Doctor Strange 2: Multiverse Boogaloo!

We bid you welcome to The Wages Of Cinema collaboreview for Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness! Do you need to see WandaVision before Dr. Strange 2? If you don’t have Disney+ like our control group, Andrew, scope out this review first. I’m dropping additional thoughts on the series afterwards anyway.

Is there even a point to this now that Everything Everywhere All At Once exists? Its international titles are on point. I would’ve gone with Dr. Strangemom, Or How I Stopped Worrying & Learned To Love The Multiverse. I’m not going to argue with Jamie Lee Curtis!

Can we live in the altverse where The CW gives Legends Of Tomorrow the final season it deserves? Is this sequel actually about Dr. Strange, or is he merely filler betwixt multiverse cameos? Does DSITMOM distract from thinking about Natalie Portman’s arms in Thor: Love & Thunder? Grab a popcorn cube & prepare for SPOILERS! Don’t even read the tags if you want to be surprised by cameos.

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With the director of the original Doctor Strange that stole its city bending powers from Crocodile Dundee not helming the sequel, Sam Raimi returns to comic book films in particular & theatrical movies in general! Raimi gets to continue his love for Steve Ditko here. (Help him fund Spider-Man 4 with iTunes gift cards!) This is filled with Raimi’s visual flourishes that keep the magic kooky & the surprisingly large volume of death grisly. He brings frequent collaborators Bruce Campbell & Danny Elfman. (Tell me if you’ve spotted Ted Raimi & the Oldsmobile.)

This was originally supposed to premiere before the Ditko duo’s team up in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but the schedule got rejiggered. After the director change, the screenplay was overhauled by Loki’s showrunner, Michael Waldron. It was in production before Wandavision aired, so Raimi couldn’t have watched the final version of the series. Despite the behind the scenes shake-ups, the end result exceeded my expectations.

The trailers were very ambiguous as to what role Scarlet Witch would play. In her first scene, however, it’s clear she’s the villainess. Rather than learn from her Wandavision mistakes, The Darkhold convinced her to double down. Tough luck to any fans hoping she’d get a redemption arc. She’s gone baby mad! Wanda wants to steal America Chavez’s multiverse traveling powers to get to a dimension where Tommy & Billy exist. Woe betides anyone who stands in her way! Her bodycount escalated quickly all because they wouldn’t let her murder one teenager. It’s a very simple yet understandable scheme. Strange tries to find The Book Of The Vishanti to counter her.

Elizabeth Olsen is great as the indomitable obsessed anti-heroine. Reality-warping is a scarier skillset for a supervillainess. Wanda Maximoff is the most powerful Avenger not the strongest Avenger, although she could make herself both. She’s breaking all the rules in an attempt to avoid any further family loss. Although the film provides exposition, it’s a richer emotional journey if you’ve seen her Disney+ series. It’s a refreshingly bold move to make her so terrifying. Having the enemy be a well established character leaves more screentime to devote to the plot & interdimensional antics. On the other paw, it is a bit sexist to vilify her rather than the guy who’s headlined his own title for decades. Thankfully this is a superior movie about a superheroine breaking bad in all regards compared to Dark Phoenix.

If Wanda wasn’t being influenced by Cthon via The Darkhold, she could’ve solved her problem without being rash & murderous. (This movie establishes every book format of The Darkhold is a copy of the original, so debates about which reality Agents Of SHIELD is set in may resume.) Had she reunited with the revived Vision, perhaps he could’ve counseled her away from this path & she could’ve colorized him. Since she has plenty of experience manipulating minds, she could’ve just influenced America Chavez to come to her instead of conjuring very conspicuous monsters to chase her. Strange points out that she’d be killing a variant of herself & stealing her twins. Wanda could avoid this by having America deposit her in a dimension where her boys are motherless. If Wanda befriended America, she could have access to her portal powers for emergencies without killing her for them. But then the movie wouldn’t happen!

