Steven Strange is back and he’s not happy. He’s no longer the Sorcerer Supreme, the love of his life is marrying another man, and he isn’t sure of his place in the world, but when a mysterious teen named America Chavez falls into his lap, he embarks on a journey across parallel realities to save her and countless alternate worlds and face a former friend who has become corrupted by an evil power.
On first viewing, I’ll admit, I found Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness disappointing. I felt that we had been promised a looney toons journey across parallel worlds, but were given a decidedly reduced story. Sure, there are cameos and references – I mean, whoever thought we would see Anson Mount as Black Bolt again? However, I felt let down by the premise we were promised and the premise that was delivered.
On rewatch, I’ve warmed to this movie for what it is… it’s a horror movie and, too be honest, the idea of a ally becoming such a bloodthirsty enemy is a typical and welcome Sam Rami trope and Elizabeth Olsen sells it beautifully. Olden is a barely contained explosion of rage in this movie and the acting and directing is hypnotic. I almost wish this was a Scarlet Witch solo film.
However, I also have to applaud the direction that Doctor Strange is given as well. For Strange, this is a journey of humility and education and it’s so rare that we see this sort of character evolution in the MCU’s major characters. To see him go from the level of disrespect and defiance we saw in Spider-Man: No Way Home and the beginning of this movie to someone who has learned and grown into a better person was a treat.
And, yes, while I did find the scale of Multiverse of Madness a little underwhelming. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t satisfied with the result. I will take character growth and intensly frightening performances over spectacle any day.