Have you ever laid awake late at night, staring up at the ceiling in the pitch-black thinking about all the choices you’ve had in your life and ever thought about how your life would have turned out if you had made some different choices? What about thinking all about the different dimensions that each missed choice created?
Oh, you’ve never done that? And you’re saying that’s a really weird way to open a movie review and I should just get into the review instead of talking about something completely unrelated? Well, joke’s on you because that first paragraph is related because the movie I’m reviewing is all about multidimensional travel.
No not the new Doctor Strange one. That was like two and a half dimensions tops. I’m talking about the real one: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.
When we first meet our protagonist, Evelyn Quan Wang (the wonderful Michelle Yeoh), it is fair to say that her life isn’t quite in the best place at this moment in time. The laundromat she runs with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is failing and under investigation by the scariest monster of all… the Internal Revenue Service. On top of all that, Evelyn’s husband is trying to serve her divorce papers, her demanding father Gong Gong (James Hong) is visiting from Hong Kong and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) has been trying to get Evelyn to accept her girlfriend Becky as part of the family.
While at the IRS building going over some questionable receipts with their IRS auditor Deidre Beaubeidre (Jamie Lee Curtis), Waymond’s body is taken over by a strange version of Waymond as he drags Evelyn out of her current universe so they can talk in private. This version of Waymond is from a universe he refers to as the “Alphaverse” and he reveals the truth to Evelyn. Multiple universes exist in parallel with each other and every choice made creates a brand-new universe.
The people of the Alphaverse, led by the now deceased “Alpha” version of Evelyn, are the ones that created and developed “verse-jumping” technology that allows people to mentally jump across the multiverse and access skills and memories of their alternate selves. The fun thing is that to jump you need to fulfil some really weird conditions, the more absurd the more effective.
However, Alpha Waymond isn’t there to just shoot the shit. The multiverse itself is being threatened by the great evil Jobu Tupaki, the alpha version of Joy that had her mind splintered into insanity after Alpha Evelyn forced her to extensively verse jump. Because of this, Jobu Tupaki exists in every single universe at every single state at every single point in time. Her only goal is to hunt down every version of Evelyn and kill her off one by one and then destroy the entire multiverse with her black hole-like “everything bagel”.
Evelyn is given verse-jumping technology by Alpha Waymond in order to fight Jobu Tupaki’s verse-jumping minions and begins to tap into the multiverse, discovering all the other lives she could have had if she’d made different choices. But will it be enough to save the multiverse?
First off, this movie is well thought out and paced really well in terms of its overall three-act structure. It’s not an original concept but it does such a good job introducing the main pillars of the story, the emotional throughlines, the rules of multiverse travelling and the main threat in the first act that it can lean into some absurd stuff and not have the audience zone out.
Make no mistake, this movie is completely absurd. Completely absurd and I can’t stress just how much I enjoyed this movie. The use of the verse jumping technology is a neat way for the movie to jump from different genres in a way that would normally give the audience whiplash yet makes perfect sense with all the context the movie gives you. The movie goes from close-knit family drama to Hong Kong martial arts action, to existential cosmic horror and dread from one second to the next and it somehow manages to nail every new genre served up to it.
The highlight for me has to be the scenes devoted to Hong Kong martial arts. The choreography is properly tight with it resembling something more akin to art than a fight scene. It also lets us see Jamie Lee Curtis pull out some sick pro wrestling WWE moves, which is something I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it and now, I’m sad I’ll never get to experience it again.
The acting is also top-notch as should be expected with a cast of this caliber. Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan steal the show in every version of the universe they inhabit, James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis are also some great supporting cast members that really help drive home the emotional weight of this movie that seeps in throughout the entire movie.
It is inevitable that this movie is going to be compared to Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness yet the only valid similarities between these two movies is that they’re just that bit too long and have multiverses in them.
Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is quite simply better than Doctor Strange. It’s more inventive, better paced, a more emotionally fulfilling story with characters that I cared about and actually treated the multiverse as a concept worthy of carrying a movie, not just some pretty filters to splash on the screen every now and then.
As I mentioned before, the movie is quite long, clocking in at two hours and twenty minutes so make sure you’re nice and comfortable when you watch it. This length does leave the end of the movie feeling just that little bit too padded with points that felt like extra endings tacked on in order to tie up every single loose end available to them.
However, these points hardly detract from the simple fact that Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is one of those movie we don’t see every year – it’s innovative, ambitious and it doesn’t take itself so seriously that it can’t have fun. Because this movie is that… fun.
Have you seen Everything, Everywhere, All at Once? How do you think it compares to Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness? Let me know down below.
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