Written by Steve Norton
There’s much ado about the multiverse.
All of a sudden, Marvel has decided that we’re going to dive headfirst into a world of interacting stories and interconnected worlds. From the madness of Doctor Strange to multiple Spider-Men, the multiplex is making megabucks with the multiverse and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
But it’s not just the superhero realm. Even A24’s recent Everything Everywhere All at Once uses the concept without forcing its heroes to wear capes. But why is it so popular right now?
I think it’s all about diversity.
For decades, Hollywood was driven by stories led by white men. Now, things are changing for the better. We’re trying to give everyone a seat at the table. Movements such as #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and #StopAsianHate have had a powerful impact by giving people a chance to tell their stories.
In this landscape, the popularity of the multiverse makes total sense. By balancing multiple storylines in multiple worlds, filmmakers can give everyone a chance to become a hero.
When the grand experiment known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe first began, what were we given? Four middle-aged white men and one overly-sexualized woman who teamed up to save the world.
But that’s changed.
Now, Hollywood (and, in this case, Marvel) has sought to represent as many cultures and experiences as possible in their storytelling. In the last few years, fantastic lead characters such as Black Panther, Shang-Chi, Captain Marvel, the first Black Captain America and, soon to come, Ms. Marvel and She Hulk have stepped into the forefront.
The 2021 film Eternals featured not only heroes from around the world but Marvel’s first deaf hero as well. Suddenly, great strides are being taken to allow as many as possible to see themselves onscreen. This sort of intentional representation simply didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago.
We were missing out.
But what’s interesting about the multiverse concept is that it can also drive us apart. After all, if everyone’s story matters, how do we know what’s true? If we’re all celebrating our differences, is there anything that still brings us together? Does there need to be?
Without giving any spoilers, Everything Everywhere All at Once may be the film that has the best answer.
Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as the “Daniels”), the film tells the story of Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), a frustrated wife and mother who is struggling to keep her family’s finances afloat. When a variant of her husband from another dimension enlists her to save the multiverse from evil, she reluctantly accepts. But by destroying everything she thought she knew about the world, she begins to wonder if anything matters at all.
After all, if everything matters, maybe nothing does.
On paper, this is a dark and depressing argument… but Everything Everywhere doesn’t leave us there. The film understands that what holds us together is compassion. No matter what universe we call home, everyone has value and needs grace.
As a pastor, this sounds awfully familiar to me. For example, when Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment, he could’ve listed anything. He could’ve spoken about adultery or murder (which are pretty important ones, if you ask me). Instead, he says that the most important things are loving God and loving people.
Of all the Commandments, these are the ones that resonate most deeply. At a time where we seem more divided than ever, humility and grace cut through the differences, no matter our culture, gender, or age.
Just like Evelyn discovers, love is the through line that holds everything together.
So, yes! Let’s enjoy the multiverse for all its madness. By celebrating diversity and empowering others, we have the chance to experience the world from new perspectives. But, if we ever get lost in the Wild West cultural shoot-out of the multiverse, let’s not forget that Jesus offers us the answer that truly holds us together.
Even though some might deem it strange, the call to love changes everything, everywhere, all at once.
Steve Norton is a Toronto-based pastor, podcaster and writer who loves to listen to what matters to our culture on screen. Having worked as a youth and community minister for almost 20 years, he learned that stories help everyone engage with the world around them. He’s a proud hubby, father (times two) and believes that Citizen Kane, Batman Forever (yes, the Kilmer one), and The Social Network belong in the same conversation.