Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

So, the first thing you should know is that I had zero intentions of watching this movie because Dr. Strange is just not my jam. He comes across as Magical Tony Stark without the heart (to me! If you love him, so be it! That’s great and I’m glad you do!) I am just saying, I found the first Dr. Strange movie a slog–though I did love the confrontation at the end that basically required the big bad to find Dr. Strange as irritating as I did.

I didn’t see No Way Home–I wasn’t doing theaters. I’m still not doing theaters since I live in a community that is happy to consider covid as something firmly in the rear view. But Dr. Strange MoM showed up on Disney plus and well, I decided I could always turn it off and walk away if it annoyed me too much.

Just so you know, from here on there are spoilers. I am usually the last person to see a movie, so I rarely worry about spoilers, but, if you have also been avoiding the theaters, etc…. Here is your spoiler warning.

As I started, I thought, oh goody a video game montage. This was not a propitious start. Selfish Strange, monsters, weird jumping setting, helpless damsel…. Then Strange woke up and I thought oh, yeah, I am not going to be able to watch this.

The thing about Dr. Strange is that he always strikes me on screen as utterly artificial, like a plastic Ken Doll. I don’t know if it’s because of Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent (which to be fair is good, yet…. not quite natural), or if it’s the silly white streaks in his hair (which just always looks like someone has painted already fake black hair with some chalk spray) or the whole… staginess of him. I suppose that is appropriate for a “sorcerer” to be stagey. Either way, it was late, I was inert, and there was a cat on my lap. I kept watching.

Hey, the tentacle blob monster! I liked that! Okay, I liked one specific thing about it. It reminded me of the ridiculously gross toy I had as a child–the Wacky Wall Walker. Those were the weirdest, gummiest, most distinctive toys ever, and the way they slobbered down walls, sticking and falling is embedded in my memory, and here was a giant one! So that was fun. And Wong! I love Wong. More Wong!

Then we get plot, yadda yadda, dead Stephen Strange, which… why don’t I like Benedict Cumberbatch in this role??? I just don’t. He should be funny, with his dry comments and snark, but he just sounds contemptuous all the time. So yeah, the “Kid” comments which I think are supposed to humanize him, just make him sound like he can’t be bothered to recall America’s name.

And then there was Wanda.

So this is the other GIANT GLARING REASON I didn’t want to see this movie. I love Wanda. She’s a complicated character, driven by grief and with enough power to try to “fix” things. WandaVision was the series I was least interested in seeing, yet it rapidly became my favorite. I don’t mind that she’s motivated by “motherhood”. What I minded was that this was going to be the same lesson that she learned in Westview all over again, which… either says the character is dumb and has to make the same mistake more than once, just with bigger consequences, or is designed to supplant the show I enjoyed. They seemed to try to split the difference which was a big ugh from me. Wanda’s villain arc here is completely based on the series; she and Strange even discuss that she learned better. Except she hasn’t. And then I wondered, why the hell she didn’t just magic up her kids again? Whatever.

The show writers tried their best, I think. Showing that other people have their own losses and grief and haven’t torn the universe apart trying to find what they had lost. But still…. Basically, any of the plot points that required me to think about Wanda’s motivations just got me irked. I do love Wanda and I did love her being the Big Bad–being reasonable–so as long as I didn’t think about it, I enjoyed her on the screen.

I did like all the multiverse shenanigans, surprisingly, though they also made it hard to feel that anything had real consequences. Sure, kill Captain Carter; she’ll be around in other universes. And Zombie Strange was a delight with his cape of angry souls. Go Zombie Strange!

America was… fine. The actress is engaging; the character had nothing to do. Since I’m not familiar with her from the comics, I don’t actually know how “useful” her power is as a superhero. Seems like they don’t want people messing with the multiverses so… she can’t use it much? I will wait to be wowed.

But Wanda…. JFC. It still makes me cranky. She is blamed (rightfully!) for Westview. She is villainous! Fine. Except superhero comics and movies are always so arbitrary about tagging someone a villain or a hero. (I am still extremely bitter about Karli Morgenthau and John Walker from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.) Other Strange destroyed one universe, and his own people had to kill him. Wanda killed a bunch of superheros and defenders of Kamar-Taj, then threatened another universe and had to die. (Die, ha! This is super-hero land.) Wanda uses the Darkhold to dreamwalk and that’s EVIL. Strange uses it and desecrates a corpse and that’s THE ONLY WAY. She calls him out for being a hypocrite and she’s right. She does bad things and self-immolates. Strange causes another incursion which threatens the lives of another entire universe and gets a cheeky wink from Charlize Theron and an invitation to help her fix it. Two different standards is all I’m saying.

Well, that, and these superheroes really need therapy.

Must Remember to Skip Movies Made from Favorite Books

I write a lot of feral sorts of women in many of my books.  Maledicte, as likely to stab you as to speak to you; Sylvie, always ready to throw down and go for the throat; and Silene, whose dearest desire is to… well, telling you would be spoilers because I’m not done with those books yet.  There’s more’n a handful of like-minded women in my short fiction.

I, myself, was a feral sort of child.  Good parents, all of that, yet my brother and I were a tumbleweed of fighting and biting and scratching all the time.  Too many thoughts and not enough words in the world to express them.

But it was all right, because I could read about Meg Murry.  And she was a feral child.  Poked with a metaphorical stick, she poked back, hard and fast and angry.  She stood up for her small brother with instant fury and no real sense of perspective.  She was as merciless on herself as she was on others.  And she wanted justice.  More than anything else, she felt the world’s unfairness keenly and wanted people to SORT IT OUT.  I really adored Meg.  I  read A Wrinkle in Time until the book literally fell apart.

