The Pizza Poppa comes home now that “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” does too.

The 28th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, hit theaters May 2022 with audiences excited at the immeasurable possibilities of a Sam Raimi-directed MCU film that includes the much teased multiverse. Especially coming off the extraordinary heat of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), which featured Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and involved a connection between the MCU and Sony’s Spider-Man universe, expectations were super high. As a result, for some, the fact that there were not, in fact, enough multiverses to go mad in ourselves felt like a letdown. Others found the inclusion of the much-teased Illuminati (a consortium of Marvel Comics most brilliant minds) to be anti-climactic. Even more found the use Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff insulting, the inclusion of Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez underwhelming, and Doctor Strange himself pushed to the side. Dear reader, this reviewer not only disagrees with all of the above, but welcomes the ability to rewatch Doctor Strange travel outside the MCU’s central universe via Disney+ or on digital-to-own anytime I like as this film felt like a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. Not only that, between Michael Waldron’s (Loki)  script and Raimi’s (Evil Dead; Spider-Man) direction, audiences received the first truly terrifying MCU entry to date.


L-R: Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange and A-Camera Operator Rodrigo Gutierrez on the set of Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

**There will be detailed discussion of the film within this home release review, so I recommend jumping over to the initial theatrical review if you wish to learn about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness without any spoilers. Also, as this is the 28th entry, some aspects will be short-handed due to the presumption that anyone reading a home release review of Multiverse of Madness is likely familiar with the MCU as a whole.**

One might presume that it’s the events of No Way Home which precipitated the weakening of the walls between universes thanks to Doctor Strange’s memory-wiping spell going sideways after repeated interruptions by Peter Parker (Tom Holland), when, in fact, the person who threatens all universes everywhere is the Avenger’s own Wanda Maximoff, now known as the moniker The Scarlet Witch. In the wake of her experience in Westview, NJ, Wanda found herself in possession of a mystical object known as the Darkhold, which granted her the ability to search through the multiverse for signs of her children, Tommy and Billy (Jett Klyne and Julian Hilliard, respectively). In order to get to them, however, she needs a different kind of power, the power to breach the walls of the universes and there’s only one person with that ability in all the multiverse: America Chavez. Hunted for her power, America’s life and all the lives of the multiverse on the line, there’s only one person who can help her and she’s not sure she can trust him.


Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

I enjoy films in a franchise that take big swings, but I love when films do this within the established cannon. Though it seems the end of Olsen’s WandaVision series is less concrete than I thought, that series ends with Wanda having come to terms with her grief over losing Vision (Paul Bettany), but not her children. In fact, the final shot of the series shows Wanda using the Darkhold to reach out for them with the last thing we hear being them calling for their mother. According to the timeline of the series and films, WandaVision takes place roughly three weeks after Endgame and after the events of No Way Home, suggesting that Multiverse of Madness takes place in 2025, giving Wanda more than a year to (a) search for her kids making her supremely determined and (b) have the Darkhold, a book of dark magic, get its claws deep into her. With this in mind, Wanda as this story’s villain makes a great deal of sense. Few could threaten the multiverse like Wanda at this point and it’s far easier to use her than introduce a new character as a toss away villain a la Malekith. (Do you remember who that was? Points if you do!) Now, some see this as a disservice to the character who’s already gone through so much. To that, I think that this is a character whose entire arc has her going from one trauma to another — pawn of Hydra, pawn of Ultron (voiced by James Spader), accidentally killed civilians in Lagos, forced to murder her lover to save the universe and fails — so this would be the next natural place for her to go. Is it fair? Absolutely not. I legitimately don’t think what’s happened to Wanda throughout these films has been fair; however, since we still don’t know what Phase 4 is setting up, if there is a real grand threat coming, getting rid of the strongest Avenger now creates stakes for later in the same way moving Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) off the board at the end of Age of Ultron (2015) made it easier for the action in Civil War (2016) to be more balanced. I don’t think Wanda’s story is over and I don’t think she’s meant to be the villain permanently, but the way that Waldron applies what *did happen* to the script creates an opportunity to see Wanda in a whole new way for now.

Which brings us to the Illuminati and the multiverse. It was incredible to see Hayley Atwell as a live-action Captain Carter and Lashana Lynch as Captain Marvel. Having never watched Inhumans, I thought it was super cool to bring back Anson Mount to portray Black Bolt. Even bringing in frequently fan-casted actor John Krasinski to be Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four, was a smart way to offer some fan service. Though the best of it all was bringing in Patrick Stewart to reprise his role as Charles Xavier, but not as we’ve seen him before. This was *specifically* the version from the beloved 1992 X-Men animated series, complete with yellow-gold chair and theme music. Bringing this group together to punish Strange for his hubris smacks of little more than fan service, something made far more frustrating given the little screentime the collective is given — unless you, once more, shift your thinking. What better way to highlight the strength of Wanda than to have her destroy, literally, the Illuminati. But if you have her do it in the MCU Universe, there will be serious, unavoidable consequences. Have her do it in a different universe, audiences get the feat of strength, the shock of her abilities, and the promise of a different Black Bolt or a different Reed Richards can still come to play in our universe’s sandbox. My suspicion is that, after the multitude of cameos and throwback characters in No Way Home, the explosion of the multiverse at the end of Loki, and a title like Multiverse of Madness, audiences came in with untouchably high expectations and couldn’t see what Waldron and Raimi were doing.


Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Then there’s the issue of character centering. In most cases, a film is only as strong as its villain. Multiverse of Madness is strong because of how its villain and its hero function through a similar sense of pain avoidance through power. Wanda is undergoing her mission in order to reunite with her children, no matter who she hurts or what damage she causes. On the flip side, we learn that Strange is the arrogant SOB that he is because of a trauma he never talks about, the loss of a sister whom he felt too helpless to save. Because of this, Strange tries to be the best, not for the accolades, but to ensure that when danger comes, he can be the one to fix things. He goes too far in this, as many with untreated trauma tend to, pushing away the people he loves in the process by not trusting them to help lighten his load or to fend for themselves. Strange’s journey is to shift from a singular view of managing situations to allowing others to help. This is why it matters that alt-Earth Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) helps Strange to survive his attempt to stop Wanda. This is why it matters that, ultimately, it’s America who fights Wanda, not him. From a certain view, it can look like Strange is cast aside for the other characters when his arc is about learning to pass the reins and trust in others. Multiverse of Madness is very much Doctor Strange’s film, but that he’s not the center of it doesn’t mean he lacks an arc or that it doesn’t mirror some part of Wanda’s. The only person who gets the short shrift is Gomez as America, but that’s mainly because this is her introduction, not her story. As someone with no connection to the character beyond Gomez’s performance, I feel like what we get doesn’t offer much and it’s the shoehorning of her backstory that slows the momentum of the film, creating a combination that makes it seem like America is underutilized overall. To this, I can only hope that her next outing will prove more substantial and satisfying beyond being a living MacGuffin.


L-R: Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, and Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

By the by, because the bonus features don’t go into this, allow me to take a moment to remind that in Thor: The Dark World, there’s a scene with Stellan Skarsgård’s Dr. Erik Selvig where he postulates to a group of institutionalized individuals about his scientific theories and the phrase “616 Universe” is written right on the board. So don’t mistake Dr. Palmer’s declaration as confirming Quinton Beck’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) statement in Far From Home (2019), so much as it implies that Beck did a lot of reading up before using the multiverse approach to trick Peter Parker and Nick Fury.


L-R: Sheila Atim as Sara and Benedict Wong as Wong behind the scenes of Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Having gotten through all of that, I have good news and I have bad news with the bonus features. The bad news is that there isn’t enough and what’s included feels too short to really dig in on the aspects that really matter. For instance, “Introducing America Chavez” is only 3:30 minutes, which barely scratches the surface on Xochitl Gomez and her character. It’s delightful to see how quickly Gomez ingratiated herself with the cast, specifically with Benedict Wong (Sorcerer Supreme Wong). But given how Marvel readers were excited to see America on screen, it feels little too brief as a featurette. Only slightly longer is “Method to the Madness,” which offers a behind the scenes look at the making of the film from the perspective of the cast and crew. This one is strictly for the Raimi fans as we get a sense of what the director brought to the MCU as well as an answer on the location of The Classic (Evil Dead fans will know what I mean). The 11 minute “Constructing the Multiverse” examines the choices they made with characters and arcs in order to create the final film. This is interesting for those with their own theories, but doesn’t dig any deeper or offer any suggestions as to where Phase 4 is headed. Outside of these three featurettes totaling just over 19 minutes, there’s a 2:29 gag reel and three brief deleted scenes. Not much that really turns up anything new on the filmmaking process. For that, you’ll need to check out the feature-length commentary track featuring Raimi, Waldron, and co-producer Richie Palmer.


Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Be advised that this review is based off of a digital copy provided by Marvel Studios and the press notes mention that special features may be determined by retailer. Best as I can tell, the digital copy includes all the listed features below. There have been times when physical copies are short materials in an attempt to make the digital version more desirable. So be sure to check out what’s included before you make your format selection. Additionally, if you’re the sort who misses the days of Blu-ray-DVD-Digital combo sets, you’ll have to go to the Disney Movie Club to acquire it and it’ll include a variant cover.


Director Sam Raimi and crew members behind the scenes of Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

There are plenty of things that I loved about Multiverse of Madness, but I’m also firmly aware that (not being the arbiter of taste and style) not everyone feels that way. Audiences have grown attached to these characters over the years and have their own ideas about how they should be treated. As such, their reaction to Raimi and Waldron’s film is going to prickle. It didn’t for me and that’s why I can recommend this film with comfort and confidence. There’s a singular caveat: don’t let the littles watch this alone. More than any other MCU film to date, there are elements that are dark and bloody and will freak younger audiences out. So proceed with caution.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Special Features*:

  • Audio Commentary by Sam Raimi, Richie Palmer, and Michael Waldron. (2:06:31)
  • Constructing the Multiverse – Writing a feature film for Marvel is no easy task. In this playful yet informative featurette, we’ll dive into the challenges that writer Michael Waldron faced in creating the twisting and turning story of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. (11:11)
  • Introducing America Chavez – In this short and fun profile piece, we’ll learn about America’s humble beginnings in the comics. We’ll meet Xochitl Gomez and discuss the complications her character’s unique power presents for the future of the MCU. (3:30)
  • Method to the Madness – Join various crew members and Marvel employees in interviews as they discuss their love of Sam Raimi and all the details of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that make it quintessentially Raimi. (5:02)
  • Gag Reel – Take a look at some of the fun outtakes on set with the cast and crew of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. (2:29)
  • Three (3) Deleted Scenes:
    • A Great Team – A journalist questions Doctor Strange’s integrity. (1:30)
    • It’s Not Permanent – Bruce tries to accuse Doctor Strange of being an imposter. (1:01)
    • Pizza Poppa – Bruce is relieved when Doctor Strange’s spell ends. (0:29)

*bonus features vary by product and retailer

Available on Disney+ and digital June 22nd, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD July 26th, 2022.

For more information, head to the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Marvel webpage.

Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Recommendation

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