I hope that you understand. The greatest threat to our Universe… is you! We have lost control!
For some time now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has lost a lot of its bite. After more than ten years of production, including films and series, the magical universe of superheroes created by Stan Lee and his associates no longer makes us dream as much as it once did, and the reasons are different. On the one hand there is, without a doubt, a radical change in the way and timing of product use. Covid has inflicted a significant wound on cinema, which has already been struggling and suffering for some time, thanks to an increasingly bare and distracted audience. If for fans the film in the theater represents an irreplaceable event, it is also true that for the average public the convenience of “cinema at home” – thanks to the numerous streaming platforms available – can appear decidedly bewitching and seductive. On the other hand, the house of Mickey Mouse itself, with the Disney+ platform, has done nothing but endorse this mass escape from cinemas, between original TV series produced specifically for streaming and films that arrive in the catalog just one or two months after their cinema release. On the one hand, therefore, a society that has radically changed compared to the last decade, whose demands and needs have become more immediate, influenceable and prone to easy boredom.
On the other hand we have witnessed a clear decline in quality in the latest MCU productions: from questionable special effects to childish humor. The exploration of the Multiverse, with all the complications that comes with it, has made the plot of the films following Phase Four increasingly complex and, at times, inconsistent. The Marvel multiverse apparently likes to change, so that in three different films we see three different ways of thinking about the idea of parallel universes. Between one eyebrow raise and another. Marvel films are increasingly cartoonish and not in a good way, so much so that they have drastically dropped thehype compared to several years ago. Like every past, present and future trend, that of superheroes is inevitably destined to come to an end and the sun seems to get lower every day on the horizon of this genre. There are, however, some pleasant exceptions that make us remain optimistic about the MCU and hopeful regarding its future. On Disney+ this is the case of WandaVision, a TV series that so far dominates the podium of original productions unchallenged. At the cinema the cases were different, from The Eternals (among the most underrated MCU titles) a Guardians of the Galaxy vol.3passing, precisely, through Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
ATTENTION! The following article may contain SPOILERS, do not read if you have not seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
What do the three films mentioned above have in common? Behind each of them we find the hand of a director with a singular, clear and recognizable vision. James Gunn, Chloé Zao and, finally, Sam Raimi. The same Sam Raimi who brought the friendly neighborhood Spiderman to the cinema for the first time returns to Marvel Studios to sign another film that bears his name in every single frame. To hell with bright colors, cheap humor and irreproachable heroes, Sam Raimi writes and directs a story where fear, blood and black magic reign supreme with a totally imperfect Doctor Strange and a villain version of Scarlett Witch to root for. The American director – famous for the great horror classic The House – has always favored the mix of violence and humour, visible since his debut. Own Homefor example, is a horror trilogy of its own kindin which the terrifying events involving the protagonist Ash and his friends can never be taken completely seriously, due to zany details and scenes so absurd that they make us burst out laughing. A style, therefore, grotesque and surreal is what distinguishes Raimi and all his works. Even in Doctor Strange, decisive plot moments are deflated of their pathos, such as the scene in which the sorcerer uses the body of his zombie version or the one in which the Illuminati are popped as if they were balloons.
This unique style is accompanied by frenetic direction that continually oscillates from calm to storm it leaves the viewer perpetually on edge, increasing that sense of dismay that accompanies us throughout the film. But the shock Raimi gives us is the good kind. It’s not the perplexity resulting from a confusing plot, a less than credible villain or inconclusive secondary characters. Quite the opposite. In Doctor Strange, Raimi does not bow to the Disney machine (at least not completely except for some impositions from the other which not even the director was able to oppose) remaining himself and bringing himself into the film. There are hilarious moments, like the scene with the hot dog guy, but also scary moments, especially those involving Wanda, never losing sight of an underlying moral that reaches us without being obvious.
Raimi’s tense, frenetic and bizarre direction pairs well with this story of necromancy, guilt and corruption.
Stephen Strange and Wanda Maximoff are two sides of the same coin. Two sorcerers with immense power who fought together, experienced the same evil but did not lose in the same way. And it is precisely the loss that marks, perhaps incontrovertibly, the path chosen by Wanda. After the tragic events that occurred in Westview, Wanda has not stopped thinking obsessively about her children and the life she could have had with them and Vision. Wanda’s pain is a black liquid that clouds her mind, fueled by dark magic learned from the Darkhold, the book of the damned.
You break the rules and become a hero… I do it and become the enemy. It does not seem right!
Hurt, embittered and disappointed, Wanda embraces her dark side by unleashing all her powers to realize the dream of a happy life together with her children. But Wanda’s desire has the features of a nightmare, which she herself cannot escape once the truth is revealed.. Faced with the frightened faces of two children who are not really hers, crying for their wounded mother, Wanda understands that she has gone too far and that her pain has made her a monster. An unfortunate fate that of our former heroine turned villain, who in any case we cannot hate in any way. Wanda talks to us about the dark sides of superpowers and the price to pay. It’s not the classic fairy tale where the good guys have their happy ending and the bad guys are defeated because Wanda is neither one nor the other. Already in this three-dimensional and complicated character we find the greatest strength of an excellent film.
Wanda’s fate is what could have awaited our New York sorcerer, if only things had gone differently. As indeed happened in one of the various alternative universes visited by Strange and America. In one of these dark recesses of the Multiverse, Strange has become, in effect, the villain of his world, corrupted by the Darkhold and now lost among his dark spells. The same Strange we know and love is called to immerse himself in the darkness of his own being in order to stop Wanda and save everyone. In fact, only through a specific necromancy spell can Strange prevent Wanda from carrying out the ritual and killing America. The second chapter of the story of Doctor Strange is a further step forward in the construction of this fascinating character, who is also never totally black or white. The presumptuous surgeon still exists, under the burgundy cloak, ambitious for knowledge and power. Unlike Wanda who has lost everything, Strange, however, can rely on long-time friends and people who love him and know how to point him in the right direction. Ties condition us, for better or for worse, shaping the person we are and can become. Wanda has never been bad but suffering can push you to do stupid things if you don’t have a helping hand to stop you. Thus, even Strange’s otherwise destructive conceit is kept at bay by his affections.
In this superhero madness, Raimi leaves us an important lesson and a message full of hope and optimism. Horror exists and is real, but we must not let it consume us until we lose ourselves. The hardest part is remaining steadfast but friends, real ones, exist for this too and we must never be afraid to ask for help.