Multiverse of Madness evolves the tone of Marvel in general while advancing the psychedelic visual style of the original film, it's just such a shame that it fails every character that isn't Doctor Steven Strange, and there's not much I can say about it because everything about it is a secret. What's more worth talking about here is the way that Marvel has tried to bulletproof its franchise against critical discussion by pumping each new release with more and more surprises that no one can talk about.
Doctor Strange throws out things that we're not allowed to talk about within the first five minutes and weaves them inextricably throughout the plot. There are whole campaigns about not sharing spoilers about the movie. Don't ruin other people's experience. And on the surface, I agree entirely with the concept. Experiences are precious and you should be able to enjoy a story on your own terms. I'm not even upset by the inability to talk about spoilers in general. It's just in specific when it becomes so integral to the experience that I feel put upon. Because you can't even talk about it without ruining it for anyone.
This is an especially weird strategy to take, too, because Multiverse of Madness on the whole is an enjoyable experience filled with the exact type of fan service that people following along with Marvel passionately gobble up ravenously.
Without any plot details, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is really about Doctor Steven Strange realizing that he has always wrestled with working with other people. He is confronted with the countless ways in which his own ego has cut him off even from the people he wanted to have in his life. It's funny, then, that the plot itself sacrifices all of the supporting characters around Doctor Strange to be used as pillars for his own character arc. It's a strange experience to have the movie do the very thing that the character within it is supposed to be growing out of.
The fact that all of those characters are women feels like too big of a coincidence to ignore. Throughout the film, there's this context of the power of women that is admirable in an academic sense. The film puts women front in center in his personal arc. They're highlighted in his adventures as he travels with America Chavez through the multiverse, the other superheroes who cameo are often strong female characters, and in the larger plot there are some driving motivations that are inextricable from womanhood. All of this should be good, it should feel triumphant.
Unfortunately, it all rings incredibly hollow. These characters are cast aside, or used as props for Doctor Steven Strange to push them forward, or worse, twisted to be used merely as plot devices directly counter to their historical character growth when they have previously been in the series. The co-starring character, America Chavez, acts as a protege to Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness, and at the peak of her own personal moment of growth and triumph, she has to look back to him for more. There's worse, but I can't talk about it without spoilers.
This all sounds very negative, which is unfair. These are frustrations from someone who feels that something good was held back from being great by a few poor but very pointedly felt decisions. Director Sam Raimi has brought a great feeling of horror to the Marve universe. That's particularly good because it generally means that Marvel can expand to other genres besides superhero comedies. This, after things like Wanda Vision, is a step toward getting dramas, thrillers, real science fiction, or just anything. For all the wonderful things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done, its biggest crime to date is feeling like too much of the same thing.
In addition to pushing Marvel forward in tone, the film also continues to build on the psychedelic visuals that defined the original. I eat this shit up with a spoon. Give me more. Turn them into cartoons. Have them bring brooms and mops to life to fight. Turn everyone to paint. This is what I came in for and Doctor Strange delivered.
After everything was said and done I sat in the theater after having enjoyed the ride. The film had been fun, it had been creative, it had given me fan service. However, I sat there feeling like something was missing like the whole experience was hollow. Maybe you won't be able to put words to it, and maybe you won't feel it at all. The ways I was let down were so peripheral that I didn't even notice them until I said out loud that something felt wrong. I hope future films do better. I hope that they give some of these other characters something better. Using all of the women in the film as props for the main man is just a little too on-brand at this point and Marvel needs to do better.
|Final Verdict:||Visually delightful and filled with little surprises despite ultimately feeling hollow.|