Doctor Strange is a Madness of Magic and Horror


The new movie was the biggest release of this year yet failed to deliver on themes.

Anush Melikyan, Staff Writer

The Master of Mystic Arts returns to the big screens this weekend as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuted with a striking $450 million dollar opening worldwide, pleasing Marvel Studios and Disney while becoming the biggest release of 2022. 

The movie eliminates past films’ playful idiosyncrasies, instead opting for a formulaic business model that solely exists to bring in money. The new film does not care about entertainment. The brand of Marvel is the entertainment: moviegoers are not watching films for a narrative, instead they are given a rather shallow assortment of aspects from other movies. It’s a messy attempt by the company’s movies and series to multiply the potential number of properties and story lines that popular characters can anchor. It feels as if Marvel made the movie for the purpose of merely keeping their stance as an entertainment brand rather than a brand that is based on entertainment. 

The construction of the script does the opposite of freeing the protagonists and their dramatic possibilities. Strange, America Chavez, Wong, and Wanda are diminished to being minimally described and highly manipulated (and manipulative) action puppets in the hands of the producers. The main characters have the potential to play a powerful role in the story and as people but it seems as if they are chained to simply being powerful during action scenes. Their characters swing back and forth between relationships, forming and exploring connections with others while never being fully developed themselves. This careless jostling of characters results in the erasure of any remainders of humanity or complexity that they might have: essentially, their inner and outer struggles are obscured by a complicated web of other interconnected relationships.

The craft of the film is also missing [heart, inspiration, a creative spark.] Action sequences; key sources of delight in the first movie — instead decrease the wonder of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. They are carelessly added, and accomplish nothing. They exist solely to show off special effects, choreography, and to fit the Marvel brand. Fight scenes were much more developed and given attention to rather than the story behind the characters themselves. Scenes of mass destruction should feel terrifying and intense, but instead they are superficial and anticlimactic. Action scenes that should have been seamlessly integrated were put in so often it took away a chance for the audience to be able to see the real side of the character outside action scenes. Furthermore, the dialogue is reduced to awkward proverbs and telegram-like dictations. The end result is a dull and messy film. 

 A sequel that would dive into the deep themes of self-sacrifice and grief from the first Doctor Strange movie and the WandaVision tv show through a horror lens was what was expected. Though the final product felt much more interested in the weird wizard battles without the same emotional weight as Spider- Man: No Way Home. The big themes of self-sacrifice and grief were there but were neither smoothly integrated into the storyline nor continued throughout. The movie attempted to emphasize on themes yet the sheer amount of lengthy action scenes took away from the time spent on themes The movie sometimes did care about themes and the story as a whole, however most of the time it was just action scenes. The action scenes were trying to stick to the horror aspect that director Sam Raimi does a great job of bringing to the film, though the effort to implement the horror aspect took away from the movie’s ability to emphasize on  big themes and character development. Essentially, this film seems like it was trying to accomplish too much between trying to successfully bring the horror aspect, focus on key themes, and characters- the end result is a final product that fails in accomplishing anything as a whole. It was as if Marvel was just trying to hit points on a checklist and push the brand rather than uphold the original entertainment value the movies had. 

Though the whole film felt artificially produced, there was one scene where it felt like it was crafted with genuine intent rather than being produced by a committee trying to hit a runtime. Moments after a destructive downtown battle with a monstrous giant cyclopian octopus, Strange and Wong join America at a pizzeria, where she details her experience with the multiverse. The slight sequence provides a mighty work of speculative imagination-which the rest of the film fails to do so.