The real multiverse of madness

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This year, two movies exploring the infinite possibilities of the ‘multiverse’ have come out; one had a budget of US$25 million and the other, US$200 million. Yet, it is the one with the much smaller budget that actually managed to deliver a story exploring the multiverse in a way that was creative, unique and incredibly well presented.

These two movies I’m talking about are, of course, Everything Everywhere All At Once and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. This article is not a comparison of the two, but really puts in perspective how you really don’t need a bloated budget to deliver a movie about the multiverse that has great special effects and amazing action sequences while confirming what everyone has already known: story is integral in making a good movie.

This film follows Evelyn, a Chinese American woman who is being audited by the IRS, and how everything changes when she is opened to the reality of the multiverse. The story is one that works on multiple levels — something you’d expect from a movie about the multiverse, but something that went over the heads of the Marvel execs in charge of bringing to life the second instalment of Dr. Strange (for a movie called Multiverse of Madness, you’d expect the movie to take place in more than the grand total of two universes). In contrast, this movie brought to life the idea of having infinite universes and actually managed to depict it visually in an exciting and engaging manner.

Despite having such a vast scope to deal with, Everything Everywhere All At Once remained grounded by actually taking an interest in developing the characters and their relationships so that you don’t get lost in its insanity. This movie had the potential to be too ambitious for its own good but the directors (collectively known as ‘the Daniels’) understood that characters are meant to be the heart of any film, and thereby took the time to properly develop their lives and their struggles in the story, even before anything happens with the multiverse. They managed to present this family conflict in a way that depicted the chaos and messy nature of their relationships, effortlessly raising the tension and drama of these moments with solid camerawork, blocking and great dialogue.

I’d have been invested in this family conflict even without any of the multiverse drama being added in. Nevertheless, bringing these two aspects was just a stroke of genius, giving you a film that balanced both aspects perfectly. It explored a range of genres, yet still managed to have a central tone and voice that felt consistent. For instance while the introduction had some rather toned-down and stripped back camera work, as the story changed gears, the camerawork and soundtrack choices switched up to reflect the changing action.

Even the balance of comedy and drama elements was done well, as the movie managed to have fun with its concepts, bringing in some pretty whacky elements, while staying true to its emotional core. It never even felt weird for the sake of being weird — there was always a reason for all this insanity and everything that happened in it was entirely believable within these universes.

There was also a great rhythm, immediately capturing my attention and steadily building up the stakes until everything went off the rails, and then continuing that momentum right to the emotionally charged ending. With all of the multiverses explored, the movie also managed to have a great production for each of them, which felt dynamic and distinct from each other.

Additionally, most of the special effects were done through practical effects, which made the movie feel a lot more grounded, in contrast to these sequences being done with mostly CGI, which has the tendency to be a little alienating. The action scenes were also really well choreographed and had the benefit of being really tense and suspenseful, but also funny and engaging. With all the ideas in this movie at play, all done on a miniscule budget, it is a wonder that it managed to come out so well.

Every actor managed to bring their character to life really well too. Michelle Yeoh was particularly terrific in the role of Evelyn, giving everything to a performance that demanded a lot of range. She was especially impressive in terms of all the physicality required by the role. Even Ke Huy Quan, who played Wayond, was one of the biggest highlights of the movie.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is the multiverse movie that everyone has been waiting for. It has everything! Everywhere! And it comes all at once! What more can you ask for? This movie just goes to show how much you can achieve even with a tiny budget. Everything about this movie felt so natural and grounded, especially considering you’d never expect a Chinese-American woman in her 50’s to be the centrepiece of a movie about the multiverse. I have nothing bad to say about this movie, and it has the added benefit of being universally accessible. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year, and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

By Sadira Sittampalam