TL;DR – This is a perfectly okay film, it is not one of Marvel’s best, playing it safe, but solid visuals and cast bring it together.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and end-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to watch this film.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review –
Back all the way in 2016, pre-covid times, Marvel released this new film based on a wizard and full of magic. That first Doctor Strange film was full of beautiful visuals and a bunch of fun once Benedict Cumberbatch found his feet. Since that time, we have had 18 different entries into the MCU, and now it is time to jump back into the weird world.
So to set the scene, since the fallout from Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has tried to find some normalcy even though he is famous after the events of Endgame. However, he has to deal with the legacies of his actions or inactions, including being a guest at Christine Palmer’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding and not a part of it. To say it was awkward, well, that is an understatement. Thankfully the wedding is interrupted by screams from the street as there is a disturbance in New York. Which turns out to be a giant one-eyed tentacle monster chasing after a girl. This is normal for an Avenger, and Wong (Benedict Wong) shows up for the team-up. The only difference is that Strange has seen this girl before, in his dreams, and she was there when he died.
Now, before we go on, this is probably a futile gesture at this point, but this will be a mostly spoiler-free review. I say mostly because first, if you want to go in completely spoiler-free, just read the TL;DR above, and very much don’t read the cast list below. But more than that, we will be talking about everything that happens in the first act and then illusions that occur elsewhere. We will reference one particular moment for the third act, but I will flag it beforehand, so you can skip it if you want. I say this because, honestly, I think I may have enjoyed this film a little more if I had seen it a week earlier.
In this film, the first thing you see is how the visuals have taken a giant leap forward in what was already a high bar. The stand out moment was the emergency jump through the multiverses, which got wilder and wilder. But we get worlds reimagined, great battles between magical forces of good and evil, and many star imprints everywhere. There is also a different tone to the film, as Sam Raimi brings some of his horror iconographies to bear. Indeed, I would say this is the first Marvel film in a while that is probably not really okay for those on the younger side of the audience.
You see this the most in some of the action sequences that get peppered throughout the film. The most prominent of which has been in the trailers, but to talk a bit vaguely, it involves a magic-user taking all the strengths of the Mystic Arts of Kamar-Taj and using them as weapons against them. My favourite bit was [and SPOILERS] when they incorporated music into the action in a very literal sense creating a moment that was both visually and audible spectacular, which is supported by some of Danny Elfman’s best work throughout the film.
Another strength of the film is the cast, many of which get to play with different versions of themselves through the runtime. To begin with, Xochitl Gomez is a delight as America Chavez, someone who is trying to come to terms with a power they don’t really understand. Benedict Wong is always a delight as Wong, and here is no different. I like that we get to see a bit more of his role as The Sorcerer Supreme and how that has shifted his relationship with Steven. Rachel McAdams finally got something to do as Christine Palmer, which was a nice change from the first film and, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch brings a solid performance[s].
Unfortunately, some aspects of the film didn’t work for me or just felt undercooked. The overall narrative felt lacking in several places, and look, I don’t envy the writer who had to first incorporate the wild swings that happened in WandaVision, and payoff all the Multiverse rumblings of Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, I just don’t think they got there. This is a film that probably nailed the Multiverse part of its title, but not Madness, because you could feel that it was not taking the risks, it needed to do and, in many places, played it safe.
You see that the most in the narrative arc of Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and we might be getting a little [SPOILERy] in this section. Now don’t get me wrong, Elizabeth Olsen is great in this film. Indeed she may be the MVP. However, after the turn and the attack, they decide to isolate her for most of the film, like what happened with Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Still, the big difference is that we are invested in Wanda as a character much more than Hela, and with a more significant history, so the impact is all wrong. This frustration with the character’s arc continues all the way to the end, and you kind of wish that they had worked on a separate Wanda story and a Strange story rather than combining the two.
In the end, do we recommend Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Yes. I did have some frustrations with the story, and heck, maybe if multiple key points had not been spoiled by a marketing campaign that I was actively avoiding, some of those moments would have hit harder. However, when the film does embrace the wilder side of its narrative set-up, it shines, and the visuals and cast make it one to watch. If you liked Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I would also recommend to you Everything Everywhere All at Once.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Directed by – Sam Raimi
Story by – Michael Waldron
Based on – Doctor Strange by Steve Ditko & Stan Lee
Music by – Danny Elfman
Cinematography by – John Mathieson
Edited by – Bob Murawski & Tia Nolan
Production/Distribution Companies – Marvel Studios & Disney
Starring – Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julian Hilliard & Jett Klyne with Michael Stuhlbarg, Patrick Stewart, Hayley Atwell, Lashana Lynch, Anson Mount, John Krasinski, Topo Wresniwiro, Mark Anthony Brighton, Sheila Atim, Adam Hugill, Charlize Theron & Bruce Campbell
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13