Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was, quite frankly, maddening. While my husband professes to have enjoyed the film, I found myself hating a Marvel Cinematic Universe film for the first time.
Okay, that’s a lie. I disliked Eternals, but it was an enjoyable watch. I wasn’t sat wondering when it would end like I did with Dr Strange 2. From cheesy 80s-style video overlays to horror moments that left me wondering what genre of film I was watching, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a massive disappointment.
Needless to say, the following article will contain full (and I mean FULL) spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
It bothered me so much, I’m going to rant about it all. I warn you, this is very long, and I’ve mostly written it for my own sanity. If there are continuity mistakes, please forgive me. I don’t have the best memory. Honestly, I think I can only remember so much of this because of how often I was thinking “this sucks”.
Shortly after Dr Strange 2’s release, I saw (and avoided) talk about the film being a let-down, but I’ve heard the same of other MCU films. I their cases, I ultimately came to disagree with the negative response. Not so in this case, I’m afraid.
The opening left me hopeful, which perhaps made everything that followed all the worse. We see a ponytail-sporting Alternate Dr Strange running through a physics-defying landscape of floating chunks of a once beautiful building, perhaps a cathedral ripped apart. A girl runs with him towards a central piece of architecture with stained-glass elements, which houses a glowing pedestal upon which sits a pale book. An incredibly important looking book, which they clearly need to get to. Wouldn’t it be a shame if a monster were chasing them.
Ah, but of course, one is. This arcane monster a little hard to describe, but its movements reminded me of Moana’s villain Te Kā and the way she pulled herself along the seabed at the end of the movie. Only it wasn’t made of lava, instead glowing like items summoned by the mystic arts.
Desperate to keep the girl’s yet-unrevealed power from the monster, Alternate Dr Strange becomes a monster of another kind, deciding to take her power for himself, despite she would die in the process (why she’ll die is never explained – we just have to accept it). Fortunately for the girl, the monster sends out a blade-like tendril and stabs Alternate Dr Strange in the leg, a wound corruption spreads from.
The girl makes a run for the book, but the monster catches her. I mean, that’s what she gets for running underneath it. A star-shaped portal appears, which most viewers will naturally (and correctly) conclude is a portal between multiverses, thus the girl’s power is revealed. Alternate Dr Strange decides he’s actually a good guy after all and frees her. Both tumble into the portal, the book remains on the pedestal, and the monster’s fate remains unknown.
Snap to “our” Dr Strange waking from a nightmare. Wait, I thought waking up was never to be used to open a scene on pain of banishment from writing. I guess not. Anyhoo, we see a brief scene where he sets suited up (the smart kind, not the hero kind), and I do appreciate the use of magic to do his tie here. It reminds us his magic has useful applications outside of saving the world. Then cut to him walking into…
Well, the trailer spoiled this one for me. It’s Christine’s wedding, and he is not the groom. Honestly, at this point I started wondering why he’s even there. Was it included entirely for a trailer red-herring? Whatever the reason for this scene, it’s awkward from the start. They show Dt Strange walking up the aisle, and I really hope that wasn’t an attempt to make us think it was his wedding. He soon shuffles past someone on a pew to take his seat, then the person next to him swaps with a doctor I’d completely forgotten existed in Dr Strange 1, apparently the rival neurosurgeon, Dr Nic West.
There’s a little back and forth between the men to do some recapping, which I found awkward and unnecessary. Have any of us forgotten Dr Strange blipped? Are there people watching this who haven’t watched a single MCU film since Dr Strange 1? In a clear attempt to renew our hate of Dr Nic, he mentions his dead cats before his dead brother (unless that was a failed attempt at humour), then we never see him again. What was the point? There are parts later in the film that could have used these wasted two minutes.
Skip to Dr Strange drinking martinis at the bar. Really, there ought to be a law against superheroes drinking when they can summon weapons out of thin air with a few waves of their hands. Anyhoo, Christine walks up to the bar next to him, and I’m not sure if she’s meant to be ignoring him or doesn’t recognise him. There’s a really awkward exchange between them, where he looks uncomfortable, and she is oblivious to it. She even has the gall to ask if he’s happy. Well no, Christine, he’s not happy. I mean, come on, they guy chose the timeline where one of his superhero friends dies. But hey, at least now you’ve made it clear you’re super happy with your new husband who’s a huge fan and… Oh. Now I understand why he was invited. Low move, Christine.
