It was thought that the Marvel Universe was Disney's only shining light, but, following a string of failures in the theaters as well as the streaming service Disney+, the house that Tony Stark built is beginning to look shabby and those who are maintaining it do not have the desire to do so well.
Over the weekend, I watched the most recent Marvel film Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Strange seems to be a person that I generally like and, despite a string of disappointments, I hoped that due to the good Doctor being an early-phase hero that they would at least inject some thought into the tale. At the end however, both me and my spouse left the theater in a state of confusion about what to think.
Without going into spoilers, I'll just admit that this isn't exactly an awful film per se and yet, despite all its sounds and bells, the film is still disappointing. Let me start with the good and then go over the negative.
If you're a huge Sam Raimi fan, then I've got some good news. There's a good chance you'll be getting a Sam Raimi film.
Many of you have been Raimi lovers that go up to the Evil Dead series with Bruce Campbell. Perhaps you're Spider-Man fanatics from the Toby Maguire era. If you love his films, then you'll be satisfied. The style he has developed for superhero movies is paired with his horror style in a way that is much more appealing than I imagined it to be. The Raimi humor is present; however, as are the sudden terrors and morbid death scenes. Certain scenes caught me by surprise, considering that at the back of my mind I was watching a film by Disney and Marvel.
In any other situation, I would have pondered whether these scenes were needed, however Raimi did decide to create this as a horror film within the MCU and that's why he was successful in his Raimi style.
In this film, which is a play on the multiverse, you'll be able to see lots of new characters with some very pleasant surprises. If you watched superhero films during the 90s' and beyond, you'll be in for a fun time. Additionally, a long-teased character that fans were wanting to see finally has made an appearance. The person who plays him is a major point for Marvel as it's evident that they were listening to the fans in some way.
Additionally, I thought that the conclusion was clever. Instead of having a superhero beat the villain by fighting harder, this movie uses a different strategy which, to my mind, worked well for the villain. Marvel films seem to tend to put individuals with similar abilities up against each other and have them battle. In this film, the antagonist is defeated in a completely different manner.
The visual effects are amazing. Marvel's team has surpassed themselves with their mind-bending CGI.
Now, let's get to the negative.
My biggest issue with this film is the way it doesn't appear to be an actual Doctor Strange flick, it appears to be WandaVision 1.5.
Without going into too much detail, the main antagonist in the movie is Wanda Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch) and her antagonist storyline picks up right the place it left off in the conclusion of the Disney+ series, a singular woman with incredible power who lost two sons, who were never there in the first place. In a desperate search for them, she is drawn to the MCU's book of the damned, hoping to find them in a different universe. The book has a corrosive influence on everyone who reads it which turns Maximoff into a murderous witch.
All the while, Strange is attempting to assist America Chavez, a girl who has the ability to leap between worlds in the multiverse. After Maximoff discovers the existence of America Chavez, she starts a multiverse game of cat and mouse. Even though he gets the most screen time, Strange is a minor character. The heart of the plot is that of Maximoff's and it's as if we're experiencing the same tempo we experienced in the show WandaVision. If Elizabeth Olsen wasn't such an excellent actor, I wouldn't have felt as compelled to pay attention.
As a negative multiverse, it is an inscrutable presence within the MCU and makes it busy with brand new concepts, franchises, and characters being thrown at viewers in a short time. It reduces the fun and intrigue of the MCU and turns the fun from a thrilling journey to a tiresome chaos of plot threads that you need to keep up to date with the latest developments. While it's an integral aspect of the story, it is a drag on the story as a whole.
Finally, it's not a Disney film without some kind of message. America Chavez is LGBT and they want you to be aware of this. “Love is love” is written on her jacket in Spanish and, if you didn’t understand the concept she was LGBT, they gave the actress an LGBT pin which is prominent in the movie. Furthermore, it's revealed that her mother was a lesbian in a flashback.
It's not exactly natural, and it appears more as an “look at how woke we are” moment from Disney which does not contribute to the story. The pin, specifically, seems more like violating the “show don't tell” rule of filmmaking. Although no one will ever make a comment regarding the garment or its pin, it's there.
Furthermore, the film is a good pusher on the “M-She-U” narrative. Men are evidently outnumbered by stronger females, and it's females who do what's needed to move the story along. Women are often the last to be seen at the conclusion of any battle. It's almost as if they were surprised that they didn't just retire Cumberbatch and take him over with a female counterpart, like the case with Captain America.
In the end, I'd say that it's not a bad movie but for those curious about exactly what MCU is doing in the future, you wouldn’t be wrong to to watch this at home. The sound and visuals in the theater are fantastic, however, as a Marvel entry it's not the strongest. The days of solid Marvel movies are past us.
I'm still hopeful that Thor: Love and Thunder, written by Taika Waititi and featuring Chris Pratt and Hemsworth is worth watching, however I'm left with the feeling that any greatness Waititi can create will be marred by Disney's requirements. I've lost confidence in the company, as has the majority of the western world.
Multiverse was a bit of a seal for me. Disney films, regardless of which genre, will be impacted by Disney's inability to keep politics out of their plot. It's their current job.
Marvel has evolved into a take-it or-leave-it brand.