Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness released on May 6, 2022. Without giving away details, let’s just start with a basic, 100% accurate description of the plot:
Single woman has a psychological breakdown that turns her into a raging sociopath who ruthlessly hunts a teenage girl across dimensions, intending to sacrifice her. Woman brutally murders anyone who gets in her way and raises ancient evil from beyond to accomplish her goal while the film’s protagonist tries to stop her and save the girl.
Off the bat, does that sound more like a superhero movie or a horror movie?
I saw the original Dr. Strange film back in 2016 and enjoyed it. I have also had a good time seeing the character appear in other Marvel films, most recently the Sony-Marvel triumph Spider-Man: No Way Home. So naturally, there is no version of reality where I don’t see this sequel. That is truly too bad because I wish there was.
Let’s make something clear; this wasn’t a terrible movie. The actors did an excellent job, the story itself was okay, and of course the special effects didn’t disappoint. That being said, this is not what I signed up for. I don’t mind seeing the occasional scary or more violent-action movie if I know what I’m getting into. A superhero movie is supposed to have awesome action, but Marvel movies in particular are known for content that most age groups can enjoy. They’re supposed to be fun and exciting, not traumatizing.
If we just look at some of the elements this film contains, I think my point is pretty clear. The Dr. Strange sequel features:
- Various deadly impalements
- Decayed corpses
- Zombie action
- A head being blown up
- Demons from the underworld
- A close-up of a character having his neck snapped
- Characters being burned alive
- A close-up of a character being ripped apart
- Statues crushing people to death
Of course, I know enough about filmmaking and story to pick up on when these things are about to happen, so I closed my eyes and was prevented from being too traumatized. However, my giant issue with this film comes down to two things.
#1 False Advertising
#2 I Guess Marvel Just Isn’t What it Used to Be?
#1 False Advertising
I signed up for a Marvel movie and didn’t get what I have been taught to expect. The trailers did not communicate how graphically violent this film would be and the filmmakers and the MPAA failed to accurately portray this film by giving it a PG-13 rating instead of an R rating.
“Out of the 28 movies we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over nearly 15 years, there has yet to be an R-rated entry in the franchise. But after loads of audiences turned up for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a discussion has begun brewing regarding the rating of Sam Raimi’s flick. The big question going around is this: should it have been rated R? Multiverse of Madness is the closest Marvel has ever come to a horror movie, bringing in director Sam Raimi’s expertise from films like Evil Dead and Drag Me To Hell.” – Cinemablend article by Sarah El-Mahmoud
I have seen Deadpool, which is an R-rated superhero film, and really enjoyed it. I may have had to close my eyes throughout the film, but in terms of what the movie is trying to be I give it a 10/10. I’ve also seen a few “scary/horror” films where, again, I closed my eyes a lot, but the story was excellent and so I was prepared going in for what I’d need to do to enjoy it. The Dr. Strange sequel trailer misled audiences about the amount of graphic violence to expect, the rating lied about the same thing, and Marvel didn’t deliver on their brand promise. If I were a parent who took my kids to see this, I would probably look into suing the MPAA or Marvel for false advertising or PTSD. Here are a couple of posts from the same Cinemablend article that emphasize these sentiments:
Marvel movies are able to rake in more dollars because they appeal to a lot of people and age groups. So I get why they would go with a PG-13 rating because it casts a wider net. But you have to accurately and truthfully represent what your content or product is. So A.) Hire a director who understands the nuances of filmmaking well enough that they can use clever cut aways from the more intense deaths. Or B.) Hire writers who maybe don’t have timeshares in Hell and can write action that isn’t so horrific. Or C.) Call a spade a spade and if you’re going to make an R-rated film, just own it. Deadpool made almost $800 million; clearly a rating is not a huge deterrent for people who are interested in a movie.
#2 I Guess Marvel Just Isn’t What it Used to Be?
