A multiverse of disappointment

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” falls flat


Fair use from Marvel Studios

Maren Wilsey

I went into the theaters to see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with extremely high hopes. It still pains me to say that I was severely let down by the movie. The two biggest selling points were a continuation of Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) cliffhanger at the end of “Wandavision” as well as the explicit explanation of the multiverse. Neither selling point was delivered on in the end. 

One of the focal points of Marvel’s Phase 4 has been around the concept of the multiverse. Nearly all of their recent projects have had some reference to it. Naturally most people assumed this movie would finally give viewers a full explanation of what it was and how it would be used as a plot device moving forward. However, it seemed like it left more questions than answers. 

Rather than exploring how the multiverse works, it seemed like the producers used it more like a new and exciting backdrop for the rest of the movie’s plot. It also seemed like an excuse to force in a handful of cameos that ended up all getting killed off within minutes of their introduction. While it does mean there’s confirmation of X-Men in the MCU, the cameos seemed more like they were to satisfy fan theories than actually move the story along. 

On a more technical level, both the CGI and cinematography of the movie were also letdowns. With plenty of monsters and metaphysical elements, the movie relied heavily on CGI. For such a big-budget Marvel project, it feels like they should’ve been able to execute these more realistically. Additionally a lot of the camerawork was very, for lack of a better word, cringey. There were many shots from weird angles and almost comically bad editing at times. Many scenes appeared to have been shot from GoPro-like angles, or point-of-view shots from inside or near various objects in the scenes. It created a weird experience as a viewer — almost like  unintentionally breaking the fourth wall. Other times the camera would spin or distort the picture — an effect that was very dizzying and unpleasant to watch. Overall the indiscriminate way these shots were thrown in created a very inconsistent visual experience that left me confused about the intentions of these choices. 

Onto one of my biggest issues with the film — Wanda’s storyline. After the huge success of “Wandavision,” I had very high hopes for her future in the MCU. The show went very in-depth emotionally, in a way Marvel hadn’t ever done previously. Wanda seemed to be one of the most complex and fleshed out characters so far. After all this, it seemed natural to assume they would continue to incorporate her complexities into later appearances. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. This version of Wanda had just one trait; she would do literally anything to be with her children. She had become just another boring Marvel villain. Her motivations were unique, but the execution was redundant. 

On the topic of characters, the titular character himself was uninspiring. It’s nothing new for Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to be arrogant and self-absorbed, but this film took it to a whole new level. There was never a point where I ever felt myself rooting for him. The romantic aspect of the storyline was especially painful to endure. I can only hope that with the conclusion of this film he finally will actually leave Christine (Rachel McAdams) alone. 

All that said, there were some upsides to this film. While the technical visuals and editing were a bit unappealing, the actual setting and visuals themselves were enjoyable to watch. My particular favorite was a sequence when Dr. Strange and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) were falling through a portal through hundreds of universes each with their own crazy visuals — one where everything was paint, or where it was all animated. Another standout was a scene that took place inside the hijacked mind of a Wanda from an alternate universe. The alternate Wanda was trapped under a pile of debris with Professor X while villain Wanda approached through a thick cloud of red smoke, only to leap out with a very effective jumpscare to snap the neck of the Professor.

Speaking of of jumpscares, another aspect I liked was the horror angle they took. The movie incorporated lots of very dark parts, including intense gore and even reanimated corpses. In the context of this movie, it worked very well and it helped to emphasize not only how far gone Wanda was, but eventually Strange as well. 

A few of the other things I liked were the character of America Chevez. She didn’t play nearly as big a role as I anticipated, serving as more of a MacGuffin rather than a central part of the story. However, since this was just her first introduction to the MCU, I’m sure she’ll play a more interesting part in the future. 

All in all, I felt the movie was a significant letdown. Being such a widely anticipated film, the expectations were high — too high. Because of this it may have been doomed from the start. Nevertheless, unless you’re a hardcore Marvel fan, I don’t think this movie is worth your time. 


“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:” ★★☆☆☆