Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong
Score: 4/5 stars
Looking back at the first Doctor Strange, it was a movie that held a copious amount of potential to breach the concept of the multiverse in the comics and bring it into the big screen. And though it did play with the idea a bit, it finally took a major event film in Endgame to actually kickstart the multiverse - and boy, was it mad.
On the whole, Marvel's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness lives up to its name. It's got the doctor who is even more 'strange' than usual if you'll pardon the pun, the multiverse is on full display after the little teases in WandaVision and Loki and it has the perfect director to truly explore the nitty-gritty of the darker bits of Doctor Strange lore - Sam Raimi.
It takes a man who could be called one of the most crazy horror directors of recent years to create a film like this. It blends the mind-bending visuals Doctor Strange is known for, taking it up to 11 in the actual mind-bending department, coupled with Raimi's visual sense and flair for making his backgrounds feel more alive than the typical Marvel Studios movie, and his expertise with horror - both the traditional kind and the body horror kind - to create this amalgamation of an absolutely bonkers two-hour journey that breaks the mould of everything Marvel has done before with its movies (in the sense that it feels like there will be actual consequences for everyone involved).
The plot of the film will be foreign to those who have not seen WandaVision because it largely involves Wanda Maximoff's (the Scarlet Witch, for those not in the know) desperate desire to cross universes to be with her children - regardless of how many people she has to bury on the way, and she buries a lot of bodies. Caught in her outwardly painful but actually disastrous plot are America Chavez and Stephen Strange. The Scarlet Witch wants the former for her powers and the latter decides to tell Wanda to basically halt what she's doing, setting off a multiversal misadventure featuring some of the most grotesque visual representations in all of the MCU and posing a few questions to Strange about his own happiness and place in the world.
There is a lot in the multiversal misadventures that we can't talk about in our review. What's been written so far feels like it skirts the spoiler boundary but it is safe to say that the film really roots itself in Wanda's motivations without making her a tragic figure. Yes, Wanda's in pain but the film makes clear that casually engaging in virtual genocide across universes is not the solution to fill the hole in her heart after WandaVision. It makes her relatable in the sense that a parent might go to any lengths to save his or her family, but the film makes sure that you will consider her actions heinous at best.
And now we come to Strange, who appears to go through his arrogant-yet-competent arc again as though he's on a rerun (perhaps whatever happened in Spider-Man: No Way Home also reset some of his personality). While he does finally get what feels like an actually solid arc, thanks largely to Chavez and an exceptionally grotesque piece of magic, it does feel kind of repetitive watching him go through part of his character development all over again.
Will you enjoy Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? That is really a question about whether you will keep your expectations tempered and whether you like Sam Raimi movies because this is, without question, a Sam Raimi movie disguised as a Marvel Studios movie.