Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - Review (Spoiler-Free)

 When Sam Raimi was first mentioned as a possibility to take the reins for the long gestating sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, the general consensus seemed to be that audiences would get something different from this MCU entry, at the very least. The final result certainly is unique, one that sees the director’s distinct filmmaking style and horror genre origins seep into the well established and beloved world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

After sacrificing the time stone to Thanos, and subsequently sending all of reality into chaos, Dr. Stephen Strange is just trying to adjust to his new reality fiver years later. However, when a mysterious girl named America Chavez enters his world, Strange must figure out who exactly is threatening her, and determine just how much danger the Multiverse is truly in from this mysterious entity. 

Whenever one tries to discuss, or review even, the latest Marvel entry these days, it’s a delicate balancing act to illustrate the ever shifting plot without spoiling the details that so many fans deserve to experience first hand. In this instance, the less said, the better, as the plot gets from point A to point B while bouncing between random symbols from Wingdings along the way. It is called the Multiverse of Madness for a reason, and seeing Marvel finally inching its way further and further into the weird is fantastic. 

But where Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness truly shines as a unique outing for the ever expanding universe is in the decisions and direction from Sam Raimi. In many ways, what Raimi provides for Strange here feels similar to what Taika Waititi did for Thor when he took over. It’s a vision for a character that fits perfectly in his wheelhouse, and even then, this second entry barely scratches the surface of how unsettling and odd the character of Doctor Strange could get if Raimi gets to do this again. 

When you dive headfirst into the multiverse, the possibilities for your performances probably benefit the most. Sure, the stories can get weirder, and you get an easy out for your future plans, but the actors get to showcase their talents in multiple forms. And for Benedict Cumberbatch, he’s clearly having such a fun time making each version of the sorcerer his own. It’s hard to pretend that he is the most noteworthy performance, as the women at either side of him prove to stand above him as well. 

Xoochitl Gomez as America Chavez comes in and holds her own as the newcomer to the universe. Her character doesn’t get a ton of depth, but the building blocks are laid for her story to inevitably continue when the time comes. However, the true star of the show is Elizabeth Olsen, shocking absolutely no one. She often swoops in and steals most of the scenes she’s in, promptly pushing everyone around her to rise to her level as well. To see what she has done with the character in appearances here or there, and one season of a solid TV show, is pretty fascinating when laid out in front of you. 

The film delivers on just about every front you could ask for. The visuals are haunting and mind-blowing in portions, the score from Danny Elfman is terrific (and features heavily in a sure to be favorite fight scene), and the characters are pushed to new heights and realizations. From the jump, the film gets going and really never stops until the credits start, and Raimi packs as much comic book weirdness, gore and glorious visuals into the two hour runtime. In the vast reaches of Marvel’s multiverse, this is the first film that can be called a horror film (and one that’s definitely not for kids). 

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