In 2008 Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. ignited what would become the most successful film franchise in the history of cinema. The Marvel Cinematic Universe began as an experiment of sorts, with the intent of applying the continuity element that made comics, and TV shows so captivating into the cinema experience. Until that moment, respectful franchises only dared to go into the trilogy territory to tell its stories. But Marvel dared to go beyond that, making each film a step into a greater story, one that would make millions of people go to the theaters for every new chapter.
Now, we are in 2022, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness becomes the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 28 movies in, the MCU sounds like a lot to take in. and it is especially now with the Disney+ shows adding more and more characters and expanding the overall continuity. To places even further and further beyond what would be considered optimal for a long form of storytelling. At this point, the MCU is a well oiled machine, delivering three to four films every year, but the formula that was developed from the experiment might be starting to come apart at the seams.
Multiverse of Madness wasn’t a smooth production. Scott Derrickson, the director for the first Doctor Strange left the film stating creative differences and in his place, Marvel hired Sam Raimi, famous for the Evil Dead, and original Spider-Man trilogies to helm the film. The need for an experience director to take the reins of the production in such a short notice was a must, but this would become the blessing and the curse of the film.
Multiverse of Madness is one hell of a mess. The movie as we see it in theaters is a disaster on a structural level, it doesn’t really hold any emotional potential, and falls apart very easily when it comes to delivering satisfying storylines to its characters. It is very clear that the movie we see in theaters is the shortened version of a longer and more complete cut. It doesn’t mean that the longer cut is better, the movie could have been cut for many reasons, and yet, it is very sad that the film doesn’t live up to its name.
When you hear the title Multiverse of Madness, many things come to mind, but the movie delivers none of them. When Loki, one of the Disney+ shows, delivers more when it comes to that title, then your movie is lacking something. The film is written by Michael Waldron, who served as writer and showrunner for the Loki show, so we know he has good ideas and can execute on them. However, here in Multiverse of Madness Waldron’s story feels held back truncated and just too isolated to be taken seriously as the big epic event that it was supposed to be.
The film not only feels truncated in terms of pacing, and story, but it also serves a jail for Raimi as a director. Raimi is without a doubt, the director with the most idiosyncrasies that has ever directed a Marvel film. Throughout the movie we are witnesses to many of his signature moves, and stylistic choices. However, Raimi can never go full into that territory because he needs to adapt to a story that was already written and set of parameters that cannot be broken. Parameters that give the MCU a lot of consistency between films, but also a lot of restrictions when it comes to creativity.
Raimi’s style is fantastic, towards the end of it the director makes the most out of sequences that feel way more in line to what he does best, and it feels great. However, during the rest of the movie, it is clear that Raimi was not the correct director for this material. Maybe next time it would be nice to bring him in right at the start of the planning state and not after everything is already decided.
For such a big production, the film feels small. Like so many other productions filmed during the pandemic, the film feels like it was all shot inside sets and the over-reliance on green screen to expand the sets is quite noticeable. Visual effects are also quite inconsistent throughout the movie. In some places, they look great and in some others they fall flat. Like for example the battle against Gargantos during the early part of the film.
Some other questionable decisions are made throughout the movie, but they have more to do with the narrative side of things, and they would be spoilers if mentioned. Nevertheless, we can say that Multiverse of Madness is quite disappointing when it comes to delivering on its potential.
Unlike many other Marvel films that has come before it, the film also fails to guide the overall MCU into new territory. The lack of focus on this Phase 4 of the MCU is quite clear. After watching Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Eternals, No Way Home, and Multiverse of Madness, it is still unclear where the story of the MCU heading. By the time Phase One ended with the first Avengers film, the MCU has already given a direction with the same amount of films. Over here, we are still in limbo.
There are two after credit scenes, the first one teases a great new addition to the MCU character roster, but doesn’t tell us anything else. And the second one is one of those jokey ones, a good one, but they fall short. It seems that even the famous Marvel after credits scenes are losing their luster.
So, far Into the Spider-Verse, keeps being the best superhero film to make use of the multiverse concept. The question is still up in the air as to how the MCU will use it, because even what was presented in Loki, doesn’t go anywhere near this story. Marvel will be safe, people still love these movies and will swear by them. But if we really want to reach Secret Wars it needs to be done while the iron is hot, because right now, it feels like it is being cooled off, quite a bit.