realm of possibilities for now.

The only inclusives that feel real so far in the MCU is just what Shang-Chi (2021) and Ms. Marvel (2022) achieve. We could argue that it’s not a film or a series that tells inclusivity but that it is the inclusivity itself. But that’s that. We need to accept that it’s in a good direction not to just tell the world in a perspective of what they call white (American) guy. Now let’s get back to Doctor Strange MoM again.

Classic MCU

Two things that I want to highlight of the classics from MCU in this film are; first the villains are always not a bad guy; and second whoever the directors/writers are, they can’t make one contained storyline. First of all, don’t get me wrong about the story part. I think this film can be enjoyed no matter if you had watched the first Doctor Strange film  (2016), WandaVision series (2021), or any other MCU slates that have both Doctor Strange or Scarlet Witch in it. Sam Raimi as the director gives us the amount of context that’s just right for Marvel fans or anyone who just wants to watch Doctor Strange MoM.

Sadly we always get to see (or want to see) what’s next in the form of after credits scenes. It’s good that Kevin Feige and co always think about the bigger picture. Like after this one, we should move on to the next. Yet MCU has been running for ~14 years. One slip can lead this to The Amazing Spider-Man franchise that just setting up for the next, failed, then replaced by Tom Holland’s version. (BTW I’m still waiting for the third film Andrew Garfield deserves)

Doctor Strange using magic (Disney/Marvel Studios)

For the villain of this film, without giving you any spoilers, you actually can get who from the trailers. In the end we feel (or are forced to feel) relatable to the villain. The villain has a good intention but not the execution. Can’t we get a one straight up evil man/woman/any beings that are just bad. No good intention for the world to be better. No personal relationship involved. Just something the bad guys do.

[possible spoiler, skip to the next section if you haven’t watched]

It is okay that at the end of the film, she redeems herself by destroying all of the Darkholds throughout the multiverses and burying herself in the process. But maybe before all of these events and trying to get America Chavez’s power, I hope Wanda / Scarlet Witch gets the further exploration that she deserves before Doctor Strange MoM.

If this is really the end for her (for now), I think one stand-alone Scarlet Witch film or a mini-series of just telling her exploring the Darkhold. Let’s say she is sick, and let her be, then seeing her wreaking havoc somewhere would be a good demonstration of what power that she really holds. 

While these seem interesting, maybe Marvel Studios just serves what they can for now. They might think of House of M adaptation too but keep it because there are no mutants in the 616—the main MCU (yet). The future is full of possibilities though. I can’t help but think that Wanda is not dead yet but in a state like hibernation or such. The film doesn’t confirm in any way that she’s really deceased other than putting herself under some rubbles.

Almost Horror

The fact that people are hyping up Doctor Strange MoM to be Marvels Studios’ first horror film, actually it isn’t. This might be because Sam Raimi is known for his work such as The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Darkman other than adapting the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to the big screen for the first time. I remember that after the premier, while exiting the cinema, I heard people talking about how this film is scarier than Kuntilanak 3 (2022)—an Indonesian horror film that was released some days/weeks before Doctor Strange MoM. Doctor Strange MoM itself has horror vibes on some of its scenes but unfortunately it’s just almost there. 

A hand coming out of a reflection (Disney/Marvel Studios)

It’s not on the level of a “real” horror film like Kuntilanak but still better than The New Mutants (2020)—a mutants film without the X-Men in it that was marketed as a horror film. Now that the 21st Century Fox acquisition is done, I can only wonder what if The New Mutants will have a new life under Marvel Studios in the future. It might be the first MCU’s horror film that we are longing for.

What’s Next

Now that MCU is utilising the multiverse for its story to tell for the years to come. There are some things I’d like Marvel Studios explore after watching Doctor Strange MoM. First, the power of America that seems when she travels accidentally, she always makes a portal to a specific building in New York. I note that at the start of the film she portals to 616, 838 where Illuminati resides, and when she portals Doctor Strange and 838 Christine to a universe that is being destroyed by an incursion.

For the second, I really want to put it here too but it’s in the spoiler-y realm. The main thing is, it involves mutants in the storyline. So, I’d just put the details up in the spoiler section. 

The third, I’d love to see more about 838’s Illuminati. We already know that X-Men 97 is in the work. For those of you that might not be familiar, this 97 title is supposed to be a sequel of the 92 animation series. So, there is a chance there will be some glimpses of the Illuminati here and there. Considering we have the X-Men 92 Professor X version in Doctor Strange MoM 838 universe and when he shows up the music theme is a 92 one that is remade for the next 97 sequel.

The last and somehow the least for me, of course we are waiting for what’s coming next after the very last scene of this film and the famous MCU’s after credit scene. Let’s hope in this film, Marvel Studios would just tell a Doctor Strange story like the first entry and not everyone else’s.

616 Dr Strange and 838 Christine (Disney/Marvel Studios)

I love you in every universe.

Doctor Stephen Strange

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