Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review
Doctor Strange doesn’t have the extensive film catalogue as Spider-Man, but if it did Multiverse of Madness would be its version of No Way Home.
This is another stellar example of tremendous Marvel Studios fan service, unexpected thrills and a mini epic contained in a just over two-hour film. There’s a reason why Marvel films under the Marvel Studios banner so consistently dominate the box office — the filmmakers deliver above and beyond what fans want to see in these movies.
Multiverse of Madness is certainly a “see it in theaters” spectacle and while you’re treating yourself, check it out in IMAX 3D.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and crew thankfully aren’t resting on the Marvel Cinematic Universe laurels and continue to explore different genres. While Eternals as a superhero historical piece murder mystery didn’t quite work, the effort to try new things was appreciated.
Multiverse of Madness takes MCU fans through the first true superhero horror movie experience in the MCU. And it’s hardly a neutered horror outing filtered through to be as family friendly as possible. Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and screenwriter Michael Waldron (Loki) don’t hold anything back complete with nerve-wracking moments and well-executed jump scares.
When Raimi was brought in to replace Scott Derrickson, there was some uncertainty if Multiverse of Madness was getting the director that established the Evil Dead franchise or the guy who signed off on dancing Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3. It’s the former and Raimi seems reenergized with the chance to make a no-holds barred superhero horror movie.
Doctor Strange was the ideal character for this type of film. Strange’s magic-based powers allow for a number of astonishing visuals and wild settings.
Multiverse of the Madness is best viewed going in knowing as little as possible. This is almost impossible now with Marvel Studios doing some of its own spoiler work and blogs and YouTubers gagging for clips rushing to social media to spoil every second.
The ideal course of action is to go on a social media cone of silence until you see the film as watching the surprises and shocks on screen are so much more rewarding than expecting it.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, Spider-Man: No Way Home) is still adjusting to life post-Blip. He’s actually managed to convince himself to some degree he’s happy. Strange goes just short of having “Living My Best Life” stitched on the back of his cloak.
He’s even calm and collected enough to attend the wedding of the love of his life, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams, Game Night).
His tranquility is interrupted by the arrival of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young girl with the power to transport between the multiverse. She’s being hunted by monsters trying to take her to a powerful presence that seeks to control the multiverse for themselves.
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Recognizing the threat is too great for himself and his ally, the Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), Strange recruits Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, Avengers: Endgame). Wanda is still coping with her numerous losses since becoming an Avenger but has tapped into new abilities making her stronger than ever as she’s become the Scarlet Witch.
At this point, Marvel Studios is even further committed to a connected universe and required viewing goes beyond keeping up with the theatrical releases. It’s not so much mandatory viewing as Waldron does an admirable job of summarizing the important beats, but watching Disney+ shows WandaVision, Loki and What If…? aid in the appreciation and comprehension of MOM.
Saying more about the plot goes too deep into spoiler territory. Raimi takes full advantage of the multiverse concept including one amazing sequence fully displaying Marvel Studios’ efforts at delivering major fan service for audiences. Multiverse of Madness is about more than this one wild sequence though.
Raimi opens up Strange’s toolkit. Strange is no longer using the same few tricks and has a lot more up his sleeve. There’s one segment that written out sounds absurd, but it was so cleverly done that it made for a thrilling fight scene.
Derrickson would no doubt have followed up his work on the first film with an entertaining film, but Raimi takes this concept to a wilder, less restrained level.
To some extent this felt like the difference between the first Thor and Thor: Ragnarok. Kenneth Branagh established the baseline for Thor within the framework of a superhero Shakespearean play. By Ragnarok, director Taikia Watiti could go nuts and just have fun. Multiverse of Madness jumps right into a wild and crazy Strange ride.
At times, it almost feels like it’s too much to fully take in and appreciate. Raimi packs so much in the film that there’s rarely time to breathe. This mimics the experience of Strange and his allies as they try and escape the evil force pursuing them. And compared to Eternals, maybe it’s not a bad thing to have a film doing too much instead of too little?
Cumberbatch’s presence in the MCU it’s hard to believe this is only his second time headlining a Doctor Strange film. Getting back to a featured role again allows Cumberbatch the opportunity to further evolve Strange as a character.
He’s not as prickly and trying to be a better man. It was a coup landing Cumberbatch in the MCU and he seems poised to be an even bigger player going forward.
Olsen was jobbed out of TV nomination awards for her work in WandaVision. For anyone who missed it, Olsen gives a devastating, layered emotional performance that might be the finest in the MCU catalogue. Gomez is a solid addition to the MCU.
Wong gives his character that gruff uncle who’s really a softie that can still kick tail vibe. Chiwetel Ejiofor is back as Mordo as well although not in the expected way. Mordo is the one character most affected by the delay in getting a Doctor Strange sequel as some of his adventures occurred off screen.
As always, stay for the mid-credit scene as it’s important to the story going forward. The post-credit scene is a nice gag and a good payoff while you process everything that’s happened.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has become a highly anticipated Marvel Studios film as it kicks off the 2022 film slate. It doesn’t disappoint thanks to Raimi going all in on the horror and endless possibilities with this franchise.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Disney
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