ScarletWitch_Darkhold

Holding Wanda Maximoff accountable for her crimes would only interfere with the process of healing & reconciliation.

Wanda’s quest makes a great contrast to Stephen’s arc. While she’s selfish about her family, he breaks the rules for a more universal altruism. Both are control freaks with different objectives. So it’s a case of the ends justifying the means morality. Or do the means justify the ends since his “cheating” hasn’t involved a callous massacre? By insisting on saving everybody else, however, Strange botched his chance at finding happiness with Dr. Christine Palmer. If both let others help them, they wouldn’t need to bear their burdens alone.

Scarlet Witch, Christine Palmer, the multiverse, & America Chavez especially aren’t key components of Doctor Strange’s source material mythos. Fortunately it doesn’t feel like the eponymous character is a mere guest star in his own film. While Olsen’s is the more dynamic showcase, Benedict Cumberbatch puts in the work to hold everything together with his flawed character. Instead of bringing back Peter Hooten & Jeffrey Combs for nostalgia, Cumberbatch plays all four variations.

America Chavez’s jean jacket is gay. If she was wearing a denim shirt, her name would be Canada Chavez. They refuse to outright confirm she’s a lesbian though. The big thing that got it banned in Saudi Arabia is her having two moms. At least Eternals showed Phastos was unambiguously gay. There’s an argument to be made she got whitewashed. (I haven’t read much with her, so I’m uncertain if she’s supposed to be Afro-Latin like Sunspot & Dr. Cecelia Reyes.) She’s definitely not as badass or powerful as her comics counterpart, which will chagrin her pre-existing fans. It’s not Xochitl Gomez’s fault she’s written as a walking plot device in need of rescuing.

Gargantos sure does look like Shuma-Gorath. While the name was fist used in “The Curse of the Golden Skull” by Robert E. Howard, Marvel fleshed it out beyond a name. The name was swapped to avoid negotiations with Heroic Signatures, although the timing is peculiar since Marvel reacquired the Conan comics license from them a few years ago. There didn’t appear to be an issue with using the names in video games while Marvel’s license lapsed either. It’s a canny solution, it’s not as if Disney couldn’t afford to license the name for the movie. Gargantos is a very obscure Namor foe that looks like a deflated version of the Satanic cycloptic cephalopod. All of this is academic because neither name is uttered in the movie. Rather than being Marvel’s Cthulhu expy, this is just a mortal monster conjured by Wanda.

I was worried that multiverse variant cameos would overshadow Strange, but that’s not the case. Aside from a fun montage, the multiverse isn’t as mad as the title implies. The three altverses have there own discrete segments. The Illuminati foreshadows Secret Wars without being obnoxious. Deadpool doesn’t even drop in! Does insisting dreams are just glimpses into the multiverse rule out Nightmare for next movie? Where’s the altverse with an Ancient One who’s Asian?

Earth-838 Dr. Christine Palmer says Dr. Strange is from Earth-616. (Rachel McAdams was originally going to play more variants.) That’s the universal designation for  mainline Marvel Comics. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was supposed to be be Earth-199999. So now you need to specify whether you’re talking about comics-616 or movie-616. Thanks for making this even more confusing than necessary!

 Much like Helmut Zemo, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) got upgraded to a baron in his second appearance. Dr. Strange was more surprised his name is Karl. He mentioned that his universe’s Mordo literally wants to kill him, although it seemed like Mordo just aloofly left at the end of the first movie. Have the two been secretly battling each other between Strange’s guest appearances in other movies? Or are they waiting until the next movie to pay off Mordo’s anti-magic stance? Since he’s the only surviving member of The Illuminati, the two Mordos could team-up.

Sir Patrick Stewart finally joins the MCU as Ralph Bohner, Sr.! But Stewart promised he was retiring from Professor Charles Xavier with Logan! How dare he sell out for a dumptruck full of Disney bucks! Technically this is a different Professor X with a much cooler hoverchair, so maybe he can keep his integrity on a technicality. Either way he’s the MCU’s first official mutie, not Ursa Major. This variant actually cares about helping people by giving them second chances, a portrayal that’s become sadly rare in the source material.

