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Spoiler-Free Review

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (MoM) is not Dr. Strange 2. It's not a follow-on from Spider-Man: No Way Home. It is, in fact, WandaVision season 2, and that show (or a good summary) is required before watching MoM. MoM is a feast for the eyes; a rich spectacle with fantastic set-pieces. Some of the fight scenes are particularly inventive and fascinating. And...that's about it. The movie doesn't go anywhere or do anything. The central narrative hook is simplistic and, frankly, very silly. (See spoiler review below.)

Lots of people have been saying how good Xochitl Gomez is as America Chavez, but the truth is her character is just a McGuffin, an object the primary characters fight over. There are plenty of superhero cameos, but they're short and pointless. The acting is superb, but they're dealing with a script that is, in essence, non-sensical. I loved the action pieces (especially a fight using musical notes), and the movie is rewatchable for those alone.

MoM is a feast, but one that leaves you feeling empty. Rating: 3 out of 5

SPOILER Review, Click to read

ds2 wandaIn WandaVision, the writers never could figure out whether or not Wanda was a villain. (She was.) We were supposed to empathize with her grief, but it's hard to feel sorry for her when she physically and psychically enslaved and tortured a few thousand people for weeks. Monica Rambeau, as the audience's avatar, even says the townspeople will never know what Wanda sacrificed for them. Oh, yes, Wanda stops torturing these people and we're supposed to feel bad because Wanda sacrified her make-believe family. What was an intriguing and enthralling show ended on a very sour note.

Which brings us to MoM. MoM proposes Wanda going on a bender, summoning demons and slaughtering lots of people, all to find a universe where her pretend children are real, so Wanda can be their mommy. Yes, that is the main plot of Multiverse of Madness. Wanda is trying to kidnap America Chavez so she can steal Chavez's power of traveling the multiverse so Wanda can find her boys and be re-united with the family she never really had. (She is asked why not just use Chavez to get to that universe? Why steal Chavez's power? Wanda's answer? "What if my boys get sick? I need to be able to travel the multiverse to find cures!" I wanted to bang my head on a wall at that point.)

Strange tries to stop her. And none of this is kept a secret; Wanda is revealed as the big bad within three minutes of showing up on screen approximately 20 minutes into the film. From there, the movie is really all about Wanda. Strange gets no real character arc, and doesn't actually end up beating Wanda anyway. You know how they beat Wanda? America Chavez shows her she can't actually be a mommy for two alternate universe incarnations of her pretend kids*, so then she feels bad about what she's done, says no one else will ever be corrupted by the Darkhold, and commits suicide**.

*It's never explained how people who are a figment of Wanda's imagination have alternate universe selves.

**I hope. Hey, Marvel, if you're going to bring people back from the dead start with Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff.

ds2 defenderAnd therein lies the central problem with both WandaVision and Multiverse of Madness: Wanda is never responsible for her actions. In WV, Wanda's grief leads her to create an alternate reality where she can be happy, even if no one else in the town will ever be happy again. In MoM, the Darkhold corrupts Wanda into seeking her own happiness at the cost of hundreds, maybe thousands, of other lives. The catchphrase from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films was, "With great power comes great responsibility." In MoM, Raimi says, "With great power comes the complete lack of responsibility for your actions." It's a disheartening message.

Much is made of Marvel villains and whether they are "good" or "bad." Wanda Maximoff is probably the worse villain Marvel has yet conjured. Probably because Marvel keeps trying to tell us she's really a good person. I can kind of empathize with WV Wanda and her grief overpowering her good sense. I cannot get behind her motivation in MoM. It is complete drivel. And if your villain is doing things for nonsensical reasons, the entire movie is rendered nonsensical.

This movie had the capability of being a great Marvel experience. All they needed to do was invest fully in Scarlet Witch being a villain. Give her a good reason to kidnap Chavez and steal her powers: wants to rule the multiverse, wants to claim the power of other universe's heroes, even wants to kill all alternate versions of herself*** so she can be the only Scarlet Witch. Anything other than wanting to be mommy for two make-believe sons.

***In the comics, Scarlet Witch is a Nexus Being and is unique, so there shouldn't be any alternate universe versions of Wanda Maximoff.

What Wanda really needs is a good therapist. What we, the audience need, is for Marvel to find better villains. Maybe Gorr the God Butcher in Thor 4 will have better motivations.