What this is all leading up to is my disappointment with the new movie of A Wrinkle in Time movie.  I wanted to like it.  I really really did.  But Meg… she isn’t angry.  She’s insecure.  She feels… sanitized.  The principal accuses her of being hostile, but… she’s just sullen.  Locked down.  She’s not my Meg.  (no criticism of Storm Reid; I blame the writing/directing.)  In the book, Meg attacks boys older than she is and comes home bruised and snappish, having defended Charles Wallace from their comments.  In the movie… she carefully pops a basketball into her classmate’s face after a similar comment.  It’s… deliberate.  It’s calculated.  What it isn’t is a savage instinctive reaction.

The whole movie (perhaps the whole movie, I admit I noped out after they arrived on Camazotz out of sheer boredom) just feels… tidied.

In the book, the Murrys live in a repurposed summer house that they retreated to after the father vanished.  It’s an old building perched at the edge of old woods and very isolated.  They’re under hurricane weather, and the house is shaking with the storm and Meg is savagely critical of herself for being afraid….  Then Mrs. Whatsit blows in.  In the book, she, too, is a feral sort of creature, a scheming disaster of a personality trying to cadge Russian caviar for a sandwich because she knows its there.  In the movie, we get Reese Witherspoon in ruffled-sleeved bedsheets, wearing glitter and gold.  When Reese Whatsit goes back into the night and declares perkily that “Wild Nights are my Glory”, I… laughed.  Because it’s the suburbs, and she’s under a street lamp, and there’s a bare puff of air to show that it’s a stormy night.

Sigh.  I wanted to like it.  But I couldn’t.  Not when they stripped all the wild and strange pieces from the story and left us with a collection of sweet, but standard heroes on an adventure.  In the book, Charles Wallace doesn’t speak in public, so people think he’s mentally deficient.  In the movie, he tells off a teacher or two and chats easily with everyone.  This easy comfort with other people really takes away from his trust in the Mrs. Ws and in Calvin. Part of the reason that everyone goes along with these strange women-like-things is because Charles Wallace trusts them.

In the book, Calvin is the kid (3rd of 11) in the wrong family; he doesn’t fit in and his mother is difficult and abusive–physically-run down (after 11 kids!) and prone to whacking at her kids with a soup ladle.  In the movie, Calvin is an only child with the oh-so-familiar Mean Dad verbally abusing him for his failings.  It’s just all so … familiar.  It could be any fantasy movie.

I reread the book today, and it doesn’t stand up to all my memories–front-heavy, the climax choppy and truncated–but the savagery is still there.  Meg is still the character I remember and love, and she deserved better than this.  All the savage girls do.



Ant-Man and the Wasp! And the Wasp’s wardrobe* choices!

A rare movie post:

A friend was in town so we all went off to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, which I’d been wanting to see, but kept putting off.  I am constantly surprised at how much I enjoy the Ant-Man entries.  It’s not just Paul Rudd, though he is more charming than he has any right to be.  It’s not just that I’ve loved their casting; I adore his weirdo little daughter Cassie, and in this movie, I felt like we really got a glimmer of why Scott Lang and Maggie ever connected in the first place.  Last movie, she was shoe-horned into the humorless control freak ex-wife.  This movie she had a tiny spark that made me say hey, someone put a little character into this character this time around.  (The “what does the FBI stand for?  Forever Bothering Individuals? Followed by a little self-satisfied smirk… It was the smirk that made it.  That is exactly the kind of attitude that would have married Scott.)  They seem to have taken the character away from Cassie’s stepfather though.  Oh well. He was pretty one-note last movie too.

I liked Ghost.  I liked her anger.  I liked that it was justified!  The government was content to use her abilities, but didn’t care enough about her to try to cure them.

But what I really liked?  This is so shallow you’ll laugh.  But I loved Hope’s clothes.  When we saw her in the first movie, she’s Corporate Shark Barbie, hard-edged bob, suits cut like corsets, and lips as red as blood. Don’t get me wrong; she was dressed in a completely plausible way for her role.  And we did get to see her in training gear etc., but the primary impression of her was high-gloss perfection.

Wasp 1

Then came Ant-Man & the Wasp.  Two years later, her company gone, on the run with her father, trading for fancy electronic components on the black market.  They could have gone the Natasha Romanoff route, and made her into a glamorous sort of hero on the run.  But they went for honest to god reality.

Not for the easy sexy vigilante stuff.

No, Hope wears cropped leggings and flat heeled boots and a black tee with a coat thrown over for “business wear”.  It’s not sexy.  It’s not exciting.  (And the proof of that is no matter how I search for an image of her in her “civvies”, the internet doesn’t provide it.)  What is is, is very practical.  Easy to be unseen in–tons of women wear activewear in public as their day off clothing.  Easy to slip into a Wasp suit without effort.  And of course, it’s all wash and wear.

Ghost is similar.

As is


Janet Van Dyne.  Two superheroes and one supervillain, and they all dress without Teh Sexy in mind.  You can make arguments about the effects of formfitting Wasp suits on a woman as beautiful as Evangeline Lilly, but in the end, her suit really reads on screen more like a tool than a display unit.

I loved the movie.  It was fun, beyond everything else.  But it was nice to have some variation in the go-to-guidebook of sexy female heroes.

*aka a tall dresser thingy, though not in this usage.