Needless to say, the whole wedding scene is pointless, other than to a) remind people Dr Strange is a lonely superhero with no love life and b) get Dr Strange in the right part of New York for…
When things go bang in the street a block or so away, conveniently in clear view of Christine’s wedding reception. Dr Strange pulls his cloak (not cape) of levitation from Loki knows where, and floats down to the streets below, magically changing his outfit as he goes. That was pretty cool. I love touches like that.
A mildly crushed bus is floating in the air, and with some mystic gestures, Dr Strange reveals a formerly invisible giant one-eyed octopus starfish monster. Definitely looks like it doesn’t belong on Earth. Dr Strange magics the bus apart and finds the girl from his nightmare clinging to a pole inside.
Cue what was actually an enjoyable fight scene, except for one thing, which I’ll get to. Dr Strange does some cool magic, including sawing the bus in half, as shown in the trailer. Unfortunately, Octopus-Starfish whacks him into a shop, which knows him out. The Cloak of Levitation proceeds to slap him in the face in failed attempts to wake him.
Who will save the day with Dr Strange knocked out? Who could possibly wield enough power and get there in time and belongs to the Dr Strange franchise? A sling-ring portal opens, and out steps… It’s the Sorcerer Supreme himself, Wong! *cheering* I love Wong. He’s capable and amusing, and he deserved to get the position on more than the technicality of Dr Strange being blipped. Sorcerer Supreme Wong and the Cloak of Levitation keep the girl out of danger until Dr Strange wakes up, and together they fight Octopus-Starfish, defeating it with a finishing move.
Skip the next paragraph if you’re squeamish about eyes.
The finishing move is, in hindsight, an attempt to set the tone of the movie. A failed attempt, as with many things in this film. They harpoon the eye, and I’ll admit to closing my eyes before the blow hit. I waited what is usually enough time, only to see the harpooned eyeball ripped free of Octopus-Starfish’s body. It’s unnecessarily gory for a Marvel movie, and the first in a series of un-marvel-like death blows. I don’t mind gore like this, in the right setting. A 12-A rated comic book movie is not, in my unhumble opinion, the right setting.
There’s a brief scene where the girl tries to run away from her saviours, unsurprising given what Alternate Dr Strange tried to do, but they manage to get her to a café where she explains about her ability to move through the multiverse and what she and Alternate Dr Strange were attempting to do – get the Book of Vishanti, said to give a sorcerer whatever power they need. She also says Dr Strange’s nightmare wasn’t a nightmare.
I can’t remember exactly when, but there’s an important concept introduced, that dreams aren’t dreams, but visions of our alternate selves from other universes. Pay attention, this is important, despite being side comments in other conversations.
Dr Strange is sceptical about the girl being from another universe and wants proof. She takes them to a rooftop garden, where Dr Strange meets a very dead and slightly decayed Alternate Dr Strange. He buries his alternate self by using magic to lift stones covering– Wait, what? Why is their soil under brickwork on a rooftop? Is this a New York thing? Do you haul soil onto rooftops only to cover it up? Anyhoo, the most important thing about this scene is we hear the girl’s name clearly: America Chavez (up until then, I’d thought it was Erika). I’ll forgive the cheesy name. She’s a comic book character, after all. One I’d never heard of before, because I only pay attention to the movies.
This all seems fine so far. There have been some lovely quips from Wong, which is why I love him. At this point, I was excited for more Dr Strang-Wong interaction, fighting huge, weird monsters while travelling the multiverse.
But then everything starts to feel rushed. And I mean, really rushed. Maybe they should have cut that whole wedding scene to give the next character a better build-up. She really could have done with one. Really. We needed more build-up to this.
Dr Strange and Wong agree that the easy-to-miss runes on the monster were witchcraft, not sorcery. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that Dr Strange goes to visit Wanda, the only witch in the whole universe they know about, as far as I know. How did he know where she is? I guess it’s Wong’s job to keep tabs on magic users.
Wanda, having woken from a dream about her boys, is busy single-handedly maintaining an apple orchard and rearing sheep. They talk briefly about what occurred in Wandavision, and Dr Strange is overly firm about the fact her sons didn’t exist, reminding her she created them with magic. Good grief, read the room Dr Strange. She believed they were real at the time and she’s grieving.
Then Dr Strange tells her about the monster he just fought and the girl it was chasing, who is now safe at Kamar-Taj, the sorcerers’ headquarters – this is where Dr Strange trained his first film. Wanda talks about America but… Ohhh, a classic villain mistake. Dr Strange never mentioned her name, Wanda. Pay attention.
