PG-13, but a lot of people have been pushing for R. I'm not there, yet. I'm definitely agreeing that this movie isn't for kids. But by that logic, Spider-Man 2 also shouldn't be for kids. There are jump scares all over the place. There's also a substantial amount of death. Like, it's impressive how people die. One of the moments I keep talking about is one of the gnarly ways that a character dies. Sam Raimi loves doing horror elements in other genres and this movie is no exception.
DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
Guys, I've wanted to write about this movie for a week. I'm just in intense stress mode. But I put it on my To-Do list today, so I get a pass to write. I have a lot of writing to do today. I'm also at a standstill with one of my writing projects, so I'm going to use today as an excuse to catch up on the writing I've put on hold for a while. It's a bad attitude. It's a good attitude. It's at least me being somewhat productive. Hey, I could be playing video games.
When the reviews for this movie came out, I was a little bit worried. Sure, there were fanboys who absolutely loved the movie, but I read a lot about how this movie was disjointed. Well, maybe I'm a fanboy because I got 0% disjointed. I loved the movie through and through. But that happens to be a theme with me and Marvel Studios. My favorite films are the ones that disrupt the genre. Did I just say that Multiverse of Madness might be one of my favorites? That's weird. I mean, I loved it. (Understand that I'm processing my feelings for this movie as I write. It's a dangerous strategy, but I have too much to write to plan these suckers out.) I know that I picked a safe position by saying that this wasn't one of my favorite movies when I left the theater. Part of me is always nervous to pledge allegiance to anything too early. But sleeping on it, it might be up there. And that comes from the notion of genre-defying. For the longest time, I claimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier as one of my favorite Marvel movies because it was a spy film disguised as a superhero action flick. I'm not going to be the first one to spill the beans and say that Doctor Strange 2 (just bear with me because I have a lot of writing and I have to take shortcuts where I can) is straight up a horror movie for a lot of it. I mean, it is called Multiverse of Madness.
When I heard that Multiverse of Madness was going to be the title of the Doctor Strange sequel, I got excited. The funny thing is that I was so lackluster about the first Doctor Strange movie that, to find myself actually jonesing for the Doctor Strange sequel seemed impossible. I like Strange as a tertiary character in the Marvel Universe. Even the good Doctor Strange comics always had me wishing for other characters. It's just that Doctor Strange are hard fantasy at times. I know that hard fantasy fans will quit me right here and now, but I think back to the really weird Kirby stuff that was associated with Doctor Strange in the early days. So when the movie decided to go super weird, I shouted "Yes." Because when I saw Thor for the first time, I finally got Thor. This is no disrespect to Stan Lee, our unblemished geeklord, but Thor was boring to me. But it was a movie that embraced some of the weirder stuff and presented in an approachable way that the character became real. The one thing I always knew about Strange is that it should be exactly that. It's weird when people try grounding Doctor Strange. The movies and the comics should be absolutely bonkers and that's what we got in this movie.
Now, one of my students got mad that Wanda was the bad guy of the film. No. I mean, I'm also sad to lose Wanda. Wanda is great. WandaVision was one of my favorite TV shows of the past decade. The character is compelling. But the movies always seemed to want to avoid the fall of Wanda. It's an integral part of Wanda's mythology: "Avengers: Disassembled". It led to the character really getting interesting. But even more than that, it isn't really Wanda who is the bad guy. It's Wanda's mistake of trusting the Darkhold, assuming that it wouldn't corrupt her. It's The Lord of the Rings all over again. We adore those stories and the Darkhold is a good knock-off of those stories. (I don't say books. I don't say movies. I say stories.) The key theme of the movie is that you can't use evil to do good. Wanda has genuine pain. It makes so much sense that she needed a whole TV show to explore that pain. Throwing in the background of a movie would have done the character a disservice. But Wanda is taking something that is legitimately sympathetic and corrupting that notion.
When Wanda wants to save her children, who are very real to her, there's something good about that. But it's through the eyes of the Darkhold that she cannot possibly understand that things have cost. In this moment, it becomes Smeagol and Gollum. Wanda and the Scarlet Witch become very different people. Elizabeth Olson is too good of an actress to play a one note bad guy. For a portion of the movie, the Scarlet Witch just rips people apart and doesn't read like the Avenger who saved all of those people at the cost of her own joy. But there's a scene in the end of the movie where Wanda encounters Scarlet Witch. Sure, these are multiversal variants of each other, but the points still stands. We get to see Wanda at her healthiest and it is when Wanda sees how far she has fallen. It's because we love Wanda that it makes her a compelling villain. Yeah, she's overpowered. But what was always a little bit haunting about Wanda is that there were seemingly no limit to her power. The only thing that held her back was her innocence.
Now I flash to Dark Phoenix. As we remember, both of these films were travesties that had a character who became overpowered through evil. But everything about Wanda didn't scream evil. It screamed tragic. There is an element of choice to Wanda. She's making decisions under the influence and isn't even aware that she is being manipulated by this Darkhold. But there is this strong line of goodness in her, despite the fact that she's ripping people apart. I'm never going to be in the "Wanda was Right" camp, but that's because Wanda isn't the Scarlet Witch. She's compelling as heck and I love that she causes so much damage in the universe.
But the movie is also an insane amount of fun. A logical portion of me is hesitant to embrace multiversal stories. It's almost like we've become inundated by the Multiverse. (That being said, I am really jazzed about Everything Everywhere All at Once). It's where the Marvel movies are going and now the concept of a multiverse is commonplace. I think back to a time when I first started to date my wife and I made a multiverse reference. She looked at me with such disdain! But now everyone is multiverse-this and multiverse-that. Maybe it is the snob in me screaming this because I didn't hate any element of this. Sure, Rachel and Strange don't have a ton of chemistry despite the fact that I like both actors. But when I saw John Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic, I was just filled with joy. (Note: Emily Blunt HAS to be the Invisible Woman, right?) But that entire scene with the Illuminati, while almost unnecessary, was perfect. Honestly, the part I was alluding to was Black Bolt's head just exploding and caving in. It did everything I wanted a horror movie to do. It was fabulous. Part of me thinks that this is someone claiming that The Phantom Menace is good because the lightsaber sequences are so rad, but it is more than that.
It all comes from Sam Raimi having fun. Yeah, I need to give the screenwriter a lot of credit, but even he claimed that he wrote it for Sam Raimi. This is Sam Raimi and Drag Me to Hell. I know that a lot of people claim that this is Evil Dead 4 and I won't go that far. The thing about the Evil Dead movies is that they are for that underground crowd. But stuff like Multiverse of Madness and Drag Me to Hell is that Sam Raimi can still be an auteur and make movies for wide audiences. This movie is very much in Sam Raimi's playground, yet there's this mass appeal to the movie. When he makes that Fantasia style music fight, I nearly cheered. I don't know a lot of directors who could have gotten away with that. I've always harbored a bit of resentment against Marvel for forcing directors to abandon their voices. I mostly flash to Edgar Wright cutting ties with Ant-Man. But when I think of Doctor Strange 2 and Taika Waititi's work with the MCU, with a little James Gunn thrown in there, I don't know if I can completely throw that stone anymore. Yeah, there is a little bit of padding to the craft. Maybe a movie can't deviate from the formula too much. But I see so much Raimi in this film and I love it.
You know what? I'm going to gush. I don't even care. Multiverse of Madness lived up to my expectations in spades. I love that the movie wasn't afraid to even be a little bit scary. Yeah, it is brutal, especially for a Marvel movie. But it is still a good time and I'd watch this one over and over again.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.