You couldn’t find a worse enemy than a mother willing to kill in order to be reunited with her children. Even a superhero capable of converting some circles or a fire whip into lethal instruments would be no match for the power of a mother’s love. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – the second Dr. Stephen Strange film – the famous sorcerer must face off against Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, who is obsessed with getting her children back. Those who have seen the miniseries WandaVision, about the home life of the Scarlet Witch and the love of her life, Vision, will understand where those children come from and why she is not with them. Everyone else will be scratching their heads.
Marvel is such a hyper-connected universe it’s no surprise those who haven’t seen all the movies and series in the franchise feel a bit in the dark. For example, if you haven’t seen the latest Spider-Man movie (No Way Home), you’ll be missing an important element at the very start of the film. And it’s that, if there’s a multiverse, it’s because in that last Spider-Man film, Strange casts a spell meant to help Peter but that goes awry with disastrous consequences, namely unleashing the multiverse – multiple alternative realities that coexist in time, but are independent of each other. This means there are numerous Doctor Stranges, as many as there are universes. And it also means that the film is hard to follow for anyone other than those die-hards who have seen each and every one of Marvel’s creations.
Take, for example, The Avengers. You’ll need to keep it in mind in order for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together. What part did Doctor Strange actually play in that pivotal snap of the fingers by Thanos, one of Marvel’s biggest villains? What did he do in the various parallel universes? It’s even necessary to know what happens in the X-Men mutant saga to understand some scenes. What is Professor Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) doing in a Doctor Strange movie? What is his role? All this cacophony of interconnections can be overly confusing for viewers who simply want some action or to switch off for a while. It takes a lot of mental bandwidth to make sense of the whole shebang.
Despite all the intertwined plots and the thousand and one things it leaves you wondering about, this film by Sam Raimi – creator of the Spider-man trilogy – nails its objective. In other words, it provides two hours of entertainment for an audience that wants to escape into the world of science fiction, and, of course, it satisfies fans who were hungry for more superheroes after the keenly-awaited blockbuster No Way Home fuelled their appetite. There hasn’t been a film based on Doctor Strange since 2016 and we needed him back in our lives. We needed him and his golden mandalas to make magic and take on a wicked witch, embodied by Elizabeth Olsen, who is blinded by love for her family.
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is once again outstanding. The role is as if made for him, though those who have recently seen the film The Power of the Dog – directed by Jane Campion and winner of the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama – in which he plays a rather unlikable character from the Midwest – may find it a bit strange to now see him don a red cape and battle against evil. However, you’ll soon get used to Doctor ‘Cumberbatch Strange’, with his unusual sense of humor and sarcastic comments. And what’s more, if you can see him multiplied two, three or four times, across multiple universes, all the better.