Written by: Adam Vaughn | May 6th, 2022
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Sam Raimi, 2022) 3 out of 4 stars.
Sam Raimi (the original Spider-Man) returns to the Marvel director’s chair with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which whisks the viewer into a transdimensional world that visually appealing on an artistic level and also expands the Marvel universe even further than it previously existed. While Multiverse of Madness is exciting and weaves a solid sequel to the Doctor Strange narrative, its chaotic nature, coupled with some odd writing and directorial choices, keep it slightly too jumbled to be a perfect experience.
Multiverse of Madness immediately follows the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog) finds himself grappling with the mysterious unknowns of the multiverse, particularly after a young America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez, Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club series) arrives from another universe with harrowing news: Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, Wind River), aka “The Scarlet Witch,” is hunting down America for her super-ability to travel between universes on command, in order to be with her two sons, and she’s willing to harm anyone in her way to do it. Joined by Wong (Benedict Wong, Annihilation) and the rest of the Kamar-Taj, as well as a variant of his ex-girlfriend, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams, Game Night), Doctor Strange must stop the Scarlet Witch from capturing America and potentially causing mass chaos across the multiverse.
Raimi’s direction, in terms of visual aesthetic, is captivating, and his utilization of various multiverse characters (with some utterly fun cameo appearances and new characters) is, to some slight degree, the moment fans have been waiting for. Doctor Strange’s character arc is taken to the limits as he tackles all the mystical possibilities of his own superpowers and how they coincide with the infinite number of universes that await him. Raimi often manages to successfully weave elements of the horror genre into his film as well, building a surprisingly menacing (if not somewhat too strong) Scarlet Witch, making Olsen’s role much fiercer, but also more powerful, than ever before. Much in the vein of both Avengers: Infinity War and the WandaVision series, the two characters balance each other out as hero and anti-hero to a much larger scale than before.
While Multiverse of Madness will no doubt enthrall the Marvel fanbase, take away all the glitter and glam of Raimi’s VFX-studded work and the storyline is rather basic. Not much about the film’s outcome or progression as a whole truly rings original, and the individual plot points and story logic tend to get extremely jumbled as the multiverse setting creates more and more chaos. The more ideas and concepts that get thrown into the mix, the more disorienting the film’s story becomes. All the same, this does inadvertently add to the idea of the movie being a “multiverse of madness,” as chaos doesn’t necessarily hurt this film’s strange and bizarre tone. As an additional note, I will say that personally I found Multiverse of Madness’s cameo appearances to have been thrown away, much unlike the way Spiderman: No Way Home fully utilizes Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as two variant Spider-Men who help Tom Holland’s webslinger in his journey. Here, the cameos are fleeting, and feel more like things to get fans into their seats before the spoils are leaked online.
I found that Doctor Strange’s first film had the most thrilling and kaleidoscope-like VFX creations, and I tip my hat to Multiverse of Madness’s VFX artists and their major coordination in creating stunning and entertaining imagery and vision (of course, Disney never truly fails in doing this). Stephen Strange’s newest journey may not come without some confusing moments, but as a pure form of Marvel-style entertainment, it does its job beautifully in raising not only the mystical Avenger’s story to the next level but giving Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch a (possible?) conclusion that brings her character full circle. Overall, Multiverse of Madness is a grand ride, and its opening weekend is sure to be a huge success.