A comparative, spoiler-free review of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

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Grace Ainger and Zea Karmadi

Marvel’s newest phase four film, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” has finally hit theaters after months of being delayed. Including Doctor Strange, phase four films and TV shows have been and continue to be highly anticipated by fans for their exhilarating plotlines and exciting new characters. But is phase four living up to its high expectations by fans? Or is it crumbling under the pressure? 

“Multiverse of Madness” centers around Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he travels and discovers more about the multiverse. With the aid of Wong (Benedict Wong), America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), Strange fights off dangerous threats to the fate of the Multiverse. Without revealing plot points, we will dive into our thoughts on how “Multiverse of Madness” lived up to phase four’s expectations or fell short of the bar. 

Gracie’s opinion:

Phase four itself has been defined as “different.” Films full of new and exciting elements and the introduction of Disney+ TV shows have created a different Marvel experience than we’ve ever experienced before. “Multiverse of Madness” is no exception and contributes greatly to the strong success of phase four. Though expectations were wildly high for “Multiverse of Madness,” its fast-paced plotline, low exposition and the use of Wanda’s character led to an exciting, action packed, different movie that exceeded my expectations.

Because “Multiverse of Madness” is very fast paced and with a smaller runtime than a typical Marvel movie, many felt the plotline was too rushed. I thought it was perfect. Initial exposition that would normally explain the background information and events to the film was cut, allowing plenty of time to dive into the root and central problem of the story. I was completely immersed in the film with every scene having a clear purpose and connection to the overall story. The movie would have lacked strength and impact if it had slowed down any further. The protagonists and the audience needed to be kept on their toes, constantly wondering what was coming next.

Additionally, how Wanda Maximoff fit into the story of “Multiverse of Madness” contributed greatly to the film’s overall success. In the movie, Wanda is the most compelling aspect of the movie with her complex and emotional storyline complemented by Elizabeth Olsen’s stunning acting. Without revealing anything about her place in the movie, her character kept the audience constantly invested and empathetic towards her situation. In a movie supposedly centered around Doctor Strange, the Scarlet Witch stole the screen time and time again.

In the end, “Multiverse of Madness” was an action packed, non-stop movie that provided insight into Wanda’s character and left me excited for what else is to come in phase four. Though the movie requires lots of prior knowledge of the MCU’s multiversal projects, it’s an enjoyable movie that meets the high expectations of phase four.

 

Zea’s opinion:

Although this may be a rather controversial (re: unpopular) opinion, it must be said: “Multiverse of Madness” was just okay, but that is okay, too. The MCU franchise will hardly suffer for having a movie that is not as loud-spoken as some of its more recent works, like “Multiverse of Madness” multiversal movie sibling, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” 

In the grander scheme of the Phase Four picture, the “Multiverse of Madness” performance actually works to reveal some of the MCU’s recent marketing flaws. Upon closer inspection, we can also get into why phase four is actually falling a bit flat compared to its predecessor, the Infinity Saga, which consisted of phases one, two, and three. Note that this is a spoiler-free review, and it can remain a spoiler-free review because in the end, Marvel revealed too much in the trailers. 

From foreshadowing to Wanda’s overarching role (we still support women’s rights and/or wrongs in this household) to the presence of Marvel comics’ Illuminati to Captain Carter, “Multiverse of Madness” trailers actually revealed all of the biggest plot twists and cameos before you even step foot into the theater. Since we rightfully live with the established notion that trailers are supposed to just be a glimpse of what you’ll get from the movie itself, expectations were high – we expected to see more than what we already knew. 

But we did not. What you saw in the trailers was what you got. Nothing more, nothing less. 

With the movie’s runtime of just barely over two hours, though, it is actually a good thing that director Sam Raimi did not try to cram even more into the narrative. “Multiverse of Madness” is just another puzzle piece to the final image of phase four. 

But after the movie’s setup via “WandaVision,” “No Way Home” and even “Loki” fans are left to wonder: where exactly are we supposed to be going with this whole multiverse thing? How are all of these things supposed to come together? 

Unlike with the Infinity Saga, which established rather early on that its heroes were working towards coming together to defeat Thanos as its main villain, there doesn’t seem to be a similar endgame in mind with phase four. Or at least not one that is clear to the fans. And although “Multiverse of Madness” certainly isn’t the MCU’s worst film to date (not even close, as it was still a riveting journey to go on), it is a bit of a letdown after being held for months in the suspense that unanswered questions would finally be answered. 

Seriously, where are we going with phase four? Are we left to just ponder an infinite amount of possibilities in the infinite multiverse?