There’s something “strange” in the MCU. Who are you going to call? Cameos! Don’t worry, for those who have not seen the film; the cameos will not be revealed here, except to say that there ARE cameos. These will probably get a lot of fans excited, but at the end of the day, they are disappointingly superficial. A better script could have better integrated these characters in such a way as to be integral to the story being told.
What is that story? Here’s the basic gist of it all: A young woman has a superpower she cannot control, and that superpower is the ability to cross into different versions of reality. In these other universes, the people and the worlds may be largely the same, but there are differences, and each person has a version of himself or herself in each universe. This idea has been used in many science fiction stories before, but the special effects technology has now caught up to the concept’s potential.
This young woman, America Chaves, had sought the help of Doctor Strange in another reality, as a wretched demon has been trying to capture her and steal her ability to cross universes. When she seeks the help of “our” MCU Doctor Strange, he tries his best to protect her but makes a grave mistake early on: he seeks help from the former Avenger Wanda Maximov. In fact, it was Wanda herself who had been after the young woman all along. Wanda’s full power as the Scarlet Witch is unleashed as she invades Doctor Strange’s safehouse, Kamar Taj. America transports herself and Doctor Strange across many different realities to escape from the Scarlet Witch.
While seeing other realities is definitely a feast for the eyes, the film has far too many visual effects for any one sequence to be as powerful or as memorable as it could be. There are a few interesting gothic environments shown near the end of the film that would please a lot of fans of Hammer horror movies, but with so many other fantastical environments in the movie, these dark castles are not nearly as engrossing as they could be. Gothic horror, after all, is as much about mood and tone as it is about creepy settings and environments. And since this is a comic book movie, the tension needed to make the more horrific segments of the later parts of the film work is not attained; the visuals are there, but the mood hasn’t been earned.
Though intended as a big summer blockbuster with the trailers accentuating the visual effects, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness would be better suited as a six-episode MCU Disney Plus series, perhaps with each episode taking place in a different alternate universe. As it is, the film is just a bit too much of everything crammed in two hours: if you order two scoops of ice cream and they give you four scoops, then you might have an idea of why the new film doesn’t quite work.