Worlds Collide in Doctor Strange’s Multiverse of Madness

The summer movie season will begin (as it has pretty much every year for over a decade) with another entry in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time, opening May 5th is Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Judging by advanced ticket sales and extremely positive reactions to the trailers, this movie seems poised to do well. Of course, the real question is: will it be good?

In this regard, it certainly has a lot going in its favor. Benedict Cumberbatch has been superb at playing this character in multiple films, and the character himself has grown in importance as the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has progressed. He was an indispensable part of the films Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which concluded the Infinity Saga. Most recently, he played a truly instrumental role in Spider-Man: No Way Home, as his spell was essential in opening up the Multiverse and allowing heroes and villains from other Spider-Man films into the main universe of the MCU.

Will Multiverse of Madness deal with the repercussions of his actions, that the proverbial Pandora’s box was opened? While that might be the case, there is also a chance that Strange’s exploration of the Multiverse in the new film might be something new because the MCU is a connected universe. Most of the films are written and designed for people to jump on board at any time, starting at the beginning of any movie and seeing a largely stand-alone story begin in the film that they are watching (with the final two Avengers films mentioned above notwithstanding). As such, whatever goes awry with the Multiverse will likely occur at the beginning of this film and not be something “leftover” from the last movie. It might simply begin with Doctor Strange researching what had happened at the conclusion of No Way Home, and, unable to leave “well enough alone,” he does further research, and the new problems arise from what happens in Multiverse of Madness As we’ve seen from the post-credit scenes in Morbius, it’s rather sloppy to be too referential to another film, particularly No Way Home, where the crack in the universe that has both allowed other characters to slip while simultaneously requiring Strange and Parker to seal that breach at the cost of Parker’s own identity in the eyes of others should be a story that basically is finished when No Way Home ended.

Yet, the trailers and posters for Multiverse of Madness show pretty clearly that Wanda Maximov will be returning for this film and will likely be the film’s villain, and such a story thread will probably stem directly from the events of last year’s Disney Plus series WandaVision. It has been theorized that Wanda may be the most powerful magic-user in the MCU.

Rumors abound indicate that this film is full of surprises, from cameos to mind-bending twists. We’ve already seen indications from the main trailer that Professor X (as played by Patrick Stewart) will be in the film, perhaps as part of the Illuminati council that seems to preside over Strange’s fate as when the madness goes too far.

Yet, the question remains: will this movie be good? The trailers certainly depict a vast extravaganza of visual effects, yet, other than the sheer number of them, visual effects alone represent nothing new at all for an MCU film, and the last few films have been rather rote in the effects department: lots of colors depicting different kinds of energies and magic, but it’s finally getting stale. The biggest concern, however, is the story. When the Disney Plus show Loki debuted last year and introduced what may be a different take on the “Multiverse,” many viewers were undoubtedly left confused by the convoluted nature of it all. Particularly when the show went inside the Time Variance authority headquarters, where Infinity Stones meant nothing at all. For many people, truly getting a grasp of what’s at stake has become difficult. In a more basic sense, if there are many universes, then the fact that a character might die no longer carries any dramatic weight, for there’s likely the same (or very similar character) from a different universe that just comes in and replaces that person. In short, if the MCU wishes to continue to engage as wide an audience as possible, it should probably close and seal the multiverse story idea as quickly as possible and return to some basic superhero action before many viewers become lost trying to navigate the concept of multiple versions of our universe.

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