Coming out after a strong Spiderman movie where the Dr Strange character arguably took some damage to his prestige comes Dr Strange 2, a movie I’m ambivalent about at best.
In Spiderman No Way Home Strange was demoted from the position of Sorcerer Supreme and served mostly as comic relief. These are maybe the two most obvious reasons to question seeing Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness right now. There’s a multitude more though.
From past deceptions in marketing to some pretty bad Disney Plus shows lowering the stakes, there’s a lot worth considering before just plunking down your money for Dr Strange.
To make things clear you already CAN stream Dr Strange 2 a couple of ways if you feel it’s worth top tier rental pricing. So I wont see it in the theater and it needs to drop in rental price for me to bother.
I’ve decided to kick the can on Dr Strange and here’s how I came to this conclusion.
Strange sort of got beat up a little in Spiderman No Way Home. He didn’t have the best dialogue and he was never the smartest person in the room.
A big problem for me is that Dr Strange might be an idiot.
He was literally the only adult among the heroes in Spiderman No Way Home, but aside from being sympathetic to Spiderman, he’s pretty indifferent and showing signs of incompetence. He’s glib and really doesn’t take charge of the situation when things get out of hand. His advice is to just zip the supervillains back to their own dimensions and let things work themselves out. While this isn’t the worst advice, it’s pretty callous and not what a hero would do.
Strange’s plan is so unheroic we later see three different versions of Spiderman totally reject his simplistic non-solution; opting for a smarter, more compassionate course of action.
After a few events go down in NWH Strange is kind of an impediment to progress and is sling-ringed away to a convenient character shelf. Strange was actually getting in the way in NWH, not to mention he was inept casting spells and gave callous, unheroic advice.
The spell that opens up the Multiverse is so powerful the idea Strange considered it at all is debatable, but lets assume it was the right thing to do- he just impulsively starts doing it. This is a guy whose a roughly 40 year old former Medical Doctor and he’s about to mess with reality. We saw him use his powers with decent success in his first movie and as an Avenger – but in Spiderman No Way Home he is not the least bit cunning or thoughtful and bumbling in his methods. You could even say he was immature in comparison to the teenagers who fix his mess in that movie.
Seriously- In a strange meta plot parallel to Star Wars A New Hope in Spiderman No Way Home Dr Strange creates something that could destroy many worlds that is stopped against all odds by some teenagers. For this he gets the Emperor Palpatine Overconfidence Award from this blog.
Strange lacked the wisdom to sit Peter down and explain how final it all is. He doesn’t even treat it as seriously as Peter wanting a tattoo of a bleeding skull on his hand. He’s not avuncular or mentoring. He recklessly casts the spell while explaining its implications at the same time. A teenager freaking out hearing that makes a lot more sense than a 40 year old man simply jumping into altering EVERYONE’S reality.
We really have to wonder if Dr Strange is really a Hero or just some powerful guy who hangs out in Manhattan trashing his house like a weird mashup of Mike Bloomberg and Keith Richards in the 80s.
I’m ok with this in the Spiderman story and I don’t consider it deeply out of character for Dr Strange at all, he’s always been a bit of a self important flake. This makes me only just so well disposed towards him. While he’s as flippant as Iron Man he’s not shown many signs of confronting his own arrogance and he’s just no Tony Stark.
I don’t find Strange overly Movie-Worthy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Dr Strange. He’s a pretty cool Avenger. At the same time he isn’t super likable and just seeing Dr Strange do his thing isn’t appealing to the point it makes me want to go to a theater to see it. The creators seem to have sensed this and we’re told there’s a cameo by just about everyone Disney could buy up from past Marvel franchises we haven’t seen in a while as well as new twists straight out of the Disney Plus show “What If?” which was marketed as a fun jaunt into mere conjecture and not connected to anything. In other words- the MCU Kitchen Sink is thrown out there in this movie.
Personally I didn’t make it all the way through ‘What If” and I really couldn’t take Wandavision either. So the idea that those shows are the other two components of this movie is a strike against bothering to see it.
The supposed villain in this movie is Wanda- who was not really turned into a villain on purpose in my opinion. The trailers show Dr Strange hand-waving away the events of WANDAVISION- which violate the Segovia Accords and call for incarceration and some serious counseling. As it is she said sorry and split in a final episode I DID manage to watch. Wandavision is a reason in itself not to see Dr Strange 2.
Wanda probably will be shown as somewhat sympathetic in this movie despite her actions. I sure haven’t seen the current writers navigating moral ambiguity well in their stories. So far we’ve seen nothing but botched attempts to show anyone’s motivations.
In Falcon and the Winter Soldier John Walker did nothing wrong but was vilified for killing the terrorist who murdered his friend Battlestar. Captain America John Walker was completely justified in his actions. The highly justifiable killing was the conclusion of a long battle in which a decorated American War Hero was first tortured and then Killed in Action.
This killing was no different from things we’ve seen the original Cap do. If someone were to kill Bucky or Agent Carter there’s no way Cap lets them live. He’s not like Batman that way. Steve Rogers wasn’t a brute, but he often KILLED bad guys if they tried killing innocent people, him or his friends.
