By Daniel Paiz
Acceptance of self is a very difficult thing to consistently maintain, and Dr. Strange in The Multiverse of Madness does a good job exploring that. Multiple characters transverse various decisions that have led them to their current paths. Those who have learned and made better decisions are who viewers cheer and appreciate the most. Those who do not meet the endings they could have avoided.
If you’ve seen this film on its US opening weekend of May 6, 2022, then you likely get who I’m referring to. If you have not, then all of the below is something to refer back to after you’ve watched this film. I tried to not include spoilers but there might be minor ones here and there. There’s even a certain symbol throughout that might just hint at the importance of the multiverse. In particular there are three characters to watch evolve over the course of this film. Enjoy seeing where they go.
Their biggest fears are their biggest strengths
The five stages of grief aren’t quite on display for Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Rather, anger and denial seem to largely be her driving forces. this is despite the presentation of acceptance viewers first encounter of Wanda onscreen. WandaVision did such a good job of diving deeper into Wanda’s processing of Vision’s death, or lack thereof.
That “processing” leads to her powers growing beyond what others can rival, as the Scarlet Witch is “reasonably” seeking something else. Her anger leads her blindly, as it does for most anti-heroes working through grief. The only way she realizes what she’s become is when it’s reflected back at her. Before that happens, however, viewers learn what happens when trauma and pain remain unhealed.
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been battling with his ego and his need for control since 2017’s Doctor Strange. In the sequel, Christine* (Rachel McAdams) repeatedly tells Stephen he’s always had to be “the one holding the knife”, alluding to his need to take charge of situations. This go-around, this* former sorcerer supreme deals with these words and realizes how important help from Christine, among others, truly is.
Strange in previous films had known this but never truly dealt with it. His decisions* in this film reflect that in order to reach the best outcomes, he can’t be the only one making things happen. One such scene with Multiverse traveler America Chavez gets a different outcome after such growth. Had it gone the same way as the first time, you and I might’ve missed the reason why Miss Chavez is such a hot commodity in the first place.
There’s also that little lesson that learning from one’s mistakes is the best way to reach a better outcome (plus the “animated” return viewers get the second time is awesome). That final act where Stephen goes beyond Strange in how he demonically joins the fray might be my favorite part of the film; well, after the Elfman-esque exchange of notes between Stranges which set up said darkness.
America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), or Miss America as comic book fans might recognize her, faces growing pains that she hasn’t fully worked through. Chavez’s entire life has been travelling from one universe to the next, seemingly due to when she feels like she needs to escape a situation. While Strange, Wong and others might be fighting to save the multiverse traveler, she has her own key moments.
Imagine being a teenager unsure of your skills and potential, fully realizing that power in the direst of circumstances. Chavez does that when she’s likely to be wrecked beyond existence in the final act. She even uses her counterparts’ powers against them, helping said character accept they’ve turned into something they swore they hadn’t. Chavez’s journey of self-acceptance and rejection of risk and fear makes her a character higher on the power ladder than initially expected.
Multiverse of Madness is a watershed moment
This film might just be the same kind of movie that Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame were: a massive setup for the future. There are some extraordinary people that are beyond human levels introduced. These introductions lay the groundwork for upcoming Disney Plus shows and films. Marvel probably has enough stuff to work on for the next five years due in part to what viewers witness in Multiverse of Madness. Embrace the incursion of horror and weirdness throughout this film, because it might just be sticking around for awhile.