Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an absolutely manic yet digestible couple of hours of cinema if you can turn your brain off.
Following the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), where Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) accidentally opens up the can of worms that is the multiverse, he’s now forced to protect a child that can travel between the multiverse from the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
The film’s greatest strength is its director. In his first work since Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), Sam Raimi returns to the film world and brings a signature that is entirely his. From his trademark horror stylings to a very subtle yet complete understanding of film history and filmmaking, the weight that a director like Sam Raimi brings to the MCU cannot be understated. There are times in this film where it feels like a movie from the 70s and yet something contemporary. Raimi’s contribution makes the MCU feel fresh and yet anchored in the history of filmmaking, even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness fails to hit the mark in the emotional stakes, which are often buried by a plethora of McGuffins, Whosiwhatits, Dohickeys, Hogswaggles and Doodleswangles. While the items, spells, zombies, demons, witches, and giant rock monsters within the MCU have immense and unknowable power, without a direct and gut-wrenching human consequence connected to them, the audience is left behind. While the film is entertaining, it’s for this reason that movies from the MCU leave the audience feeling hollow as they walk out of the cinema.
From moment to moment, the audience knows that if Strange doesn’t stop the baddies, bad things will happen, but it somehow feels disconnected to Strange himself. Yes, he would die, but would that be such a bad thing? Look at the latest Spider-Man; the stakes of Spider-Man are always directly connected to bad things happening to those he loves. Spider-Man loves the people around him MORE than he loves himself, and he hates himself when they’re hurt. Yet, in any moment of Dr Strange, you could have been persuaded that he would kill the kid, take her powers, and the film would end in yet another world-ending battle for the ages.
Don’t look further than Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness if you want to be entertained. Just don’t fill yourself up, or you’ll ruin your dinner.
The first Marvel movie to be specifically credited as “a Kevin Feige production” as well as the first time in his 41-year career as a director that Sam Raimi has taken a possessory credit (i.e. “a film by Sam Raimi”) on one of his films.