‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a superhero fantasy film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) from a screenplay by Michael Waldron (Loki, Rick and Morty).

Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Patrick Stewart, Hayley Atwell, Lashana Lynch, Anson Mount, John Krasinski, Rachel McAdams, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne, and Michael Stuhlbarg, it is the sequel to Doctor Strange and the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Set after the events of WandaVision, Loki, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, the story follows Dr. Stephen Strange as he protects the multiverse traveling teenager, America Chavez from a corrupted Wanda Maximoff.

Opening in the space between universes, we see America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and a ponytailed Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) running from a monster made of glowing bandages towards the Book of Vishanti. Realizing the monster is too powerful, Dr. Strange attempts to drain Chavez of her abilities so the monster can’t get them. The monster catches up to them, critically injuring Strange and capturing Chavez before he can finish the draining process. The fear causes Chavez to open a multiverse portal that pulls herself and Strange’s body through.

In the Sanctum Sanctorum, Dr. Strange awakes having witnessed these events in a dream. He puts on a suit and heads to a wedding. There he catches up with his former colleague, Dr. Nicodemus West (Michael Stuhlbarg), and they discuss how the Blip changed both of their lives. Strange assures West that there was no other way. As the ceremony begins, the bride is revealed to be Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). At the reception, Strange and Palmer converse until an invisible creature starts terrorizing the streets. Strange jumps into action using his magical abilities to reveal a one-eyed monster chasing the girl from his dreams.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the furthest an MCU film has been released from its predecessor. Doctor Strange was released in 2016, making it a whopping six years in-between movies. To put that in perspective, Marvel Studios and Sony released an entire Spider-Man trilogy during that time. Though he didn’t have his own feature during that time, Strange did appear in four MCU films and one television series. So at least fans weren’t totally devoid of his presence these past several years. This is the first MCU film to take fan service to another level. The Illuminati of Earth-838 features returning faces from previous MCU films and a couple of surprises that will leave fans in awe.

After a long sabbatical from the director’s chair, Sam Raimi does a swell job helming a $200 million blockbuster. Though he hasn’t directed a superhero film in over ten years, he gets some slack for directing what is considered one of the best superhero films ever made, Spider-Man 2. As always, Raimi incorporates some horror elements into his projects which is perfect for the mystical world of Doctor Strange. There are zombies and ghosts and demons galore. There are two kills in this film that push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. The only way this film avoids an R-rating is the lack of blood and guts. The scenes with Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) chasing Strange and Chavez are some of the scariest sequences in the entire MCU. Speaking of Elizabeth Olsen, she is truly the standout character of the film. She gets the best lines and makes for a truly compelling villain. While her heel turn can be considered abrupt or unearned, once she starts you’re all in with her performance.

Some of the lines are cheesy, but that is more attributed to the writing. Michael Waldron’s dialogue leaned more towards Rick and Morty than Loki. The film runs short, which is unfortunate. Especially with all the characters and lore, it sets up for the MCU. This should have been an Avengers-level project, but, unfortunately, feels smaller. Though the film is titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we spend a lot of time on Earth-838. Other universes are briefly seen in passing. With Dr. Strange previously being mentioned in Spider-Man 2 and Tobey Maguire appearing as a Peter Parker variant in Spider-Man: No Way Home, it was the perfect opportunity to visit that universe. The title Doctor Strange vs. The Scarlet Witch almost seems more appropriate.

Another missed opportunity was not having some of the Dr. Strange variants portrayed by different actors. The concept of variants not being identical was one of the most interesting facets of Loki so it would have been nice to see it in this movie. This is a flick that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible just because of what it represents, but some of the VFX does look outdated. This could have been on purpose to give the film a more 90s look and feel, which is Raimi’s bread and butter. Lastly, while Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Batman) does a fine job with the score, incorporating hints of familiar themes from previous series and films, nothing truly stands out. This is a problem with the MCU as a whole where sometimes the music is easily forgettable.

While it isn’t the best multiverse movie set in the MCU, it’s still a fun time at the theater. I give Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a Decent 7.5/10. This is a must-see if you’re a fan of Sam Raimi, the MCU, or Marvel movies in general. It’ll be interesting to see if Raimi returns to direct the third Doctor Strange film. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait another six years for it to come out!

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