‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’- Movie Review: A Bit of Sam Raimi and Madness is Key

After the absence of two years, we’re finally back to receiving a brand new Marvel movie to ignite the start of the summer movie season. In addition, this year brings us three sequels to popular series, including the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Right now, it’s time to get strange and a bit of mad with the release of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. 28 movies deep now where it’s all about changing things up that isn’t just the pretty conventional superhero film to flock to during its first weekend. The much-anticipated follow-up will have many go in with high expectations that will definitely have fans excited for what’s next or wanting more.

But I also realize I don’t want to give away what’s going around the storyline since it’s a spoiler. So, I’ll try my best to give my synopsis. After his latest attempt at saving the world and reemerging after being away for five years, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) lives his life pleasing being a wizard superhero, still questioning if he should do better. The ceremony of his long-time love, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), gets interrupted when he saves the life of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager capable of transporting through the multiverse uncontrollably when she appears in New York City. Demonic monsters have chased America by someone trying to steal her powers. In an effort to protect her, Strange enlists Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), to seek her help after the fallout of what happened in the town of Westview, only to learn of a threat unlike anything they’ve faced before.

 As a comic book movie nerd, this was one of the biggest films I couldn’t wait to see on the big screen. We don’t hear about the first film, released in 2016, as much anymore. Our introduction to the neurosurgeon-turned-master of the mystic arts was undoubtedly one of the more well-received movies of the year because it was hard to know if bringing an origin story of the Sorcerer Supreme would work alongside the other established characters at the point. Luckily, it was the fulfilling blockbuster it intended to be, with its Oscar-nominated visuals proving they perfectly cast Cumberbatch as the titular character. That was one of the more underrated entries in the MCU. Not only did this have to be its own thing, but what had me curious learning producer Kevin Feige said that it would be Marvel touching the ground on horror. I never thought of associating that with the character, but I’ll take it since we haven’t seen it before. But can the latest entry be entertaining, or can it give us everything we can ever hope for? Maybe not everything, but you’re looking at a good time while sitting through Multiverse of Madness despite its fair share of imperfections. 

Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange continues to be a fantastic choice since we last saw him. Because besides his first movie, the character has been in a supporting role, including Spider-Man: No Way Home just a few months ago, which almost seems like he doesn’t get enough credit for being a wise part of the standing universe. I liked how this gets to explore him more inside we haven’t gotten to know about yet and the fallout of his recent difficulties in life while getting the chance to portray different versions of himself briefly. Just give me more movies with him and I will be pleased because he always looks like he has fun every time, never looking bored. Though it’s not just him, as this is very much Wanda’s movie. Elizabeth Olsen proved she’s an incredible actress when she reprised her Emmy-nominated role as Wanda in her limited Disney+ series WandaVision, and I love how this sequel is continuing to focus on her eternal grief that she hasn’t come to realize yet. Though it’s not just him, this is also very much Wanda’s movie. Elizabeth Olsen proved she’s an incredible actress when she reprised her Emmy-nominated role as Wanda in her limited Disney+ series WandaVision. I love how this sequel focuses on her eternal grief that she hasn’t come to realize yet, providing her best performance yet as this character. I can’t go into detail what’s going on with her in the story. At first, I didn’t know about a decision they made with her, but I eventually leaned into it. All I can say is this movie proves why she’s one of the most powerful beings in the universe. 

They gave both characters well-meaning arcs that allow us to care for them throughout in a compelling way. Now, do you need to watch the series to catch up on what’s happening with her story? Absolutely, especially if you wasted a whole year not watching the second-best series this far. But what about that episode of What If? I still haven’t watched the series, though I’ve heard Strange’s episode was the best of the entire season. 

The other star that might be third-billed if you think about it is Xochitl Gomez as the latest newcomer to the franchise as America Chavez, a character I did not know of before this despite her first appearance a decade ago yet optimistic what she’ll do in here. We introduce a new character in the MCU as America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez. She’s a character I did not know of before this, despite her first appearance a decade ago, yet optimistic about what she’ll do here. While I thought the dynamic of Strange and America was a nice one with him helping her out and all, I already knew she would not be a character I would care all that much about when it’s over. But, of course, the reaction could apply to most who know her or went in cold not knowing about her as well. I just thought this didn’t utilize her enough besides exploring her powers and feeling like a plot device later on. Her performance was fine enough. Any project that jumps forth next with her won’t have me jumping for joy, but it’ll have to be more useful when the time comes. Benedict Wong as Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo (who I forgot was in this until he appeared) were the supporting players again though underused, respectively. And on the opposite side of someone who got more to do, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. She was good in the first movie, even though it was hard to know if the up and down romance between her and Stephen would be a thing. Luckily, she got more to do in the latter half, and she was dealing with a bit more chemistry with the two in what their relationship wants to be.