There’s a nice visual here of the beautiful orchard becoming a twisted dead one under a hazy bloodred sky, and Wanda is now in her Scarlet Witch outfit, the Darkhold floating beside her. She tells Dr Strange to hand America over peacefully to Wanda, or they’ll face Scarlet Witch.
Jump to Kamar-Taj, where dozens of sorcerers are readying for battle. Rows of archers with mundane-looking longbows mount the battlements, and in general it doesn’t look like a great defence, but hey, they’re sorcerers. This is still fairly early in the film, so it very much feels like everyone there will die. Ho ho ho.
A cloud sweeps towards them, and Dr Strange flies up to meet Wanda, and… Oh, the sky is clear again. Okay. Negotiations, if you can even call them that, fail, and Dr Strange pulls back a little. Wanda, now clearly being the Scarlet Witch, attacks, but the sorcerers put up a shield between her and Dr Strange. While she’s throwing her signature red magic at the shield, she stares at the sorcerers in such an obvious way that Wong warns everyone to shield their minds. One sorcerer fails in this, and Scarlet Witch convinces him to run. He bumps into several other sorcerers, enough to disrupt the shield. Rather that weakening as a whole, a gap forms in the middle, and Scarlet Witch sends a blast through.
There’s a pretty epic fight scene here, though I’m disappointed at how quickly so many sorcerers fall. I guess we really needed that wedding scene. The archers fire arrows that glow with the mystic arts, but Scarlet Witch makes them glow red and fire them back. This kind of colour-coding may seem a bit cheesy, but it really helps with tracking what’s going on in such a busy scene. There are come canons loaded with mystic arts-infused shots, but Scarlet Witch throws one canon at another.
This was a satisfying, if rushed, fight, and a victorious Scarlet Witch steps into Kamar-Taj.
Steps straight into a trap, that is. I thought perhaps this would be the sorcerers remembering the mirror dimension exists, and it could well be a version of it. There’s a nice visual of mirrors enclosing her, with eerie music box music playing. The problem is, it goes on too long. We don’t need to see her staring at her reflection. We get it. You can do nice mirror effects.
Scarlet Witch takes a step, but spikes made of the mirror jut towards her. They stop shy of doing any damage, of course. She reaches between them, and her hand inexplicably sinks into the mirror. I guess it’s magic. Let’s just explain everything with “she’s a witch”, despite never seeing her do this before.
This next scene is what told me I definitely wasn’t getting the classic MCU film I’d expected. Scarlet Witch uses reflections to attack (by way of sinking people into them), and everyone rushes around trying to cover up every reflection. They’re inside, but apparently Kamar-Taj needs some work doing on the roof.
America helps with covering up the puddles and… Oh god, this is too obvious. She covers up a puddle right in front of a shiny golden gong. She sees Scarlet Witch in a puddle she failed to cover, which she touches to splash the water (yeah, let’s touch the thing the enemy’s in). Then falls back against the gong.
You can see where this is going, right?
A hand bursts out of the gong, and while America scampers away, Scarlet Witch comes out, her limbs all twisted round like something out of a horror film, which apparently this is now. The gong was more than big enough for her to climb out of normally. There’s no reason for her to be all mangled, except to get in a stomach-churning visual of her limbs clicking back into the right place.
At this point, I was inwardly sighing, and a part of my mind turned off. Frustration began to build that this wasn’t the style of Marvel productions at all. Because of this, the details from here get fuzzy, and I apologise if I get anything wrong.
When America gets scared, her power activates, so she and Dr Strange get sucked through a series of universes, leaving poor Wong to face Scarlet Witch alone. There’s a long montage of the worlds they pass through, which I now feel were only added as fun visuals for the trailer. They fall through dozens of different worlds, and some I remember are: comic book, dinosaurs, black and white movie, underwater, bodies all sliced up, paint. Yes, paint. America later comments that it’s difficult to eat in that world.
They land on the rooftop where they buried Alternate Dr Strange, but in a version of New York that looks high-tech and full of nature, which is a lovely blend. They walk through streets with vines growing up buildings built with balconies and trellises, then, oh, Dr Strange nearly gets run over. Green means stop, and America tells Dr Strange that in the multiverse, he knows nothing. You’re Jon Snow now, Dr Strange.
When the light goes red, they cross the road, but Dr Strange loses sight of America in the crowd. After him calling for a minute, she appears, holding a bowl of “pizza balls”, which look pretty damn tasty. How did she pay for them he asks, which leads her to explain food in free in most universes. Not in this one, apparently, as the food vendor wants payment. Rather than apologise or try to work something out, it gets a bit heated, resulting in Dr Strange making the man squirt himself in the face with mustard. Oh, but he doesn’t stop there. For apparent comic effect, Dr Strange makes the man punch himself in the face. As Dr Strange and America walk away, the man continues to hit himself, and Dr Strange reveals the spell will last 3 weeks.