His maybe more than frenemy, Magneto, doesn’t appear, which is why Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch aren’t Jewish in the MCU. She skips the altverses where Lorna Dane is her sister too. Zaladane isn’t introduced alongside dinosaurs either. Danny DeVito is the best there is at what he does, & what he does isn’t very nice! Why isn’t this Wolverine cameo true?

The most surprising cameo was Black Bolt. Although he was part of The Illuminati in the comics, I didn’t expect Marvel Studios to ever reference its greatest failure. (Now that general audiences are on notice about the multiverse, there’s less reason than ever to snub series not made directly by Marvel Studios aside from pesky contracts. Give us more Cloak & Dagger, The Gifted, & The New Warriors!) Anson Mount reprises his role from the objectively terrible Inhumans series. He’s got a much better costume here. The accursed Mr. Fantastic blew Black Bolt’s element of surprise. Wanda removing his mouth so his supersonic speech blows out the back of his own head was awesome!

I hate Mr. Fantastic, so I was not pleased to see his smug mug in the MCU. John Krasinski didn’t bring any charm to Reed Richards, so that fancast either backfired or was on point. (Does this mean Emily Blunt is doomed to play Sue Storm instead of Moonstone?) At least the beard issue is settled. Thankfully Scarlet Witch unravels him to a molecular level. While the audience inexplicably applauded his introduction, his murder got cheers out of me. Now I forgive all her transgressions! Wanda is welcome in Latveria anytime!

My suspicion that we’d see a live action Captain Carter based on Hayley Atwell’s jacked back proved accurate. The cartoon Captain Carter was definitely taller & swoler than prototypical Peggy Carter, whereas Atwell doesn’t appear noticeably bigger than her co-stars here. Since there’s an infinite multiverse, I reckon that they’re not meant to be the same Peggy anyway. That way “What If…?” season two doesn’t need to worry about her being bisected by her own shield. The Illuminati version has a jetpack to compensate.

Maria Rambeau’s Captain Marvel variant (Lashana Lynch) makes the least impact of The Illuminati. While fans assumed they meant Tom Cruise would be playing Superior Iron Man, the Ultron drones give me Empirikul vibes. Weirdly Wanda didn’t want a new albino robo-boy-toy since she let the last one fly off.

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Ruh-roh, it’s Despero!

Stephen Strange has a unique musical duel with a variant of himself from a universe that’s practically destroyed. At first it seems like it’s going to be the Fauvist colored Strange from “What If…?,” but it can’t be. The multiverse must contain numerous ravaged dimensions so that’s not necessarily a cross-platform continuity error. So that cartoon remains optional viewing.

Despite knowing that it doomed his doppelgänger in at least two dimensions, 616 Strange decides to use The Darkhold to save America. He possess a variant’s corpse in his home dimension to thwart Wanda. (It’s hilarious The Defenders costume counterpart got an overpriced deluxe figure for dying in his debut scene.) Now that’s a plant & payoff! His efforts are stymied by black ooze demons, that he somehow bends to his will. Zombified Strange uses them as a substitute Cloak Of Levitation that looks like it’s made from smoke, ravens, & extra arms.

MCU Doctor Stranger is very similar to modern Batman in that he unilaterally saves the day by unethically cutting his compatriots out of crucial decisions. He rarely faces any consequences for this since he’s DC’s top cash cow. Dr. Strange is a much lower ranked character for Marvel, so he does get criticized for his arrogance. He even learns to grow. Rather than steal Chavez’s power to prevent Wanda from gaining it, he trusts America to stop Wanda herself. When America shows her how monstrous she looks to her altverse family, Scarlet Witch destroys The Darkhold across all dimensions. Strange gives Wong the respect he’s earned as Sorcerer Supreme. (Benedicts Wong remains rock solid despite me barely mentioning him.) Humility is a process. He even stops pining over Christine when he accepts she’s moved on.