Tons of creative minds have stepped into the Marvel circle for a while that let those unfamiliar with their previous work show them how to take control of a superhero film, like Taika Waititi or Destin Daniel Cretton. Though if there’s anybody who can replace Scott Derrickson, I think everybody should be happy with Sam Raimi and the movie he rightfully so delivered. Why did it take so long to pair the matching of this director and this superhero together? When I heard he was going to direct a new film, let alone take over this sequel, it made me even more excited to see him return to tackle another popular comic book character or two. Raimi has primarily been producing over the years, yet it’s hard to imagine why he hasn’t directed since 2013’s Oz: The Great and Powerful. But this is the same man responsible for bringing the web-slinging Spider-Man to the big screen precisely 20 years ago, paving the way for comic book movies ever since. And seeing how he’s been part of the original Spider-Man trilogy and Darkman, there can undoubtedly be some skepticism about how he’ll do the movie to mark his return to the genre. My first thought is the Doctor Strange sequel is basically meshing it with the Evil Dead trilogy in a good way. But is it scary? Not really to a full-blown extent, but this isn’t afraid to have a couple of jump scares and creepy visuals.

Raimi’s name is all over this movie if you want a nice blend of both worlds of horror and action with the Marvel formula. The editing of the action sequences and unique camerawork harkening back to the early days of his career are on display that made this come to life. Although it’s weird and cheesy, I thought it worked where most think its style over substance. The action allows you to have fun with them, and all the craziness that ensues that actually better than what Derrickson did with any of the fight scenes. Also, this is one PG-13 that gets brutal during some moments. There’s one so creative that I seem silly on paper, but it amused me once you see it. It keeps with a constant tone that mainly strays away from the corny humor that occasionally takes a back seat some times. I can’t tell how crazy the third act gets when it shows Raimi has free range to go about his style most think it’s goofy, but I practically had a grin while this chaos unfolds on-screen. And this is one of the rare times where this isn’t a Marvel movie that won’t sit well with little kids since it has a fair share of frightening images. Watching this made me realize it’s been forever since anything in the MCU looked this amazing. And as someone who actually loves or really liked some of the recent offerings, even I get annoyed and everyone else notices they don’t have a unique style to them when they usually look the same based on the color grading. Watching this made me realize it’s been forever since anything in the MCU looked this amazing. And as someone who loves or really liked some of the recent offerings, even to notice they don’t have a unique style to them when they usually look the same based on the color grading. But thanks to Raimi and cinematographer John Mathieson, they brighten up the atmosphere for once with their visuals. And Danny Elfman collaborating with Raimi again has him giving us a brilliant musical score in a very long time. Heck, I forgot he did the score of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Was Multiverse of Madness superior to its predecessor? They’re both different in tone, but this didn’t get to the love it status from my perspective. The subtle delivers somewhat, though you shouldn’t expect too much. The trailers don’t tell you exactly what will occur in the storytelling without spoiling. My expectations weren’t too high to get my hopes up if it would not explore more of the multiverse aspect since I paid money to see another project with Strange and Scarlet Witch; I wasn’t going in just for the unexpected cameos and such. You can sense Raimi’s direction is the most substantial element holding the movie together, while the screenplay from Michael Waldron (Loki) needed some polishing up. The first act, for example, felt rushed right after the opening sequences, when an octopus demon rampaged and quickly revealed an element that left us feeling disconnected from what we were going through, which could lead to not being emotionally attached for the entire film. You’re also going to expect some surprises that I, mostly, enjoyed; however, I wished the marketing didn’t tease with. I can also see them as complete fan service that doesn’t push the plot forward. There’s a sequence everybody won’t be on board with, but I won’t lie; it was awesome. Sometimes it’s weird hearing superhero movies reported being more prolonged, and I assumed the reshoots and rewrites had to trim this down. Maybe there’s missing footage to make an extended cut, but I wouldn’t mind this being a tad longer.

Overall, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse Of Madness is far from a perfect MCU sequel, and I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites after my first viewing, but I have to give it to Sam Raimi for knowing how to make one wildly entertaining. With his signature style on display through and through, it unsurprisingly gets weird and action-packed with a touch of horror that I had fun with. But besides him, Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen were at the top of their game in reprising roles. Maybe I wanted to love it and so far will leave some people feeling divisive about their experience, but I left the theater thinking this was a solid installment that I can’t see to see a potential third movie when the time comes. 

Grade: [B]

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing theaters everywhere in 3D and IMAX. Runtime: 126 Minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language. Studio: Marvel Studios

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