Not wanting to get on a high horse, but do we really want to be teaching children 12+ that this is funny? There was absolutely no need for anything beyond the mustard.
Continuing, Dr Strange steps onto a device that replays a memory of him at dinner with Christine, where she gives him the watch from the first movie, the one he stares at longingly from time to time. When America stands on the device, we see a memory of her mums with an America of about eight out in nature somewhere. Little America is picking flowers to give them, but a bee lands on her hand. Frightened, her power activates, and she opens a portal behind her mums, which they’re sucked into. America tells Dr Strange she killed them, but he believes they’re out there somewhere, still alive. I’m not sure why he’s hopeful, given some of the whacky worlds he just experienced. I’m not sure why there’s any of this kind of hope in the film, given they seem determined to make it a horror.
Dr Strange and America decide to look for that world’s Dr Strange and so they can ask him about the Book of Vishanti. When they arrive at the New York Sanctum, they find a giant statue of Dr Strange in front of it, with a plaque saying he was the greatest hero, who gave his life to defeat Thanos. I guess that’s it then. Movie over.
But someone steps out from the Sanctum, none other than Baron Mordo, Sorcerer Supreme of this version of Earth. Supreme Mordo declares Greatest Hero Dr Strange knew the day would come when another Dr Strang would appear, and there’s a tense moment, but he smiles and calls Dr Strange “brother”, then gives him a man hug, back-patting included.
They go inside, have tea, and explain that Scarlet Witch is going to use the Darkhold to dreamwalk into that universe’s version of herself to pursue America. Why did she send monsters before? Because that was her being reasonable, apparently.
This scene is interspersed with clips of Scarlet Witch preparing the Darkhold’s dreamwalking spell. That would have been great, were it not for the cheesy 80s-style overlaying of the two scenes. It reminded me a lot of the “music video” with Kristoff in Frozen 2 (yes, I watch a lot of Disney. I have kids). It was pretty tacky.
Then, of course, it turns out Alternate Mordo betrays them, fulfilling Dr Strange’s expectations of his personality based off “our” version of Mordo. There are some trippy visuals to show them succumbing to tea drugged with some kind of mystical sand, which is utterly ruined by the use of dated screen-skewing. Honestly, there’s a lot of dated visual effects in this film, and by this point I was getting annoyed by them. They don’t belong amongst beautiful, crisp, stunning MCU visuals.
From here, I’m going to follow Dr Strange and America’s scenes, then do a summary of Scarlet Witch’s before they reunite, as of course they must.
Dr Strange wakes in a large glass box in an expensive-looking lab, where America is already awake and hammering on the glass of her separate box. Dr Strange tries to use the mystic arts, but he has handcuffs on with a little glowing green bit, so, clearly, they’re anti-magic science cuffs.
Oh, and guess who runs the lab?
That’s right, it’s Alternate Christine, sporting some lovely reddish hair to make sure we don’t get the Christines muddled up. I’d say it’s sexist to use hair this way, but Alternate Dr Strange had a ponytail to distinguish him. Dr Strange tries to talk to her, being unusually nice, but she shuts him down and says she doesn’t want to know him. She’s clearly a bit thrown at seeing him, given Greatest Hero Dr Strange is dead, but she acts professionally. I like this Christine already, though she’s a bit over-acted.
Saving us from Dr Strange pining over a Christine he doesn’t know, Mordo arrives with some Ultron robots and says, “The Illuminati will see you now.” This wasn’t a surprise to me, because the marketing folks decided to reveal this clip a few days before release. I’m not sure why they made a big deal of it, when… Ah, but we’ll get to that.
Mordo takes Dr Strange to a hall with thrones on a raised section beyond– Wait, is that a moat? Waterless, but given the strength of the glass prisons, why not have a glass wall with an intercom rather than a massive hazard. Anyway.
One-by-one, Mordo introduces the leaders of the Illuminati, who are basically this earth’s S.H.I.E.L.D. We have… Tuning Fork Man! No, I kid you not. He has a tuning fork glued to the front of his mask. He’s apparently the Inhuman leader, Black Bolt, who I had no prior knowledge of because I didn’t watch Inhumans. I’ll henceforth be referring to him as Tuning Fork Man.
