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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (A Movie Review)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness


Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams, Bruce Campbell, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne, Keenan Moore, Soo Cole, Topo Wresniwiro, Mark Anthony Brighton, John Krasinski, Anson Mount, Lashana Lynch, Hayley Atwell and Patrick Stewart.

Screenplay by Michael Waldron.

Directed by Sam Raimi.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 126 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the return of director Sam Raimi to the Marvel universe – and his first appearance in the official MCU – since he pretty much exploded the comic book film with the original three Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. And yet, strangely, Multitude of Madness is more reminiscent of one of the filmmaker’s low-budget fright films (like The Evil Dead] than a normal superhero film. Hell, there is even a good-natured cameo by Raimi regular Bruce Campbell.

In some ways it works like a charm. In other ways, it can be a little bit disorienting.

Which, I suppose, should be somewhat expected about a film about the multiverse, a needlessly complicated philosophical conundrum that is inexplicably popular in comic book fiction – not just Marvel, but DC stories also often revolve around it.

So, what exactly is the multiverse? According to Brittanica, it is “a hypothetical collection of potentially diverse observable universes, each of which would comprise everything that is experimentally accessible by a connected community of observers.” Basically, in layman’s terms, there are an infinite number of universes, all with the same people and places, but often with vastly different circumstances and histories.

Basically, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – probably the Marvel character least beholden to normal time, space and physics anyway – has to flit in and out of a whole series of alternative universes in an attempt to save his own. He runs across doppelgangers of people he knows – even variations of himself – in these different worlds.

For the record, we do run across a few favorite lesser-used Marvel characters in the film (including at least two from the Fox Marvel films who are making their official debut in the MCU), but they are really only multiverse variations of their characters. That’s as much as I can say without treading into spoiler territory, although the rumors have been out there for a while.

Of course, the one non-Strange character who shows up here explicitly – and is has been well-publicized – is Wanda/The Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). In fact, Multiverse of Madness is in some ways as much of a sequel to the Disney+ series Wandavision as it is to the first Doctor Strange film. Even more so than Wandavision, Wanda has gone over fully to the dark side. (Sorry for paraphrasing a different Disney-owned blockbuster franchise there…)

Wanda is the wild-eyed bogeyman of the film, an invulnerable force of spite and anger mowing down everything in her way. And she has her eyes set on America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young teen who has the power to traverse the multiverse. (There has been a bit of controversy about the fact that America is the first major LGBTQ character in the MCU, but it is handled very sensitively.)

Doctor Strange takes America under his wing and tries to protect her from the Scarlet Witch, who follows them throughout the multiple variations of the universe trying to steal America’s powers.

In some ways it is a typical Marvel blockbuster. In other ways, it is nothing like most. It is certainly the most violent of the MCU films (calling into question the PG-13 rating). Visually it is pretty stunning, although often suffused in grays and browns. It’s often a lot of fun, but I don’t think it will ever be considered one of the essential blocks of the MCU.

Still, it moves the MCU story forward until the next Marvel film or series. Someday we may even see where all of this is heading – although probably not any time soon.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2022.

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