In almost all aspects related to the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ fails to serve the episodic nature we’ve grown so accustomed to. Fan-favourites Doctor Strange, Wong and Wanda Maximoff return to either repeat character arcs or go through little to no development in a movie that doesn’t really care about its script as much as it does its entertainment value. Its dull multiversal breakdown and exploration don’t really help its case either as previous entries like ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, ‘Loki’ and ‘What If…?’ have done a much better job of realizing the potential of the multiverse and how faith plays into the trajectory of one’s variants. It fails both as a ‘Doctor Strange’ sequel and as a continuation of the events of ‘WandaVision’ and it’s nowhere near the multiversal extravaganza we were promised so why is this movie, at the end of the day, one of my new favourite Marvel movies? It is a Sam Raimian visual spectacle that honours the thrills of the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise while giving the Scarlet Witch the twisted villainous reign she so richly deserves. It is, by all means, a mystical Marvel slasher and for that alone, this movie has my undying love.
minor spoilers and plot points for Marvel Studios’ ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ are featured in this review.
Through all 28 MCU movies, a director’s presence and influence have never been felt quite as strongly as they do in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’. While a lot of the more recent movies varied in genre and tone, they more or less existed on the same wavelength. It is one of the many reasons why these movies are successful, you know exactly what you are getting into when you go to watch an MCU movie. In ‘Multiverse of Madness’ however, you are immediately thrown into completely new territory. It is undeniably one of the major reasons why this movie proved so divisive to the mainstream. Everything feels heightened, it truly feels like a movie that’s alive with working gears and a personality. From the acting to the incredibly iconic shot stylization to even the structure, this rebelliously behaves like a proper movie and not another Marvel project pumped out by Disney. There really is no beating around the bush, when it comes to a lot of filmmaking aspects, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is easily my favourite MCU movie of all time. There are a plethora of shots, scenes, lines and sequences that I want to experience over and over again and never get bored of. Raimi’s influence truly radiates through the screen and introduces that old-school cinematic experience that we just don’t get anymore. It is two hours that will make you laugh, jolt and even bring you to tears. This is the MCU movie that is going to inspire creativity and be a gateway not only into horror but possibly even filmmaking for many children. Out of all the 28 MCU movies, this is the one that’s going to stick. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny how memorable this movie is.
Truthfully, going into this movie, I expected more ‘Spider-Man’ influence than ‘Evil Dead’ and while there is some Spidey influence in an action sequence early on in the movie with Doctor Strange and a huge creature, the overwhelming influence this movie takes from is ‘Evil Dead II’ which made me smile from ear to ear in the theatre multiple times. There is a truly perfect sequence in which the Scarlet Witch performs a spell on another universe’s Wanda and the way the scene unfolds is so reminiscent of ‘Evil Dead II’ that I truly couldn’t believe that I was seeing what I was seeing. I couldn’t have asked for a better sequence, it is the standout sequence for me and you’ll immediately recognize it once you’ll see the movie. In fact, the entire reason this movie is as exciting as it is, is because of the Scarlet Witch. Elizabeth Olsen dominates the screen with a performance that is expertly directed by Sam Raimi who presents us with a fiercely powerful and morally corrupt side of Wanda. Her presence demands the audience’s attention every time she enters the frame. The amount of love that poured from the audience during her brilliant introduction was incredible. She is simply iconic in this role and while Raimi has a wickedly fun time making her one of the greatest antagonists of the franchise, the transformation from her arc in ‘WandaVision‘ to her instantly villainous flair in ‘Multiverse of Madness’ is quite abrupt. That being said, Olsen makes the best of it with a nuanced and captivating performance. She is truly terrifying and yet through all that fear that she evokes, you still feel such pronounced sadness and despair in her that you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Elizabeth Olsen is the Scarlet Witch.
It is quite tragic and hilarious, however, that in his own sequel, Doctor Strange is sidelined to an embarrassing amount. The movie rarely ever tries to explore the obvious parallels between Wanda and Stephen, they only hint at it and leave the audience to piece it together. Considering everything this character has been through, you would think this sequel would have a mountain of trauma and guilt to explore but this movie’s biggest concern for Strange is a slight existential crisis. The movie rarely ever takes the time to get an introspective look into the complex Stephen Strange and in return, I honestly didn’t really care about him all the much. It’s actually astonishing that the 20-something minute episode from ‘What If…?’ had a much greater impact than his own two-hour sequel. It really is no surprise that even the movie can tell the story isn’t all there as the very short two-hour runtime and lightning-fast pacing will distract just about anyone with just how messy the plot actually is. It is a movie that falls apart the more you think about it and unfortunately for the MCU, the fans enjoy the speculation after the movie more than the actual movie. In terms of moving the overarching plot forward and building stepping stones for Strange and Wanda to take into their future, this movie fails catastrophically. It starts to ponder the question that maybe Phase Four is indeed unravelling in the chaos of misdirection. To put it simply, this movie serves little to no purpose to the actual MCU and if you’re someone that cares about that, this movie is going to seem like the biggest waste of time. However, if you care about the more experimental, colourful and spontaneous side Marvel seems to be taking on this phase, ‘Multiverse of Madness’ is a catastrophically fun time.
Despite these flaws, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is easily one of Marvel’s most entertaining movies in years. That being said, it’s also arguably the most divisive as it is trying to be two things at once and it never really commits to either one. It isn’t an effective step forward for the MCU and it could’ve been a much riskier movie had Raimi had complete creative control. It lies in the awkward middle, the infamous love it or hate it category. While the flaws are undeniable, this is to me, an invigorating step forward creatively. I personally love this movie, flaws and all. It is an immensely rewatchable movie. The colours are bright, the danger feels real, and the villains are twisted but most importantly, this is a movie that feels like it has a fresh voice in a franchise that is begging to feel new and exciting. I truly hope Kevin Feige keeps Sam Raimi a little while longer.
Marvel Studios’ ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is in theatres now.