‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ brings horror to the Marvel universe


Photo courtesy of Disney

Spoiler warning ahead!

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a sequel to 2016’s Dr. Strange, and is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fourth phase of movies. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role and details his adventures in trying to save the newly created multiverse from the Scarlet Witch. Multiverse of Madness brings a much darker tone to the Marvel universe than usual while still keeping character relationships at the front and center of the movie.

Multiverse of Madness follows Dr. Stephen Strange as he tries to save young America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, from the grief-stricken Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Chavez has the unique ability to travel to different universes, but is unable to control her power. Wanda Maximoff has taken a sinister turn since her last film appearance in Avengers: Endgame; after the loss of her husband Vision and her children in the Disney + show WandaVision, she’s chosen to harness the powers of the Darkhold, a grimoire of spells. Maximoff takes on the mantle of the Scarlet Witch, attempting to use Chavez’s multiverse-hopping powers to go to a universe where her children are alive, resorting to hunting Chavez down. Chavez comes under Strange’s protection while running from the demons Maximoff created and sent after her. After Strange finds out what Maximoff’s plan for Chavez is, he vows to protect her and they begin a search for a weapon to take down the Scarlet Witch.

Multiverse of Madness brings a rare grimdark tone to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Elements of horror are sprinkled throughout the film, with stunning visual effects, like a character crawling out of a mirror or souls of the damned being magically transformed into shadowy wings. The recurring question for Dr. Strange, asked by both himself and other characters, is “Are you happy?” This theme of false happiness is an undercurrent running through the entire movie, and shows how Stephen Strange, despite not appearing in his own movie since 2016, has grown as a character.

While Multiverse of Madness starts off with heavy exposition, the subsequent ride is well worth the extended first act. Audience members who have seen accompanying Disney + shows (e.g. Loki, WandaVision) and have knowledge of other Marvel properties outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (e.g. X-Men, the Fantastic Four) will have their knowledge rewarded with extra context to Multiverse of Madness’s complex multiverse and cameos from those properties. Overall, while Multiverse of Madness can be a bit of a challenge to get through, its foray into suspense and surrealism provides a weird and wonderful time that Marvel fans are sure to enjoy.