Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness - New Release Review
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams
Written by: Michael Waldron
Produced by: Kevin Feige, Richie Palmer, Mitchell Bell
Cinematography by: John Mathieson
Original Score by: Danny Elfman
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.
The multiverse lore first popped up in the MCU back with ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (2019) after Quentin Beck seemingly confirmed its existence to Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Since then Marvel fans had been speculating and igniting rumours of when the multiverse would finally explode into a Marvel adventure. In turn it was ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ (2021) that finally brought the multiverse into the MCU. Its combination of villains from the Sam Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy and Andrew Garfield’s films and also bringing all three live action Spider-Man’s (Spider-Men?) resulted in a highly successful cinematic global event. Since the announcement that the next Marvel adventure would be a sequel to 2016's 'Doctor Strange' entitled ‘In the Multiverse of Madness' fans have been subjected to even more wild rumours as to what Marvel would throw at them next, and last weekend we found out.
‘Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness’ finds our hero Stephen Strange encountering a young lady by the name of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who apparently can traverse through the multiverse. Chavez is being hunted by a mysterious entity for her power, which Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) recognise is being run through witchcraft. Strange then turns to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for some advice and to possibly help fight off the demon entity. However Wanda has her own agenda, which may result in everything and everyone in the multiverse being put in jeopardy.
It was always intended by Marvel bigwig Kevin Feige that this film would be Marvel Studios first true step into the horror genre. This was something that made me extremely happy upon hearing. After original director Scott Derrickson departed the film citing creative differences, there were numerous candidates suggested before horror master Sam Raimi was chosen. Raimi of course is no stranger to the Marvel superhero world having directed the original 'Spider-Man' trilogy (2002-2007).
Sam Raimi is the perfect choice to direct a character like Doctor Strange. His somewhat twisted sensibilities is something that fits greatly into the weird, mind bending world that Strange inhabits. Raimi is a visually cinematic filmmaker who particularly loves to engage the audience with a variety of ghoulish set prices that only he truly knows how to do. ‘In the Multiverse of Madness’ allows Raimi to turn the dial up to eleven with his horror trademarks. The film, whilst still very much a superhero film, really does give Raimi a stage to shine a bright light on his creepy, balls-to-the-wall horror techniques. There are few references to his ‘Evil Dead’ franchise that will delight die hard horror fans (myself included).
Benedict Cumberbatch is once again fantastic as Doctor Strange. He seems much more comfortable and confident in the role this time around. His sardonic yet heartfelt performance adds more layers to his portrayal as master of the mystic arts. Elizabeth Olsen is tremendous as Wanda Maximoff. Her arc, continuing on from her last appearance in 'WandaVision' from last year, is embodied in darkness, bitterness and loneliness. Olsen is magnificent in conveying such inner turmoil while frighteningly portraying the sinister side to The Scarlet Witch. Newcomer Xochitl Gomez truly shines as America Chavez. Her wit and charm help to lighten the more darkened, tension filled moments of the film. Her character’s conflicted struggle with her time hopping power is done extremely well and it’ll be interesting to see where she appears next in the MCU. Strange regulars Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams and Michael Stuhlbarg are all on top form too. Sam Raimi regular and ‘Evil Dead’ legend Bruce Campbell also makes a fun cameo, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
Given the film's premise of multiverse craziness, there are a few remarkable cameos that are sure to be real crowd pleasers. The actual plot of the film is fairly basic but it benefits from this. It doesn't overcomplicate things. The film’s 126 minutes moves at a breakneck pace and never left me bored or confused. The visuals in the film are executed really well and are easily the most captivating features of the entire film. Danny Elfman (who has previously worked with Sam Raimi on his 1990 cult classic 'Darkman', 'Oz The Great and Powerful' and the first two Tobey Maguire 'Spider-Man' films) also returns to the superhero genre and in typical style provides another bombastic, energetic epic score that gives the film a real rip-roaring flair.
Overall the film is another triumph for Marvel. Its weird semi-horror based tone is a refreshing welcome to the MCU, which has come under some negative criticism lately regarding the direction of the next phase(s). Its moments of fan service, body horror and big superhero set pieces all come together for a deeply satisfying adventure. Some may be put off by its zany, nightmarish atmosphere but looking at its opening weekend box-office its likely that most will embrace the madness and find it appealing and fun.
- Joe Lennon
You can catch 'Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness' in theatres right now!