I LOVE superhero movies! And for about a decade and a half, Marvel has delivered countless AMAZING films with characters that inspire, stories that enthrall, and worlds that dazzle. Over the last year though, I have begun to worry that this era is at an end. In July of last year the studio made its return to theaters with the over-the-top-in-a-bad-way Black Widow movie that came out about eight years too late. Then there was the basic, whatever Shang-Chi film that followed. After that came the flop in November of the Eternals (which had more main characters than most ice cream shops have flavors and probably would’ve worked better as a TV show). And now this literal horror show . . .
Sigh. Did Marvel let go of all of their good writers and directors during the Corona Cuts of 2020 and none of them came back? With the exception of Spider-Man content (which is rooted in Sony), after seeing this Dr. Strange sequel it is likely going to be many years before I watch another new Marvel movie in theaters, or at all. Aside from the unexpected, unwanted horror show issue, there were some weird plot holes, unanswered questions, characters acting out of character, an emphasis on cameos over character development, and the relentless pursuit of a MacGuffin that annoyingly didn’t matter in the end at all. The heroes found it about 70% of the way through the film and then like three second later Wanda destroyed it.
“A MacGuffin is an object, idea, person, or goal that the characters are either in pursuit of or which serves as motivation for their actions.”
Another thing that concerns me about the current Marvel trajectory is their utilization of Disney+ original superhero content. I didn’t watch WandaVision because I didn’t hear any good things about it, but out of curiosity I researched the plot. I am glad I did for the sake of the Dr. Strange sequel because in truth, having the background of what happened to Wanda in that show makes a HUGE IMPACT on your understanding of how she became who she is now. It lends tremendously to character development, backstory, and the crucial state of mind that Wanda was in for her to finally snap in this way, and also better explains how she got her more extreme powers. If Disney is going to continue creating these superhero series for Disney+, it is crucial that they take better care with the exposition (how much is presented, in what way, and when), so that audiences know what they need to know when going to the theaters.
Lastly, another issue that this Dr. Strange sequel brought up is this: How little does Marvel (specifically the writer and director of this film) think of humanity that they believe teens, kids, and adults can watch handfuls of people get graphically murdered at a time and then just immediately move on to the next scene like nothing happened??? I’m sorry, but I have more faith in people than that. I don’t think we should live in a world where everyone from an eight-year-old to an eighty-year-old is so desensitized to violence and so emotionless when it comes to dealing with the concept of death and homicide. We certainly shouldn’t be trying to work toward that or tricking people into seeing movies that force this kind of desensitization that they didn’t sign up for.
Spoiler (kind of) – there was a particular section of this movie when we met five super cool, super well cast, noble heroes. We bonded with them for a few minutes and then BAM! Wanda killed each of them in up-close horrific ways. And then, what? I’m just supposed to get over that in the blink of an eye. No room to digest at all??
YIKES. If I’m ever in a room with writer Michael Waldron or director Sam Raimi, I guess I should probably make a run for it because goodness only knows what’s going on in their heads . . .
Side note. I already saw Professor Xavier die in a messed up way once many years ago and it sucked. Why in the (insert many curse words here) would anyone want to see that again?
As I said before, I wish there was a parallel universe that I didn’t see this movie.
Please click the links to the other Marvel movies I highlighted above. Those aren’t IMDB or Wikipedia links; they’re actually short videos that tell you exactly what you need to know about each movie.
@johnkrasinski, please stop graphically dying in movies. (Spoiler Alert) When Krasinski was introduced as Reed Richards in this movie I was so excited because he and his wife Emily Blunt are compelling actors and national treasures. My first thought was: Is he Mr. Fantastic now?! Sign me up for that movie!! And then he died and I was SO sad. It really doesn’t matter to me if a movie with him as Mr. Fantastic comes out because the way he died here ruined it for me. I don’t care how many universes or whatever exist inside Marvel. I just can’t believe or immerse myself in a movie where I’ve already seen the main character get so thoroughly destroyed. I’m a human being; I care about other human beings. Whether they be fictional or not, I don’t want to see them get brutally murdered, and I certainly don’t want to pay good money to sit in a theater and support it happen.