DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS Review; "A One of A Kind Blockbuster Experience"

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness punches open the door to the MCU's Multiverse, but is Sam Raimi's sequel the mad movie we've been promised? Check out our (mostly) spoiler-free verdict...

Minor spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness may follow.

If Avengers: Endgame, Loki, and Spider-Man: No Way Home opened the door to the Multiverse, then it’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that punches a star-shaped hole right through it. Since 2016, Stephen Strange has become a key player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s now down to the former Sorcerer Supreme to familiarise moviegoers with the concept of alternate dimensions and Variants (even if they’re never named as such), potentially laying the groundwork for what could eventually be the Secret Wars movie we’ve all been waiting for. This sequel wastes no time throwing us into the thick of the action - if you haven’t watched WandaVision, now would be a good time to do so - as we follow Stephen Strange on a Multiverse-hopping adventure that allows director Sam Raimi to be, well, Sam Raimi. 

Make no mistake about it; Marvel Studios has quite clearly allowed the filmmaker behind Evil Dead and Spider-Man to be himself with this Doctor Strange sequel. Just like how Taika Waititi put his own spin on the Thor franchise, Raimi brings a style to the table that feels wholly unique to him. If you’re not a fan of the filmmaker’s visual flairs, then your mileage may vary, but we’d love to see him continue exploring this character as he did Spider-Man because Raimi makes Doctor Strange stand out from the crowd in a way that simply hasn’t been the case in the MCU before now. Of course, it helps that he gets to inject a good dose of horror into the proceedings. As well as portraying Strange’s powers in some staggeringly bonkers ways, Raimi delivers a movie that’s tense and genuinely frightening at times, so be prepared for some terrific jump scares and surprisingly violent visuals. With Stephen and America Chavez being pursued through the Multiverse by a seemingly unstoppable force, the tension never lets up, and the movie might, in some ways, be at its weakest when we do take a trip to those different worlds. 

Ultimately, that could be down to having far too high expectations (we’ll call it the "Mephisto effect"). The Illuminati's presence results in some jaw-dropping cameos, but those scenes feel oddly tacked on and superfluous to the wider story, almost as if Marvel Studios realised they needed some high-profile names to deliver on that title. We see a number of alternate realities, but short of a decimated New York and a version of the Big Apple that’s oddly flowery where everyone seems to wear the same colour clothes and eat pizza balls, there’s really nothing all that mad here. There are glimpses of crazy worlds, but none of the major references to the comic books you’d think Marvel Studios might have chosen to deliver. What If…? dropped us on an Earth where Steve Rogers is President, for example, but there’s nothing quite as weird as that to be found outside of The Illuminati's reality. Still, what we do get works, and works well, but it might be best to temper expectations if you’re anticipating Deadpool rocking up in the post-credits scene or Raimi finally getting to reunite with Spider-Man. 
 


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is at its best when the focus is on the title character and the Scarlet Witch. Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen deliver in a big way, and Michael Waldron’s screenplay gives them both a chance to explore these characters in a deep and meaningful way that simultaneously lays the groundwork for their respective future adventures. Cumberbatch, in particular, really gets to let loose playing his Variants, though Olsen reminds us why she’s one of the most talented actors working today with her soulful, hard-hitting take on Wanda Maximoff. Rachel McAdams gets the opportunity to make up for her lack of screentime in the first movie by playing a memorable Christine Palmer Variant, Chiwetel Ejiofor is on top form as Master Mordo (we’re still waiting to see the original make his MCU return...), and Benedict Wong is a highlight as Wong. As new Sorcerer Supreme, he’s rightly given a large role and makes the most of it with some scene-stealing dialogue and moments.

Xochitl Gomez, meanwhile, deserves a special mention as America Chavez, especially as this is her first major role. The newcomer is instantly likeable as the reality-hopping teenager, and a character we’re very excited to see become a major player in the MCU. Hopefully, her sexuality will be explored in a larger way down the line, especially as she is the sort of hero those Disney+ TV shows were made to showcase. Sadly, there’s not much to say about Adam Hugill’s Rintrah because the character is largely sidelined and little more than just another Kamar-Taj student, despite being heavily featured on merchandise. 

This is a movie it’s impossible not to have fun watching, and it's a joy to see Raimi explore Doctor Strange’s powers in wildly inventive and unique ways. Bolstered by Danny Elfman’s excellent score, the action scenes are among the MCU’s best, and unrealistic expectations aside, those Multiverse cameos don’t disappoint. We’d have admittedly liked to see the movie go a little further with them (the sequel would have benefitted from an extra 15 or 20 minutes on the whole), but as a story about Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch, it works tremendously well. Overall, this is a solid chapter in Phase 4’s Multiverse saga, though we do hope Marvel Studios pulls the curtain back on its larger game plan soon because it feels a lot like they've yet to fully embrace the madness within it. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a one of a kind blockbuster experience and a pure, unadulterated Sam Raimi movie that, while not quite the crazy ride through the Multiverse we expected, delivers a fun, horror-tinged trip.
 

IF

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