Also revealed to be Illuminati leaders are: Captain Britain, aka Captain Carter, this world’s First Avenger; Captain Marvel, who is Maria Rambeau here; Mr Fantastic, Reed Richards, introduced as the world’s most intelligent man; and, who you might have expected if you can recognise Patrick Stewart’s voice from the shortest clip in any trailer, Professor X, in his classic yellow hoverchair. I think Mordo was meant to be a leader too, but I can’t remember him actually sitting down. He just looked like an arse milling around behind everyone, as if he thinks himself the leader of everyone. Clearly, the leader of leaders is Professor X, since he has the coolest throne. It’s portable!
The Illuminati leaders explain that Greatest Hero Dr Strange was in fact *checks notes* a fallen hero who used the Darkhold and ultimately caused an incursion (where two universes collide) killing everyone in one universe. Oh. That’s a bit bad, and you can see Dr Strange wondering how one of his alternate selves could be capable of falling into such darkness.
We learn that Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange returned in disgrace, but he did help the Illuminati defeat Thanos. Professor X shows Dr Strange a vision of Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange kneeling before the Illuminati leaders on an End Game-style battlefield, dead Thanos beside them. Black Bolt steps forwards and says something (forgive me for forgetting what), and the words reverberate, growing in volume until not only is Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange killed, but so were my eardrums.
Now for the Scarlet Witch scenes!
Scarlet Witch dreamwalks, taking over herself in a pointlessly “spooky” scene where Alternate Wanda is getting ice cream for her overly-adorable boys. While Scarlet Witch is dreamwalking, her body in “our” world is vulnerable, but, alas, Wong is strung up with her magic. Ah, but one of his sorcerers is alive! He asks her to free him so he can destroy the Darkhold, but she says she’ll do it, her tone hinting something bad will happen to whoever damages the book. She sneaks pasts Scarlet Witch and stabs the Darkhold, which bursts into flames. The sorcerer burns with it, turning her into a charred statue while the camera zooms in for an extreme closeup of her pained face. Lovely. Nice CGI though.
With the Darkhold destroyed, the dreamwalking is interrupted. Furious, Scarlet Witch demands Wong tell her the Darkhold’s spells, because as Sorcerer Supreme, he must know them, by heart, despite the former Sorcerer Supreme dying without passing on her knowledge. Wong refuses to cooperate, until Scarlet Witch uses magic to lift somehow-still-living sorcerers from the wreckage of the Kamar-Taj battle. Wong immediately, and I mean IMMEDIATELY, gives in and tells her about a mountain where the Darkhold’s spells were originally inscribed.
Wong takes Scarlet Witch as close to the mountain as he can, then she drags him into a tomb. A huge carving of herself on the wall makes Scarlet Witch realise it was built for her, and they she was meant to rule the multiverse. Not really sure how she got that for a carving of her levitating, but okay.
Oh no! Huge monsters they didn’t notice as they walked in appear. Even Scarlet Witch looks a little afraid. If you look really carefully, you can see their REALLY OBVIOUS glowing eyes in the colour of Scarlet Witch-magic. It’s a big surprise when the bow down to her, right. Right? Anyway, she throws Wong off a cliff and proceeds to dreamwalk again without reading a single inscription.
Okay, back to Illuminati headquarters.
An alarm goes off! Scarlet Witch has arrived. Mr Fantastic, Captain Britain, Captain Marvel, and Tuning Fork Man go and face her in a huge atrium that was surely built with such a fight in mind. Mr Fantastic makes a quip that a single word from Tuning Fork Man’s mouth could kill Scarlet Witch.
“What mouth?” Scarlet Witch says, the camera on her.
For a moment here, I like this exchange. The camera returns to Tuning Fork Man’s eyes, then zooms out to reveal his mouth is gone. He freaks out and tries to speak and… Boom! His voice rebounds inside his head, making brain soup. Yeah, the gore for shock factor again. Not very MCU. But wait, there’s more.
The rest of this fight may be out of order below. Like I said, something in my brain had switched off. This is the order I remember it, but I may be wrong.
Mr Fantastic, introduced as the smartest man on Earth, attacks Scarlet Witch, the most powerful witch in history, by… Oh god. Really? *shuffles papers* He attacks her with his stretchy arms, trying to grab her. She promptly peels him apart with magic as if he’s a Cheese String, not stopping until his head explodes. So long, smartest man formerly alive.
