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MOVIE REVIEW: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

May 6th, 2022 by Dave Roberts Comments

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (12a)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen & Chiwetel Ejiofor
Running time: 2h 6m

Dr Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff.

Out this week in cinemas is episode 128, or whatever, of the world’s most expensive tv show, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This episode is entitled Doctor  Strange in the multiverse of madness, a sequel to Doctor Strange, Wandavision,  Spider-man: No Way Home, What If? Loki and, I guess, all the other stuff. I  can’t imagine trying to catch up if this is your entry point, it’d be like trying to watch every episode of The News.

Director Sam Raimi (Spider-man, Evil Dead) is back in the saddle, directing the hell out of a movie that introduces the multiverse into the MCU for the first time since the last time. I assume they have a plan but I find it weird that they have explained the multiverse being part of the MCU in so many different ways that I feel like I’m being gaslighted [gaslit?] every time they do it. I feel like they are not going to trust their audience to ‘get’ the multiverse concept until we all have a PHD in Theoretical Physics.

The film opens with a variant of Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) fighting a monster that seems to have evolved from those ribbons that you get at Christmas that are a festive garrotte wire; Chavez ends up in ‘our’ world as she has a power she can’t control that allows her tojump into other universes when she gets scared. Wanda/Scarlett Witch (Olsen) is doing the wrong thing for what she thinks are the right reasons and she needs America’s ability to get to a universe where she can, I guess, kill a version of herself in front of her children and be their new mommy.

I couldn’t quite grasp the tone for a while, it seemed a lot more comic booky than most of the MCU movies so far, in a way that made me think “Oh  yes, this is the Sam Raimi that directed Spider-man in the 2000s’” but I wasn’t really comfortable and it felt quite shallow and nerfed like some fan fiction where they didn’t understand the characters as well as they thought they did – a bit like if someone wrote fan fiction of Requiem For A Dream where Harry Potter came in and said ‘Oh, golly this BDSM nightmare needs expelliamusd like a motherf$@ker!’.

Eventually, things get weird and occasionally genuinely terrifying in a way that makes you think ‘Oh yes, this is the Sam Raimi that directed the Evil Dead movies”. Wanda, in pursuit of America Chavez, reminded me of the T-1000 in Terminator 2, or the terrifying faceless ghost that appeared in my bedroom that time I had sleep paralysis and genuinely thought I was going to die.

Both Wanda and Strange’s abilities have never been so creatively used, such as using music notes from some sheet music as a weapon at one point, which also acts as a meta soundtrack to the scene they are in; this felt like a  piece of genuine genius to me and at the same time made me think ‘Some people are gonna hate this,’ because it’s creative and people are dumb and I  am clever and if they don’t like it that just proves how clever I am: I am great, I am great, I am great.

Overall, the film was enjoyable, it was incredibly creative and has as much of a unique tone to it as Thor Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m just not sure it was consistent enough to be anything other than occasionally unsettling.

Sam Raimi’s strengths in horror and heartfelt subplots really are what makes the film amazing, I literally cried at one point, and I  metaphorically shat my pants a few times.

The fan-servicey cameos made me clap my hands like an excited child with ADHD (as opposed to a cynical miserable adult with ADHD, which I am), but with part of my brain looking at me with disgust for being so easily manipulated from ‘I’m not sure about this movie’ to ‘OMG! THIS IS  AMAZING’ in seconds.

I think it is one of the few MCU movies that will improve with multiple viewings as the subtle tone issues probably make more sense if you aren’t expecting it to be something that it isn’t, and I hope Sam hangs around for more episodes of MCU.

4/5 Nerds

Dave Roberts holds the record for the most subscription services paid for with the least amount of time spent using them. As creative as he is easily distracted he has written the first act of countless books, scripts, and tv pilots, and swears he was held hostage by someone that "sounded an awful lot like Mickey Mouse" after telling someone Infinity War spoilers.