Marvel Zombies and British Thespians: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Sam Raimi does Marvel — so there it’s like a Marvel horror movie with Zombies, Demons and a stalwart cast of British Thesps. Evil Dead Doctor Strange?

*Spoilers ahead* Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) really wants to see her children from Westview (Wandavision times), imaginary or not… so she finds a magical/demonic book, Darkhold, and uses it (along with a dangerous cape flowing into circles of lit candles of sequence and some mystic runes chanting/levitating) to universe hop or dream walk. But there is a cost….

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) however is dreaming dreams and they ain’t pretty. He sees a young girl with powers in his dreams, America, and then saves her in real life during his ex-s wedding as she almost exits this universe pursued by a giant eyeball on tentacles (or demon, apparently). America has universe hopping powers she can’t control, having already zapped her parents into another universe and loaded with guilt about this (whoops).

Doctor Strange asks Wanda for help in dealing with the giant marauding eyeballs and in protecting the universe zapping girl America — only she is the wrong person to ask, because Wanda is the source of all the mayhem. In becoming the Scarlet Witch, attacking the mystical Kamar-Taj, ‘reasonably’ destroying lots of sorcerors who object to this, and forcing Wong (Benedict Wong) to help her capture the real Darkhold (Strange destroyed a copy), involving going to a mountain lair (non-Bond style). With the help of some cute rock dropping trolls at Mount Wundagore, Wanda dream walks some more and indwells another version of herself in an alternate universe where she can be the perfect Mom to her boys…

Meanwhile, America universe hops Strange into Earth 838 too, an alternate universe. All this multiverse hopping forces Strange to meet and contact alternate versions of himself, to humorous effect and some imagination (such as a fight with music scores and sharp, pointy notes — a literal culture war). He also meets his arch nemesis Karl Mondo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) (who, as this version, is nice) and nicely hands Strange over to the Illuminati (!) as he can’t be trusted to use dangerous things or work as part of a team. Not so much Dan Brown as the cream of British Thesps - Peggy Carter (aka non-Ginger Spice) in a spin on the Captain America outfit as a giant walking Union Jack flag (Hayley Atwell); Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart); brilliant and gallant Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch); not to mention, (just to reduce the Jubilee/Brit fever), John Krasinski as an emphatic Reed Richards, one of the Fantastic Four. Charles Xavier decides to give Doctor Strange a redemptive second chance as they have had a chance to team vote about whether he’s dodgy or just strange, and have bigger fish to fry like holding Wanda at bay and protecting the Book of Vishanti (the antidote to all the Darkhold malarky) in the Strange Museum. Oh and the Illuminati killed off a Doctor Strange in this universe, and made him a museum….. And then Strange kills off a bitter version of himself, trauamatising his true love. Plus, third eyes!!!! I’m not sure how Strange can still be alive if other versions of him are dead — surely this would mess up the time-flow continuum a little, (but this isn’t Doctor Who, but Zombies in Space!)

In all the versions Doctor Strange longs to reunite with his true love Christine (Rachel McAdams); and in this numeric multiverse he almost does, only she has put him and America into some Bond style glass boxes to keep alien germs at bay, utilising Strange’s technology and her medical skills. Ironically it’s Strange’s watch (a git from surgeon love Christine) and not his magic which can unlock a safe giving access to the Book of Vishanti in another multiverse, (strangely Durer like). Maximoff appears and battles to destroy this book (having destroyed the Illuminati, she is equally successful in doing this), universe hops with America and steals her powers to be with her boys forever, in the right part of the multiverse.

Only in a surprise twist that very few would see coming, Doctor Strange indwells a dead version of himself in this universe, uses the power of the dark side (including harnessing demon attack to his advantage), Wong defeats the cute trolls (which I think is a bit unfair) and as his Zombie self delivers a pep talk to America to harness the power within her. Which she does and then gives Wanda what she wants — her children. Only the children are not keen on witches (if only she’d disguised herself as an ice-cream seller) nor on someone who attacks their Mom infront of them, nor on Mom replacement. Wanda is horrified by herself and what she’s become and packaged up with some demons by Strange.

All is right with the world(s) — some of the sorcerers killed by Wanda appear to have come back to life again by the end (what?) as they rebuild the demolished site, America goes into training (Harry Potter?!!!) and Doctor Strange has killed off a bitter version of himself, but developed a literal third eye through messing about with the dark side.

The fact that I’ve had to look most of this up shows how complicated the plot is and I may well have mashed up some of the finer details! There is the usual mashing and bashing of Marvel people (in ways which would induce spinal trauma and permanent brain injury in anyone else); but also more terror than usual — such as Wanda (in her perfect Mom indwelling lurching Zombie like down a corridor dripping with water after Strange and co, until she vanishes), or invading Strange’s world to capture America through water — her claw like hand reaching out to grab….

Unusually, Wanda has good reasons for wanting to control the world — she wants to be a good Mom to her sons. Only it isn’t real perhaps…any more than her verdant apple orchard or happy family home. America Chavez seems like a giant slap in the face for Donald Trump — she has Moms, a patriotic yet migrant name and saves the universe through giving the villain what she wants.

More disturbing is the light weight way messing about with bad spiritual things like demons is treated or all this indwelling of other people (much like Wonder Woman 84), especially when they’re yourself, or yourself — but…dead…The spiritual side of things could have been explored more — is it really that easy to utilise evil for good? What about the cost/the personal impact? Wanda only cares at the end, because what she wants is more than the lives of others around her — she can’t see that she’s become what she doesn’t want to be.

Given all the CG and green screening going on, the whole cast are remarkable at keeping such silliness going and apart from it’s teenage boy feel with gross out comedy and squelchy shots, this movie is a lot of fun and from my tone, you can tell I’m struggling to take it seriously! Nice to see such an ensemble piece with so many standout actors, who bring such gravitas to nonsense really — I do, however, feel that the trolls and Pizza Poppa (who really only wanted to get paid for his merch being eaten for free aka stolen) get a raw deal… And Doctor Strange seems to have messed up, leading to Part 3…. Overall it is more Evil Dead Zombies than Marvel Movie….(apart from the modern art installation moment where Professor Xavier attempts to rescue Wanda from..herself….)

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