The first stinger introduces Clea. It’s about damn time The Dread Dormammu’s niece dropped in! She’s missing the horn hair, but she’s played by Charlize Theron. I would’ve cast her as Carol Danvers or Amora The Enchantress, but this works too. Meanwhile they killed Brother Voodoo’s brother in the first movie to set him up, yet he doesn’t debut.

Michael Stuhlbarg gets high billing for being utterly disposable. He must have the best agent! Despite being a canon character with an ominous name, Dr. Nicodemus West only has a brief scene. It’s sad his two cats died. Maybe he’ll finally be a surprise baddie in the third film?

Rintrah is likewise underused & overdressed. This green alien minotaur wizard is supposed to be a nudist! Now erotic fan art is going to be more comic accurate than the adaptation. He made it onto plenty of merch for not contributing to the story. Bova doesn’t appear in the jaunt to Mount Wundagore.

Despite arguably being the co-lead, Scarlet Witch hasn’t gotten a new Marvel Legends for this film. Her latest costume trades opera gloves for sleeves & even darker red so it’s not a case of her Disney+ toy already filling that niche. Scarlet Witch got a new costume at the climax of Wandavision just so that she wouldn’t wear it in MOM? Her tiara is still pitifully undersized. How long do you reckon it’ll take for Hasbro to announce a Scarlet Witch & non-animated Captain Carter, Maria Rambeau as Captain Marvel, or dead Black Bolt with “I have no mouth, yet I must scream” head two-pack?

I like the original Doctor Strange, but this sequel is a massive upgrade in all regards. Its simple emotional throughline is strong enough to support the extradimensional digressions. Not only did the unspoken rules of its magic appear internally consistent for the most part, the horror bits were gruesomely spooky. The negatives are mostly things that only matter if you’ve read the comics. It’s basically what I wished Moon Knight had been. (The Tourist is a better six episode series about a confused man facing the consequences of his former life than Moon Knight.) It’s not as astounding as EEAAO, but it’s a better film than No Way Home’s nostalgia fest. Hopefully Raimi will return for the next installment. This contains the best stinger since the third first Spider-Man. Pizza Poppa film franchise when?

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Since everybody stans her, here’s the bonus Scarlet Witch section! I spent so much time trying to elegantly crowbar all my assorted comics & Wandavision afterthoughts into an already packed movie review before realizing I could just leave them here.

It’s odd that I don’t recall Black Widow & Scarlet Witch interacting once they became Avengers. Nat could’ve mentored Wanda in being an Eastern European woman overcoming her trauma & transgressions.

The Sokovia Accords are unconstitutional.

Toys spoiled WandaVision years in advance. The MCU just tried way too hard to justify her name. I am a Lady Spooktacular stan.

Wanda Maximoff, Cheryl Blossom, & Love Quinn would be besties in the “My twin brother is dead!” club.

Marvel is desperate for a speedster to replace Quicksilver. They already have Whizzer, Yo-Yo, & Makkari!

Scarlet Witch, Mirror Monarch, & Evil-Lyn chose self-imposed exile rather than make amends for futzing with reality.

Now that we know Wanda was keeping the town’s kids asleep until the twins were born & everyone’s been sharing her nightmares, Westview’s children may need even more therapy than their parents.

Apologize to Agatha Harkness by reading a Kathryn Hahn interview. Will this be the House Of Harkness plot?

Michaela Russell (young Wanda from WandaVision) had an apt Halloween costume.

Whereas Shadowcat phases via quantum tunneling, Vision has to reduce his density to virtually nothing. Therefore his body is most vulnerable in the moments immediately surrounding him becoming intangible.

Wanda & Pietro used to have another sibling, Nuklo, when they were on their second set of parents. This was before Magneto & Polaris.

Wanda could’ve used her powers for good instead of M-Day!

6 thoughts on “Doctor Strange 2: Multiverse Boogaloo!

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