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Movie Trailer Breakdown: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

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On Feb. 13, Marvel dropped the trailer for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” The movie is the next installment in Phase 5, the latest stage in the MCU that deals with the fallout of “Avengers: Endgame” and introduces new characters, and the trailer teases a potentially massive expansion for the Marvel franchise.

The trailer opens with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) having dreams of vaguely concerning images — a looming staircase, flashes of magic, and general destruction. A great set up for a film in any genre: The protagonist is worried about something. Next, there is the oh-so-clever imagery of the broken watch, referencing Strange’s previous role as keeper of the time stone and his mistakes tampering with timelines. Given previous Marvel films have hinted at the frailty of the timeline, “Multiverse of Madness” will have to be careful to provide believable stakes instead of vaguely gesturing at the potential end of time itself.

Strange is defensive over a voiceover: “I did what I had to do to protect our world.” His assertion could be referring to his actions in “Avengers: Endgame,” in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” or even how he meddled with the Time Stone way back in “Doctor Strange.” Regardless, it’s clear that Strange will have a lot to answer for. Hopefully, this interior conflict can prompt some character growth that his many cameos throughout other Marvel movies have not shown.

Next, Wong (Benedict Wong) once again warns Strange about the effect his actions could have on the state of the universe. Hopefully he will have a bigger and better role than the vague subordinate who vanishes after one scene, as Wong’s acting and character have been woefully underutilized.

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Similar to the scene teased in the last trailer, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) is seen talking with Strange by a tree. When he asks what she knows about the multiverse, she says Vision described it as “dangerous.” This weak adjective is a massive understatement and completely undercuts the dramatic moment they were clearly going for. Marvel has had a lot of fun with the multiverse — the idea that there are infinite versions of reality where different choices play out — since “Endgame.” While it is an easy way to create content you can mine forever — in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Marvel used a variation of this concept to reboot the franchise and retell the same storyline — it does run the risk of feeling stale. After all, if one reality is destroyed, surely it’s possible to just hop over to another. Even in “Endgame,” the Avengers had to beg and borrow from other realities and put them at risk for the sake of their own. Marvel will have its work cut out to make people believe that characters’ actions matter, particularly after they have shown how the multiverse can be exploited to reset any mistakes.

As there apparently must be for any Strange appearance, doors open into impossible places. Strange is taken before some kind of council for his crimes, where Profesor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) appears to be teased as a future character. The choice of Stewart over James McAvoy (who played Professor X in the reboot of the X-Men franchise) is interesting given that he played the part more recently. Yet despite McAvoy’s previous performance, Stewart is the quintessential Professor X. Though the addition of X-Men to the existing MCU could be exciting, it will also open the door to myriad complications. For example, is Wanda a mutant? She is in the comics, but the concept of mutant doesn’t exist in the films thus far, and would certainly complicate the dynamic of the existing superheroes. Also, will Marvel stand by the canon of the Famke Janssen-Jean Grey X-Men movies, the Sophie Turner-Jean Grey X-Men movies, or something else entirely? If this development does enter the fray, hopefully sufficient runtime will be spent on integrating it in a thoughtful way.

After some screaming, a dark version of Strange, which viewers of “What If…?” will recognize, emerges. This is also fitting for his character as seen in the live action films, as Strange has often been his own enemy — this hint at some internal conflict for Strange has the potential to be intriguing or dull.

Wanda also fights someone else with powers, as well as some new characters who appear to be apprentices of Strange. They could be a breath of fresh air to the franchise, as Strange is a difficult and not necessarily well-liked character. Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), from the original “Doctor Strange” film, is an interesting opposition to Strange as he has more experience with the mystic arts and a longer history with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). However, most viewers will probably need a crash course reminder on who he is.

Later, in conversation with Strange, Wanda says, “You break the rules and become a hero, I do it and I become the enemy.” She makes an excellent point. This indictment could be referring to “Captain America: Civil War” or the events of “WandaVision,” but ultimately shows how Wanda has been consistently blamed for everything that goes wrong around her. It will be interesting to see how “Dr. Strange: Multiverse of Madness” acknowledges the events of “WandaVision,” as the Marvel movies are already becoming difficult to access and requiring people to watch nine episodes of a show to understand a film that isn’t even about that character is a bit ridiculous. However, “No Way Home” did ask viewers to remember details of seven Spider-Man movies from three different actors to fully appreciate the plot, so perhaps it isn’t so much of a stretch.

Ultimately, the new “Doctor Strange” trailer teases a number of exciting potential developments for the upcoming summer release. Fans will have to wait and see if they can do all these plot threads justice.

—Staff writer Millie Mae Healy can be reached at milliemae.healy@thecrimson.com.

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