Lectures For Lifelong Learners!

“The Lost City” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

The movie may be called “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” but it’s really only half a Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) movie. The other half belongs to Wanda Maximoff, aka The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and between the two, she makes the more impressive showing. This is mainly because after the events of “WandaVision,” she had a psychotic break from reality and is the baddie this time around. Her character reminds me of the wonderfully pithy Hitchcock adage “the more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”

This isn’t to say that Strange has nothing to do or is a guest in his own movie. A multiverse traveler named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) finds her way to Strange and asks for his protection from a demon chasing her through different universes. This demon is after an ancient text of powerful spells called the Darkhold—speaking of Hitchcock, he would call this the movie’s McGuffin—that can give the spell caster tremendous power in multiple dimensions.

Strange seeks help from Wanda, but it turns out Wanda wants the book for herself: As anyone who watched “WandaVision” on DisneyPlus knows, Wanda wants to be a mom, and with possession of the book she can inhabit a universe in which she has children. Psychotic breaks are bad enough, but add the illusions of magic and multiple universes into the mix and it’s nothing but trouble.

Wanda gives Strange a choice—hand over Chavez or face the consequences. This is interesting because the script doesn’t directly go to Wanda being a villain. By providing options, she can say to herself that Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and everyone at the temple protecting Chavez had a chance. They made their choice, and the consequences are on them. The best villains are the ones who do not regard themselves as evil, but rather feel justified in their actions.

Then there are the reasons for those actions: her children. Wanda may be too obsessed and mentally far gone to stop herself from committing atrocities to achieve her goal, but her purpose is a noble one. She doesn’t want to conquer the world or rule the galaxy or make people grovel at her feet as she reigns over them. She just wants to be a mom. This humanizes her character and prevents her from being a one-note villain. While her actions are no doubt horrible, her motivation is clear. This keeps us invested in her story as well as Strange’s, and we can sympathize with her desires while condemning her methods to reach those desires.

 “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madenss” was directed by Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man”), making a return to superhero movies after a fifteen-year absence from the genre. He brings the expected Raimi touches to the story, including the mandatory Bruce Campbell cameo—a pretty funny one too, and watch to the end of the credits—as well as some audio and visual elements that are sure to delight fans of his “Evil Dead” works. If Raimi was in any way seeking vindication for 2007’s “Spider-Man 3,” he earned it here. Buy it.

More New Releases

“The Lost City,” in which a reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure, starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, and Daniel Radcliffe.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover and author of the novel “Takedown,” which is available on Amazon, iTunes, and more. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.