Captain Marvel and Captain Britain hold up a little better, distracting Scarlet Witch long enough for us to return to the throne room. Professor X has a change of heart and tells Dr Strange that, actually, he might be different to Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange. They’ll give him the Book of Vishanti after all. He then buggers off to join the fight, leaving Dr Strange to…
Beat up Mordo! Clearly a lot of pent-up rage being unleashed on this version of Mordo, who does kind of deserve it for being an arrogant bastard. It’s nice to see some physical fighting from Dr Strange, reminding us he didn’t just train in the mystic arts at Kamah-Taj. He uses Mordo’s attacks against him, getting one hand free of an anti-magic-science-cuff, which he slaps onto Mordo’s wrist. They fight a bit more, bound together, and fall into the waterless moat. With a fancy wall hop, Dr Strange leaves Mordo stranded and goes to find America.
Alternate Christine is trying to free America while Captain Marvel and Captain Britain continue the fight. There’s some fun shield bouncing and awesome use of a jetpack from Captain Britain, only for her to end up being cut in half by her own shield. I assume. They didn’t actually show that one. Captain Marvel gets into a hand-blast battle against Scarlet Witch, whose magic pushes back against the blast, gravely injuring Captain Marvel. The hero falls to the floor, then gets crushed with a statue. We know she’s dead because her arm flopped to the floor. Definitely needed that for clarity. Yup.
Alternate Christine is working with America to do… something with metal parts of the glass prison. Seeing Scarlet Witch approach, Christine grabs a fire extinguisher and starts hitting the glass with the FLAT BOTTOM. At least use the edge, come on! Anyway, America punches at the glass, her multiverse portal power partially activates, and the glass cracks.
Professor X arrives. Yes, a real hero. This is going to be good! He gets into Scarlet Witch’s head, where he walks through a door in a piece of wall he could have walked around. He finds Alternate Wanda and tries to pull her out of a pile of rubble, believing that succeeding will miraculously rid her of dreamwalking Scarlet Witch.
Ah, but an ominous bloodred cloud arrives. Rather than try to do anything, Professor X looks on in horror. Scarlet Witch reaches out of the cloud and snaps mind-Professor X’s neck, and we see it mirrored on his body. He slumps heavily forward onto the bonnet of his hoverchair, and I wasn’t sad at all. I grieved him watching Logan. I won’t grieve him in this steaming pile of…
Anyway, that may have been slightly out of order, but basically, Scarlet Witch returns to the glass prison to find a star-shaped whole in one wall and America and Alternate Christine gone.
I’m going to pause here and talk a little about my feelings on the Illuminati. They were introduced and killed off in less than one act, and I get the very strong impression there was a single reason for all those heroes to be there: they wanted to kill off a load of heroes in grim ways for shock value. Given they couldn’t do this in “our” universe, they had to find another, which conveniently allowed them to bring in heroes who aren’t canon in “our” universe. If the heroes had put up a half-decent fight, I wouldn’t have noticed this. But how the film is, it’s blindingly obvious.
Also, why would Captain Carter have ever become the First Avenger? Their world was close enough to “ours” that Dr Strange broke his hands in almost the same way. There was still a New York Sanctum, a Thanos invasion. We can assume most things happened the same way, including Captain Carter being a kickass spy. So why the bloody hell would they have risked her in the super soldier program?
Right, back to the action.
America and Alternate Christine are running down a corridor, when they hear loud footsteps coming along an adjoining one. They get louder, and a big shadow looms on the wall and… Oh, it’s just Dr Strange, who skids to a stop out of view and has to run back. Ha. So funny. Never been done before. Sigh.
Reunited, Dr Strange and America, along with Alternate Christine, head through a tunnel under a river to a waypoint left by Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange to access the “between” where the Book of Vishanti is. Scarlet Witch is close behind, walking barefoot over glass, shuffling like her body’s a bit broken, face smeared with blood. In another annoyingly horror-esque-but-failing-miserably scene, they close bulkheads behind them as they run, which the witch blasts through, except one in a slightly leaky piece of tunnel.
Do they keep running?
Of course not. This is a horror film now, okay, and in horror films people stop and stare at the damn door the person trying to kill them is stood behind. So they stare, we wait, they stare more, I sigh, and then she pops in from the shadows, and I never did work out how or where she came from. Dr Strange gives us a cheesy foreshadowing line of “Alternate Wanda, if you’re in there, hold your breath”. Why? Just… why? If she’s in there, she can’t bloody control the body, and… Oh, he thinks the torrent of river water he unleashes on Scarlet Witch might kick her out of the body. Lol.
While the river stalls Scarlet Witch, the trio come to a room with a door that has one of those wheels to open it. Dr Strange tries to unlock it with magic, but can’t because Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange sealed it with something unique to him.
