Sam Raimi returns to the superhero genre. Doctor Strange must protect a teenage girl capable of travelling between universes. Minor spoilers follow.
It turns out Wanda Maximoff—aka the Scarlet Witch—is after the aforementioned teen. She wants the girl’s powers to travel to another universe where she has children. But this also means killing the girl. Why? Because the script says so.
Strange can’t have that, so—after an uncharacteristic flub that sees him reveal where he’s stashed the girl—he travels in search of a mystic book that will grant him the power to defeat Wanda. This involves a terrific scene full of amazing visuals where he and the girl careen through multiple dimensions, only to land in one identical to ours save minor cosmetic differences. Red and green are reversed on traffic lights and pizza comes in balls, not slices.
The script never acknowledges the obvious plot-holes with Wanda’s motivation. Why isn’t she searching for Vision? Why not travel to a universe where her children have become orphans?
The script does find time for some cringe-worthy pandering. The universe-jumping character is named America Chavez and wears a stars-and-stripes jean jacket. She scorns our universe for charging for food, claiming it’s “free in most universes.”
The script also draws some ill-conceived parallels between Wanda’s actions here and Strange’s actions in Infinity War. The analogy doesn’t hold water.
That said, between Spider-man: No Way Home and this film, Marvel seems lost with Strange’s character. After a terrific arc from his origin film through Endgame that transformed him from short-term self-absorbed egoist into a long-term big-picture visionary, Strange now seems incapable of seeing the consequences of his actions. For example, his insistence on protecting America brings Wanda to another universe where she murders their version of the Avengers1.
Still, I enjoyed the movie. Why? Because Sam Raimi injects a good bit of his signature style. We get dutch angles, zooming dolly shots, a Bruce Campbell cameo, and a finale featuring a zombified Doctor Strange. Leads Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen know these characters better than the script. They pack ample charisma and seem thrilled to be in a Raimi picture. You can almost see the grin on Cumberbatch’s face through his makeup as Zombie-Ash—er—Strange.
Indeed, by the time the finale rolled around, my emotional stakes weren’t with the characters, but with Raimi, hoping he could stick the landing. He does. I can imagine this rating falling with future viewings, but on first watch, I had a ball. Imagine if Marvel had gotten out of Raimi’s way and let him make a standalone Strange movie. Maybe someday.
- Okay, the Illuminati aren’t really the Avengers, but I enjoyed seeing them, even if the membership made no sense.↩