Title: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Release Date: May 6, 2022
Director: Sam Raimi
Production Company: Marvel Studios
I wasn’t a big fan of Doctor Strange (2016), but Benedict Cumberbatch has done a good job with the character in various other MCU films including Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). So I did look forward to this film, especially since it also promised the return of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) after the events of WandaVision. The multiverse has been a recurring theme of Phase 4 especially in the tv series Loki and What If... and in No Way Home, and this movie leans into the “madness” of its title.
The basic plot involves a young woman named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who has the power to jump between universes although she is not able to control it. America arrives in the main MCU universe (Earth-616) pursued by a giant demon who is sent after her by someone seeking to take away America’s power, which would kill her. Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) agree to help and defend America leading into a heavily action-filled adventure. In another universe, they are aided by Stephen Strange’s ex Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). They also meet a crowd-pleasing team of alternate universe superheroes with actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Patrick Stewart, Hayley Atwell, Lashana Lynch, and Anson Mount reprising their roles from other Marvel properties and John Krasinski making a first appearance as a well-known character.
Director Sam Raimi is best known for his camp horror movies like Evil Dead and brings a horror aesthetic to this film as well. That means we see our protagonists chased by demons and a blood-soaked villain as well as scenes with a heavily-decayed zombie. There are a lot of brutal deaths in this movie which make it feel more dangerous than other entries in the MCU and may not be suitable for young children or anyone who is squeamish.
There’s a lot that I can quibble with about this movie, although it’s a definite improvement over its predecessor. I especially felt that the chemistry between Strange and Christine was never strong and it makes the “lost love” element of the plot a tough sell. America feels more like a MacGuffin than a character for much of the film, although she does get a good moment in the denouement. Despite the multiverse being a recurring theme in the MCU, this movie felt oddly self-contained as it had no connection with previous multiverse stories. I also felt that Loki and the non-MCU movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did a much better job with the possibilities of the multiverse for storytelling. Ultimately, I enjoyed this movie as a it was pretty much nonstop action set pieces with a lot of visual flair.
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