When you think of Marvel’s recent films, the last thing that comes to mind is horror. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of fun, bombastic, and exciting movies, perfectly suited to all audiences. This isn’t the case with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which shocked general audiences when it dabbled in the horror genre. The biggest surprise isn’t that it mixed in horror elements, though, but rather that it did it quite well.
Before Multiverse of Madness was released, I assumed that, after some small conflict between the two, Wanda would travel the multiverse alongside Dr. Strange as an ally. Little did I know that this Marvel sequel would actually take the form of a slasher film, where Wanda is Michael Myers while Dr. Strange and America Chavez are Laurie Strode. Many of the choices made by Strange and co. are done with avoiding or warning others of Wanda in mind.
Rather than a clash of ideals represented by powerful heroes and villains, it’s a journey of preservation against a force of nature. Strange, Wong, Reed, and Professor Xavier all try to reason with Wanda, but if you’ve seen a slasher flick, you know how well that goes for them. My point is that it’s an unconventional premise for a Marvel film, which is typically known for following a straightforward routine.
Part of this comes down to a facet of the MCU that faces a lot of criticism: a lack of directorial freedom. A lot of Marvel films tend to blend together stylistically. How much this bothers you will vary, but it’s a valid complaint given past situations like Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man. Yet here, in Multiverse of Madness, there’s a decidedly Raimi vibe to everything – a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. I’m not saying this is a scary, straight-up horror film, but it has a bit more of the director’s flavor than any previous Marvel movie has had. While Thor Ragnarok and the Guardians of the Galaxy films do have some streaks of their directors’ style, it’s never felt as dense as it does in the Doctor Strange sequel.
Besides the classic Raimi zooms and camera angles, some characters are burned alive and shredded into ribbons, while others have their necks snapped and brains viciously collapsed. It’s a far cry from the usually sanitized violence of the MCU. I mean, Dr. Strange possesses a decaying corpse of himself and channels the souls of the damned to torment Wanda while she tries to sacrifice a teenager. That’s pretty intense for a modern PG-13 film, and I loved every second of it. Maybe that’s because of how very Evil Dead it was, but it really felt like a shake-up for a Marvel film.
It’s this somewhat divisive alteration that I want to praise, as it’s somewhat changed my view of the MCU. If Sam Raimi, of all people, can get away with implementing his hallmark direction into a superhero film, maybe Marvel will loosen up a bit and reach out to directors known for their strong vision, and let them off the leash a bit. Maybe they’ll get to further experiment with different genres, or revisit horror with characters like Blade and Ghost Rider. Do I expect that to happen immediately and without any hang-ups? Definitely not, but I see it as a good sign for the franchise as we prepare for its 29th entry in July.
I hope that the success of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness encourages Marvel to allow for a bit more freedom when it comes to trying out different genres, as it worked brilliantly in Multiverse of Madness. Their varied library of characters can easily lend itself to all sorts of different films, which could go a long way in stopping the ever-prophesized “Superhero Fatigue” from occurring. At the very least, I hope we get another Raimi Dr. Strange film – because the MCU can clearly handle a little horror.