Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
After the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Loki Season1, the boundaries between realities start to break down, with Doctor Strange needing to save the world once again. But can this Multiversal ride hold up with great blockbusters?
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elisabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg & Charlize Theron.
Run Time: 126 min.
US Release: 06 May 2022
UK Release: 05 May 2022
German Release: 04 May 2022
Doctors Strange 2’s full title was revealed back in 2019, during the San Diego Comic-Con, making me super excited for it. Since then much has happened! The project was pushed back several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the original director Scott Derrickson left due to creative reasons; in a nutshell, it wasn’t looking good. That is until Sam Raimi was signed as a replacement! The first trailers looked good and then, right before release, Marvel started spoiling the story by showing too much in TV spots.
When an extraordinary girl is hunted by interdimensional monsters, Doctor Strange comes to her rescue. With the help of Wanda Maximoff and Sorcerer Supreme Wong, he hopes to have the necessary power to protect her from evil, but danger lurks everywhere - even amidst their own ranks.
Just as with Moon Knight, the biggest compliment I can give this Marvel blockbuster is the change in tone. It is more mature, which happened thanks to the hiring of Sam Raimi, who himself helped shape the more serious comic book adaptations, with his Spider-Man trilogy. The director, also known for his horror flicks, included some of his typical scary elements, but this is far from what could have been the first MCU horror film. Further aspects that elevated the narrative are the core themes of happiness, sacrifice, loss and acceptance. The feeling of temptation and corruption is also a core element, by including other universes and the possibilities of finding happiness within, when not considering the consequences.
Sadly all those topics are just slightly touched upon, never truly explored, as there is simply too much going on. This leads to an oversimplified conclusion, by making the villain realise its mistakes when reflecting on its actions in a metaphorical mirror. As stated, the plot is simply too crowded! We have Strange’s unresolved issues, Wanda’s problems and then one completely new character that is introduced as a big part of the plot. Add to that some irrelevant, side-questing through the multiverse and it is impossible to tell a coherent story.
When it comes to dialogues; the majority are well written, however, there are also a couple of really cheesy lines that did not stick the landing. It is unsure though if it was done by Marvel or the director himself, who is known to add some cheese into his pictures.
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Stephen Strange, being as always great in the role of the arrogant sorcerer, but he gets sidelined in his movie. Cumberbatch expresses his character's emotions well on the silver screen! You can feel the hurt of missing out on love and happiness, while exploring his selfish side, throughout different versions of himself in the multiverse. Sadly that arc never finds a conclusion, leaving it open to a follow-up sequel.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch is probably the most fleshed-out persona in the film. Olsen brings a versatility to paper that suited the development of Wanda, since the series WandaVision, stealing every scene she was in while holding a surprising twist. The character herself was finally done justice, by letting the audience witness the full potential of her powers. However, I disliked how they closed her plotline - it felt as if the studio bosses didn't know what else to do with her.
Xochitl Gomez portrays America Chavez, lending the character a lot of charm. Personally, I don’t know America from the comics, never read one of her stories, so I have no clue if they did her justice. She is an interesting character, yet absolutely underdeveloped for playing such an important part. Then there is the issue with her powers and name; a very on the nose reference to how great the USA is, which will turn off a few international viewers.
Benedict Wong as Wong was as always a pleasure to see! Funny and wholesome, yet just a small sidekick for Doctor Strange, even being the sorcerer supreme. The one who had a bigger role than expected was Rachel McAdams, who returns as Strange’s former love interest Christine Palmer.
Chiwetel Ejiofor also returns as Mordo but had a disappointingly short screen time. Having been marketed as the main villain, he is barely in the movie. Then there is the first outing of the Illuminati on the silver screen, which was a wasted opportunity, purely serving as fan service done wrong! Side note: This is what I feared they might do with Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire in No Way Home! Thank god it didn’t come to that!
Cinematographically, this blockbuster shares the typical MCU look. The picture is crystal clear, the lighting is on point, in other words; it simply looks perfect! New is the frightening atmosphere that was added to the camera work, it feels as if there is a lingering shadow of darkness throughout the flick’s runtime and it is used effectively to create unease. Then there was the use of shaky-cam to emulate some horror features successfully, as well as some good jump scares. One can tell that Raimi was given a little bit more freedom to do what he does best, although not enough to make this an original Marvel project.
On the other hand, the visual, computer, as well as practical effects are out of this world. The different cuts through multiple dimensions, while the main character is falling past them, gave us a short understanding of how many, as well as how different each of them is. Practical and visual effects were used to increase the creep factor; there is a moment right around the end of the first act, where the villain squeezed through something and it looked amazing. If anything, the effects department brought their A-game to work.
Danny Elfman, who co-worked with Raimi on a few occasions (most notably the Spider-Man trilogy), composed the music. Containing his recognizable notes and direction for music, he managed to create a magnificent, mystical, gothic soundtrack that perfectly captured the tone of the film.
Verdict: Even though it is different from other MCU instalments, Raimi’s direction was still bound to the studio's usual tropes. The different tone, the mature topics and horror-esque flavours all made for an entertaining experience, however, it was overshadowed by an overstuffed script that did not give for a better examination of the heroes' conflicting feelings. Benedict Cumberbatch was great, even if his character was sidelined by Olsen’s grand portrayal of Wanda Maximoff. The multiverse, I feel, was not used to its full potential but the effects we obtained, when travelling through each world were fun. The cinematography was great as always and Danny Elfman’s score was amazing, giving the movie its much-needed gothic atmosphere. All in all, a solid but disappointing experience, including a wasted Raimi prospect. I can’t give it a higher mark than a 7.5 out of 10.
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