How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Marvel Cinematic Universe

When I was a kid, my parents solved the Disney World conundrum. Specifically, how to get your kids not to beg you to take them to Disney World. In a brilliant, devious plot that started decades before I was born, they cultivated esoteric refinements and adopted a general air of counter-culture zeal. They left New York City to disappear into the hinterlands of North Carolina, where they inculcated me in the values of a nonexistent christian sect. Their work reached fruition when one day the neighbor kid invited me to join his family on a trip to Orlando. Six years old in my plaid sweater vest and overalls, I looked up from my typewriter and narrowed my eyes at him through my thick-framed glasses. “Is this trip meant to be ironic?”

For the next three days I got an extra mason jar of hemp ice cream with my dinner, and I’ve never looked back.

For largely the same reasons, I was never into Marvel movies. I skipped them for the first ten years until I met my wife, who swears by them. She also had to get me into Star Trek because, as I see now, I had spent the majority of my life dangerously above FDA-approved levels of hipster.

I learned to enjoy Marvel movies at roughly the same age that I learned to shut off my brain, or at least dim it a bit. I’m glad I did because if you don’t let all that inconvenient thinking get in the way, damn, Marvel knows how to show you a good time!

The latest installment of goofy superhero mayhem is Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. This is a short list of what you can expect to see. Mild spoiler alert.

  • Interdimensional necromancy
  • A hidden Matrix reference
  • Jean Luc Picard in a wheelchair
  • A trillion casualties before the movie even starts. That’s how you know it’s good.
  • A music battle, but not like you think
  • A girl illegally immigrates between universes
  • Jim Halpert from “The Office” turns into spaghetti
  • Coconut star punches through space and time
  • Wanda Maximoff in her rightful role as despicable villain. I don’t care what she supposedly “fixed” at the end of WandaVision, that was villain behavior through and through.
  • Absurd literalizations of the third eye

You don’t get to do all that when you’re weighed down by the need to make any goddamn sense, so I learned to stop worrying and love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One note for would-be supervillains, though, if you want to take over the universe, just torture the hero’s friends a bit. Not even a long time. Like, ten seconds. They’ll go from “I’ll stop you” to “here, let me show you the way to the evil Satan book palace” in no time. Seriously, though, this is the kind of wishy washy multiverse protection that Wong’s opponents should campaign on during next sorcerer supreme election cycle.

You know what I wanted to see? Spoiler alert. America punches a hole in the fabric of reality, showing Wanda Maximoff 1 the universe where she gets to be with her kids. Kids are afraid of her. Wanda Maximoff 2 of this universe sees her crying and wipes away her tears. She says “you know what’s better than one mother? Two mothers!”

Fast forward a year. Wanda Maximoff and Wanda Maximoff hold hands and look on lovingly at their two beautiful boys, who have donned thick-framed glasses and sit at typewriters. One wears a sweater vest into which words have been lovingly stitched. “I like ice cream because I am a little boy.”

The other has on an oversized t-shirt underneath his overalls. It reads “This two-hour movie did not have room to give me any distinctive characteristics.” The back says “come to think of it, neither did the nine hour television show.” It’s deeply ironic for reasons he will never fully appreciate.

“But” you may say, “having watched WandaVision I know that these children are products of Wanda Maximoff’s sitcom-addled imagination, of course they are little more than an idea of children.”

May I remind you that even though they were not real in WandaVision, Multiverse of Madness establishes that they are completely real in these other universes. According to Multiverse, Wanda’s connection to these universes is what caused her to dream of these specific children and create them in her fictional Westview. So they’re not barely written concepts of children, they’re… well, they are barely written concepts of children, just not for any justifiable in-story reason. They’re there to motivate Wanda, not to have identities of their own. Can you imagine existing for no other reason than to make sure people feel sympathetic towards your mother’s reckless multiversal havoc?

Oh, but look at me, thinking again. Ha ha, oops! Just go on to Disney World. I’m happy here at my typewriter eating hemp ice cream out of a mason jar and pondering thoughts no one should ever bother thinking. Go into a Marvel movie expecting a silly good time and you (usually) won’t be disappointed.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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