When I went into the theater, there were a lot of questions circling the Multiverse of Madness. Is there a Professor X? Will it be Patrick or James? Will Tom Cruise turn down another chance at Iron Man? Was that Tom Cruise in the trailer? No, too tall. What’s Wanda’s deal? Lots of questions.
Personally, I went into the movie with only one real question on my mind; How much Wong -Benedict Wong- am I going to get? I mean, Disney, you gave me a little Wong in Shang-Chi, then a bit of Wong in No Way Home. I need those quippy rejoinders and a morally grounded character to get through these movies. Disney, can you please give me a healthy dose of Wong?
Suffice to say, you will not be disappointed by the answers to most of these questions, especially the Wong enigma. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fast-paced psychedelic experience that captivates its audience. This is an excellent entry in the Marvel pantheon with many mesmerizing cameos that fan boys and film fans will enjoy.
America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) is being hunted by an evil sorceress bent on stealing the young girl’s ability to jump through the multiverse. She’s already run into one Doctor Strange in a previous dimension, who decided to murder her instead of letting the evil sorceress take her power. Normal wizard dilemmas. Randomly transported to our world, she is leery of her new Steven Strange (but not Wong). After America, Strange and Wong fight a copyrighted, wedding crashing, one-eyed tentacle monster, Doctor Strange becomes the reality jumping girl’s reluctant protector.
They stash her in Kamar-Taj, which doesn’t last long. The disciples of Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme are decimated so severely that one wonders if the crew of Harry Potter might have fared better. After losing the battle, America panics activating her power which sends her and Strange careening through the multiverse. One of the movie’s best parts is Gomez and Cumberbatch falling through different glimpses of reality and sharing Easter-eggs galore with the audience.
At this point, I’m in awe of Sam Raimi’s directing. Raimi’s unique style is essential to this film, and half the scenes will give you flashbacks to Army of Darkness, Evil Dead 1&2, and his Spider-Man series. Disney could not have found a better director to pull off the trippy and ghoulish vibe. Raimi’s visuals immerse you in a mind-bending assault of weirdness that complements the story perfectly. And did I hear Danny Elfman titillating my auditory senses.
When Raimi gets to do horror, he does it Raimi style. The sewer chase scene is chilling, with enough creep and horror to make you jump. The fight sequences are shot with a choppy, sped-up focus on the character’s screaming faces. Like Raimi’s previous films, fast action and colorful effects dominate the movie.
Also Bruce Campbell revises his most famous role; as Bruce Campbell.
This sets off an avalanche of cameos. The star-studded part of the movie arrives when they land on Earth 838 where Bruce Campbell is not a zombie-slaying hardware salesman, but a hot dog vendor. The world is creative and clever, and Cumberbatch and Gomez do a great job developing their characters and interacting with the new reality. They search for answers in a world where Doctor Strange is dead and other heroes dominate the scene. Cool versions of superheroes we’ve seen before start popping up.
A friendly Karl ‘Baron’ Mordo? Is that a good Ultron? Whose big yellow wheelchair is that? Captain America’s shield? Didn’t they cancel that series? There are 5 characters, all played by actors you will recognize. Four of the five have been in or played characters in existing Marvel properties. The last one is a perfect fit and long-awaited addition to the Marvel universe. I’m not going to spoil it anymore, but the audience was ooohing and ahhhing with each introduction.
Rachel McAdams and Benedict Cumberbatch continue the on-screen chemistry established in the first Doctor Strange as they race to find a way to stop America’s power from being drained by the evil sorceress. They land on a dead version of our world, and our Doctor Strange finds another Doctor Strange whose mad attempts at finding happiness have left him cursed and his world shattered. The action mounts, and we finally see America Chavez use her powers to kick some witch tail. Wong helps save the day by providing moral guidance and quippy rejoinders. Everyone walks away knowing themselves a little better, but with a bit of loss.
Billed as Marvel’s first horror-action film, it doesn’t quite reach that level. There are several exciting jump scares and heavy sci-fi horror themes but like the majority of alternate reality sci-fi stories, the plot is steeped in the what-ifs? Many of the characters are asked if “they’re happy?” or would they be more content in another reality, where maybe they got everything they think they wanted? Or the family they never had?
In the end, as the dust settles and Wong’s disciples wish they could enlist Hogwart’s clean-up crew to repair Kamar-Taj, Strange asks Wong if he’s happy? He answers the question correctly, of course. While everyone else goes to insane, reality-shattering lengths to find happiness, Wong stays steady and finds peace in who he is.
Which is easy for him to say. He’s Wong.
He gets knocked out like three times during the movie (maybe more if you count the alternate Wongs) and just keeps cracking deadpan jokes through chipped molars. Next time, I hope that the film will be titled something like ‘Wong: The Race to Expand the Franchise, w/ Doctor Strange. It’s the only way Disney can take the amount of Wong in their films to the next level.
Go see it. Your reality will be forever changed.