Despite this; Walker is presented as misguided and overly aggressive. The character possessed no villainous qualities but they tried to make him look bad anyway. Many people, myself included, were Unironically rooting for Walker despite the shows intent.
On the ‘Botched into Being Evil’ Side of the ‘morally gray’ equation we have quite a bit we could point to. Wanda was an outright villain in Wandavision. In Loki the TVA are genocidal murderers who wipe out entire realities and every living thing in them. They’re definitely evil, yet are presented as morally gray or even good- these shows failed badly at this and thereby failed to make important distinctions clear. The morally ambiguous people were clearly on one side or the other (despite musical cues).
The writer of the most offensively inept and blatantly Bait & Switched MCU Show- falsely called LOKI- wrote this movie. Why would anyone want more from the person who made Black Widows sacrifice into a joke about Infinity Stones being paperweights and budgeted like 5 minutes of over 5 hours to changing Loki as he was in Avengers 1 into a Good Guy?
Instead of a story of slowly breaking Loki- which could have been good- we had hijinks across multiple realities while Loki repeatedly deferred to, was saved by and praised Sylvi. The show was a Sideloaded Sylvi Story rather than anything about Loki. Tom Hiddleston is a great actor and manages to make this show flow- but its illogical and a real problem for the whole MCU, especially on the Disney side.
In Avengers 1 Loki is the most unrelentingly evil, scheming and capable version of himself we ever see. His slow change from evil was done in phases. He drifts through being merely self-serving and begins to grow a conscience. In his final cinematic appearance in Infinity War he was finally leaning towards doing good. It was a strong, carefully executed arc over multiple movies released over nearly a decade.
In the LOKI show in just a few minutes they rebooted Loki from what he was in Avengers 1 to a simpleton reminiscent of Ned Flanders. It was done lazily and horribly. LOKI was a hamfisted and terrible show. I can’t see rewarding the writer.
They can probably resurrect anyone who dies in this movie (or the MCU for that matter) via the multiverse or the Time Variance Authority too, so the stakes are just inherently low because of what we saw in LOKI.
The MCU TV shows we’ve gotten on Disney Plus have shown a penchant to bait & switch. The fact America Chavez is in the movie is a bad sign due to this. We just saw a woefully stupid and dishonestly marketed ‘Moon Knight’ show drag us through a sideloaded Scarlet Scarab story. We saw actual Moon Knight for maybe 10-15 minutes over 5 hours. It’s very justifiable to wonder if this movie might do the same thing and leave Dr Strange (and all of us) as mere observers benched on the sidelines watching some new heroes origin story. They’ve done it to us a lot lately. It’s a real possibility as well as a real disincentive.
There’s agreement among the early reviewers this movie is also somewhat confusing and incohesive. Innumerable needless and questionable cameos of other MCU characters seemingly shoehorned into the mix would seem to increase the chances this movie will be a jarring experience.
The movie has also been somewhat in purgatory for a while and was started way back before COVID. The release has been held back a few times. Benedict Cumberbatch himself was still unsure what was going on with this movie during a phase where it should have been finished-
“It’s been tough. I’ll be honest with you. It’s had quite a journey, this film. But not in a kind of poor me way, just like the nature of where we’re at. To try and make a massive film like that under the constrictions of a pandemic and the delays that have ensued …….. but also because of everything that was lined up and had to be pushed back from Marvel. It’s been tough for everyone…… So, I hope the results are as good, but yeah, I think it can’t be underestimated.‘ -Benedict Cumberbatch March, 2022, as quoted in The Direct (edited for relevance).
Lastly- this movie has sucked up theater times in a near bullying way that assures its going to make a fortune no matter what- even if it means playing to an aggregate amount of millions of people who simply have no other choice in many largely empty theaters. Not the nicest thing to do to theater owners still absorbing the lack of screenings you could pull off with a three hour Batman movie last month.
So while the movie will do great, is it really going to help local theaters? I realize I’m advocating skipping a movie they would love to make money off of- but ethically this is on Disney.
Dr Strange 2 is going to do just fine in theaters but the streaming service isn’t doing great. This movie may end up on Disney Plus sooner rather than later. With not much MCU on the horizon for Disney Plus to show us it would seem subscribers could see this movie in as soon as 45 days after release. Disney stock is in trouble and its content is under fire. They may need Dr Strange as a draw soon.
So; a not so compelling hero, a questionable writer, a moral ambiguity issue they seem sure to botch, the possibility of a bait & switch sideloaded story where Strange has only a cameo and the fact we could soon get an affordable home rental are my reasons to say “Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is non essential to see in theaters and is well worth waiting on.” That said- hey if you want to see a movie no one’s going to call you up and yell at you for seeing Dr Strange 2.
A final thought- with the price of movies and top tier, new release streaming being what it is there’s a new calculus for seeing a movie. It comes down to shelling out now or waiting a few weeks, even if you endure a spoiler or two, and saving about half or more. It may just lower the financial stakes to the point you can enjoy the movie more or get that clarifying second view. The worst case alternative is you end walking out of the theater (or sitting on your couch after paying thirty or so dollars) confused and annoyed with one more reason for regret.
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