Is it Strange? Or merely Bewildering?

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is arguably more about The Scarlet Witch

Summer Blockbusters are taking over the multiplexes. I enjoy a big, loud studio film but I appreciate the smaller films more. Oddly, a couple of those films have showcased the existence of the Multiverse. I hope you had the chance to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (Daniel KwanDaniel Scheinert) starring the talented Michelle Yeoh. It’s still showing in theaters or you can pay to view it on Amazon Prime. It’ll be useful to compare that light-hearted fantasy made with an “Indy” spirit (and budget) with the latest mega-budget Marvel film.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (Sam Raimi, “Evil Dead”) has been crushing it at the box office the last few weeks. Oddly enough, the little-movie-that-could “Everything Everywhere” had amazing staying power before “Multiverse” arrived. Both have unique stories but one’s a sequel (“Doctor Strange” 2016) that assumes you’ve got a working knowledge of at least three other Marvel films and one television series.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in the TV miniseries, “WandaVision”

Marvel fans seem to love the cross-over of storylines and characters between films. To review “Multiverse of Madness”, I was fortunate to have watched the other films (particularly “Avengers: Endgame“). Watching the movie, I quickly realized that though I had some background on the characters…the lead character was surprisingly, NOT Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr Stephen Strange). The plot revolves around Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch). She sets the action in motion with her deception of Strange and it’s her emotional journey that resonates in the film.

There are some fun cameos with characters from other films making appearances, but that joy is quickly snuffed. There’s some humor but it’s mostly snide remarks and witty banter. The plot is a psychological mind-bender exploring how one woman’s grief nearly destroyed a town and could now destroy the universe. The depth of Wanda’s grief is best explored through the television series “WandaVision” (Disney+). Yes, you can understand “Multiverse of Madness” without having seen the series, but you’ll find the many references to the plot of “WandaVision” bewildering.

In “WandaVision” (Matt Shakman), faux tv sitcoms are broadcast from a town under Wanda’s power as a way for her to process her grief over losing her love, Vision (Paul Bettany). She imprisons a town and turns the populace into puppets for her sitcom. The audience only grows to understand that she’s not the hero in this charade when Vision begins to question his reality. Wanda is a broken creature tormenting others, perhaps unwittingly, but unable to stop or relent in her dementia.

Doctor Strange seeks Wanda out in “Multiverse of Madness” because she’s spent time traveling in the multiverse and he hopes she’ll help him close the portals between the worlds. It’s quickly revealed that it’s Wanda that’s chasing the young character, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) Strange is trying to protect. Wanda hopes to use America’s power to Multiverse travel. In one version of the Multiverse, there’s a Wanda Maximoff that still has the children that she’s created with Vision (the version of Vision she also created). Wanda is willing to steal the power of a young woman (killing her) and possibly fracture the Multiverse for good to be with her sons. The potency of that storyline is lost on audiences who haven’t watched “WandaVision”.

Perhaps the tie-in will encourage fans of the amazing work Elizabeth Olsen does in this film, to seek out the Disney+ series? It certainly worked for me. Though it’s labeled “Season One”, there’s confirmation that there’s no Season Two.

It might account for the multiple viewings of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” in the theater. In my opinion, it’s a lot to ask of an audience. Instead, I’d recommend you seek out “Everything Everywhere All at Once” on Amazon Prime. It’s also bewildering in parts, but it’s joyous–and bonkers in a fun way.

Drinks with Films ratings:

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”: 2 ½ glasses of intra-dimensional oozing goo that you can’t drink because you’re goo too (out of 5)

“Everything Everywhere All At Once”: 3 ½ bubble teas from another dimension with bubbles that look like googly eyes (out of 5)

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