Cue a close-up of the middle of the wheel. It looks like something might go there. Some kind of object that’s incredibly dear to him. Remember how we were reminded about the watch Christine gave Dr Strange? Turns out Alternate Christine gave Fallen Greatest Hero Dr Strange one too, and she just happens to have such a precious thing on her while at work.
…I just… Did an intern write this?
Dr Strange puts the watch into the slot, the door opens, and we’re back in the physics-defying broken-cathedral world Alternate Dr Strange and America were running through at the start of the film. The trio jump down from the door to the stained-glass area where the Book of Vishanti is. Dr Strange picks up the book and–
Scarlet Witch destroys it, yay!
She activates America’s portal power, kicks Dr Strange and Alternate Christine into Loki knows which world, and sends America back to “our” world. Job done, she leaves Alternate Wanda’s body behind, who promptly remembers her boys and runs back, forgetting that Scarlet Witch was just walking through glass.
While Scarlet Witch prepares to take America’s power, Dr Strange and Alternate Christine walk through a barren, broken world, one that has suffered an incursion. They head to the Sanctum AT A WALK, where they see Lurking Dr Strange in the trademark round window. Dr Strange goes in alone.
Lurking Dr Strange seems wary, but long story short, he also used the Darkhold. Oh, and he has a 3rd eye on his forehead. What a weirdo. And now, our never-going-to-fall-to-darkness Dr Strange wants to use the Darkhold, so they fight. Lurking Dr Strange blasts Dr Strange against a piano, which gives Dr Strange the idea of using musical notes as weapons. They throw the musical weapons back and forth, the music changing according to who’s controlling the notes. I love the concept of this fight, but honestly, I think they kept it going too long.
I’ll note here, the music of the rest of the film is overly emotive compared to what came before the music fight. This is possibly foreshadowing for something that comes right at the end, but really, I think Danny Elfman got carried away. There are some real Lord of the Rings style moments later, which don’t suit the disastrous tone of this movie.
Eventually, Dr Strange wins, tossing Lurking Dr Strange out of the trademark window. He lands on the point of an iron railing, the full skewering shown, and Alternate Christine does an annoyingly over the top scream. She runs into the Sanctum and finds Dr Strange with the Darkhold and realises he plans to dreamwalk. But how can he dreamwalk if there’s no living version of him in his world, she asks.
Ohohoho. Remember that corpse of Alternate Dr Strange that got buried on the rooftop?
Yup, Dr Strange dreamwalks into the corpse, then sling-rings to a mountain peak near the Scarlet Witch tomb. This is one thing I actually love about this film. They almost ruined it. Almost. Apparently dreamwalking in a corpse is forbidden, so ghouls appear to try to drag Dr Strange to a hell dimension. They appear around Undead Alternate Dr Strange and Dr Strange, so of course they chase Alternate Christine around. Finally finding use for that brain of hers, she grabs an artifact and uses it like a canon, killing the ghouls in that world. Unfortunately, Dr Strange is on the floor having a fit. She touches his brow and pulls her hand away with a scream (why is Alternate Christine so overdramatic?). I think he was meant to be cold, like death, but she made it look more like heat.
She reminds him the mystic arts uses spirits, so use them (the ghouls). In “our” world, he draws all the ghouls to himself and makes an awesome Cloak of Undeadness to match Zombie Alternate Dr Strange, then flies up to the tomb to confront Scarlet Witch.
Around this point, it’s revealed Wong didn’t, in fact, fall to his death (hurray!) and he begins scaling the cliff. But, uh oh, the big monsters have seen him. That’s okay, because Zombie Dr Strange is here to save the day. He lands behind them, and with a big SWOOSH of his Cloak of Undeadness, he knocks them over the cliff. Fortunately, they don’t hit Wong on the way down.
Dr Strange and Scarlet Witch fight. Wong makes a prison around her, but they’re not strong enough to contain her. Dr Strange goes to America and says he knows what to do, a thinly veiled attempt to make us believe he’d steal her power just as Alternate Dr Strange tried. America says it’s okay, he can take her power. He says no.
And then the ULTIMATE CHEESE occurs.
Dr Strange tells America to use her power. After all, she’s “been using it all along.” WINK. He WINKS. His half-rotten face scrunches into the corniest looking wink ever.
THEN IT ZOOMS TO AMERICA’S FACE, AND SHE GRINS.
I swear, I almost died from an overdose of cheese.
