“You break the rules and become the hero. I break them and become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.”-Wanda / Scarlett Witch
Who would you trample in order to be happy? Asks Multiverse of Madness, directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-man 2, The Evil Dead). The movie feels messy, elegant, effortless – all at the same time. It’s a ride filled with dazzling visuals and dark twists that unfurl like clock-work in just over the golden runtime of 2 hours.
Requisite Marvel viewing material – Dr. Strange (2016), Avengers Endgame (2019), WandaVision (2021), Spider-Man No Way Home (2021).
*THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS*
The beauty of Multiverse is you don’t have to think too hard about it to enjoy it, if you don’t want to. As my ex used to say, it’s not that deep. But by the end of this review I hope to extend you the opportunity anyway.
The characters are unmistakable and beautiful. Steven Strange is so in his prime that he’s not Steven at all, but Doctor. He’s “the best surgeon and the best superhero, but still didn’t get the girl.” As his colleague puts it, seated beside him at Christine’s (Rachel McAdams’) wedding. “It never would have worked out between us.” Christine tells him later at the reception, before asking him if he is happy. Doc lies, yes. (She’s right, btw. As we’ll see).
We meet Wanda in a dream, of her with her two (hypothetical) sons. They are baking cookies together and then she is tucking them into bed. Then the room tilts on its head and we realize she is waking up in a different room, alone. The (waking) nightmare begins. She is childless and the love of her life is gone. But as her alter ego, Scarlett Witch, Wanda realizes an opportunity to be with her sons. She can use a dark book of magic called “The Dark Hold” to possess the body of herself in the dimension where she is “happy”, and live vicariously through her. A phenomenon that calls to mind the mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. A bit similar.
My favorite scene is when Scarlett Witch first uses The Dark Hold to possess her “happy” doppelganger, Wanda, in the kitchen of her suburban home. The scene is cross cut between the cross-legged Scarlet Witch, meditating from high atop a snow covered mountain, and the unsuspecting mentally ill matriarch grasping wildly for the reality rug swept out from underneath her feet at the kitchen sink.
How To Enter The Multiverse (Pseudo real life magic)
We’ve all done it. It’s anytime you have “visions”. Here’s how it works – you access the multiverse via dreams or meditation (perhaps with the assistance of substance). Perhaps even through mental illness, as the film sort of suggests. You have temporary psychological access to yourself in alternate dimensions… But your physical body stays here.
Back to the movie. This is where the new character, America, comes in. Her superpower is that she can physically create wormholes between dimensions. Which inevitably leads Steven and Wanda into direct physical contact with their alternate universal selves.
Wanda wants a happy life with her sons from the multiverse; Steven, the girl of his dreams. But here’s the catch 22. Can you see it coming?
In order to have what he wants Steven would have to rob himself of it. Remember Chris Nolan’s The Prestige? Who falls into the tank; your clone? Or you.
As it turns out Christine was correct – it never would have worked out between her and Steven. We learn there is no universe where Steven and Christine are happily together. So Steven’s problem is actually solved. In a sobering way. It’s Wanda who really struggles in this movie. Because there is one universe where things do work out for her. And this witch just can’t seem to let it go.
Dr. Strange in The Multiverse of Madness
Release Date: May 6, 2022 (United States)
Director: Sam Raimi (Spider-Man Trilogy, The Evil Dead)
Writer: Michael Waldron (Loki series)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Xochitl Gomez.
The Inside Out (70/100): Joy (22), Fear (20), Sadness (10), Anger (9) Disgust (9)