America, who up until now hasn’t had proper control of her power, gains full control over her power through the power of cheese. She goes head-to-head with Scarlet Witch, doing a pretty epic superhero jump-and-punch. Unfortunately, Scarlet Witch is now an undefeatable god-tier boss. Honestly, she may as well be Thanos with the Infinity Stones given how powerless everyone is against her. But young, inexperienced America has to face her alone, and she decides to do what any hero would.
She gives Scarlet Witch what she wants.
Wait, what? Okay, well, let’s roll with this.
America opens a portal to the Illuminati universe. You know, fully in control of her power now. Scarlet Witch steps through into the living room belonging to Alternate Wanda, who has just arrived home. The twins scream “Witch” and run away, hiding behind the stairs, in full view through the railings. Great hiding spot, boys. Alternate Wanda looks on, entirely useless.
Seeing the boys terrified of her finally breaks through to Wanda, who backs away and kneels near the portal. There’s a weird moment when Alternate Wanda touches Wanda’s face, and unfortunately, I missed what she said due to sound levels.
America closes the portal, with Scarlet Witch back on “our” side, despite having been sat firmly in the other world. Through the fear of children, Wanda sees the error of her ways and decides to kill herself, taking the tomb and the Darkhold with her. As the tomb collapses, we see a little puff of red. I’m not sure if this is the magic imploding, or if Wanda escapes at the last moment. We shall see.
Back in the incursion-destroyed world, Dr Strange and Alternate Christine see the Darkhold vanish in Wanda-coloured magic, and conclude Wanda destroyed every copy of the Darkhold in the multiverse. The pair have a moment while waiting for America to rescue them, but, alas, Alternate Christine says she has to return to her own world. A portal pops up, showing Wong and America back and Kamah-Taj, which made me chuckle because it looked a little like they were going to abandon Alternate Christine there.
After an unknown time jump, we see sorcerers training at Kamah-Taj, America amongst them. Dr Strange says she needs patience, and Wong makes a quip about her reminding him of another student. After a brief chat about happiness, Therapist Strange bows to Wong, a sign of respect to the Sorcerer Supreme he’d refused to do earlier. America stops Dr Strange as he makes a sling-ring portal, and they have an adorable almost father-daughter moment. I wish he’d stop calling her “kid” though. She has a name, Strange, daft as it is.
There’s another unknown time jump, and we see Craftsman Strange fixing his broken watch, then leaving the Sanctum in casual clothes, looking happy and smiley. He crosses a road, but halfway across the music grows loud, reminiscent of Lurking Dr Strange’s music fight theme. He doubles over, ears covered and…
A third eye flipping opens on his forehead.
By this point, I was absolutely bursting for a pee, so I didn’t stay to watch the after credits. I’ve found them on Youtube for the purpose of adding them to this rant.
In one, a woman dressed in purple hues appears, holding a short blade. She tells Dr Strange he caused an incursion and that they’re going to fix it, then uses the blade to cut through the fabric of… the multiverse I guess. The world beyond looks a little like where Dr Strange fought Dormammu in the first Dr Strange. Dr Strange summons his third eye and agrees to go.
After the film falling flat, this leaves me feeling again underwhelmed. I might have been hopeful, but the graphics for the third eye look, quite frankly, crap.
Next, after the text “Dr Strange will return”, we see the pizza ball vendor, who’s still punching himself, his face looking pretty dented. Why he’s still standing at the roadside, I don’t know, but as he goes to punch himself again, his hand stops. He grins, then looks directly at the camera and says, “It’s over.” Get out everyone! Let the underpaid staff get the cleaning done. Don’t you have homes to go to? Bugger off!
If you’ve stayed with me through this entire 7,000 word recap, what the hell is wrong with you? But, thanks for reading. This is twice the length of most of my short stories, and I spent over three hours writing the first draft in one sitting while it was fresh in my mind. Was this what I wanted to be doing with my evening? No. But I had to. No film has ever left me with the undeniable need to write a 7k recap. That’s how much this film failed me as a fan.
On the way out of the film, my husband revealed to me the reason I hate this film so much. The director was Sam Raimi, responsible for the Evil Dead trilogy. According to my husband, Sam Raimi does comic horror. He also directed the first Spider-Man trilogy, and we all know how the third one ended up… Honestly, I can’t understand why he was chosen to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. If they hoped to turn it into a horror, they should have committed fully. It was a bizarre blend of classic MCU and teen movie horror, which gets a massive thumbs down from me.
And do you know what else?
There were so many quiet moments, I couldn’t eat my damn popcorn.