This is a Spoiler-Free Review for Marvel Studios’ latest film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, marking Sam Raimi’s return to directing and Marvel’s first step into the horror genre.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness accomplishes the madness it promises with great horror, excitement, and emotion. It also truly shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a brilliant way, giving us by far the creepiest and goriest action in any MCU project to date. The 126 Minutes runtime provides for a great fast pace which hooks you into an exciting ride and doesn’t let go, only getting crazier and scarier as the film progresses. Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Doctor Strange and Elizabeth Olsen who plays the Scarlet Witch both give amazing performances. Xochitl Gomez is perfect as America Chavez and Benedict Wong’s Wong is as loveable as ever. A few more minutes to breathe and a more focused first half would have made the film perfect. Overall the film not only expands the MCU further but also gives an overwhelmingly exciting viewing experience and injects some much-needed freshness into the Universe.
Sam Raimi’s Multiverse of Madness
When Marvel slapped the Sam Raimi name onto the film’s Trailer it left me questioning if this was going to be a Sam Raimi film or a Sam Raimi for-hire film, but this is Pure Raimi Madness. Multiverse of Madness feels more like Evil Dead than the MCU and fans of Raimi’s specific campy horror genre will love it. As he brings his unique style and shots to the MCU and just provides a great new refresher from the typical MCU Formula. There is a lot of gore, brutal kills, and typical Raimi jumpscares which at times just make you forget that you’re watching a Marvel film. Raimi also gives us some of the best and most exciting action sequences in the MCU. It’s at those points where the film truly shines, at these big surprise moments where you’re just screaming and jumping around on the inside. THis film is also directed in a way that it never lets you off for a rest, you’re thrust in from the very first scenes and then never let off till the end. For any other MCU film, you wouldn’t have to give a single thought about bringing your kids but the horror elements and many fatalities of this film really set a new bar for the MCU in terms of Darker themes. It’s one of the few movies in the MCU which hasn’t sacrificed the identity of the talent behind it.
The Main Cast
Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is truly the stand-out of the film and the true emotional center of the entire story. The film is a direct continuation of WandaVision and is truly necessary viewing to understand her whole arc in the film. Her performance is very heartbreaking as it is one dealing with grief and loss, her maternal love takes center focus and Olsen just excels. She takes full ownership of the character and truly embodies every single emotion, she really is the Scarlet Witch. Her ferocity as Wanda and just absolute obstinateness are just chilling. While Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange who is this rather arrogant guy, who wants to always be in control is thrust into a situation where he has to learn from others and ultimately has to pay the penance for his rule-breaking with Dark Magic, messing with the timeline, and the Multiverse in previous films. Cumberbatch also has the added weight of playing multiple different versions of himself and he is just as amazing in the others as he is in the original. Each of these variants has a very specific role to play in the film be it giving some exposition or as a setup for future events in the film. Sometimes this exposition can feel like it’s dragging, especially with how fast everything else in the film flows, but it really works to make you understand the awesome back half of the film which is truly just a non-stop thrilling spectacle. Xochitl Gomez makes her debut as America Chavez and is just perfect as the character. She has the perfect amount of cockiness, skill, and lovability in her portrayal of the character which makes all the scenes where she’s giving exposition fun. Benedict Wong is as hilarious and bad-ass as Wong as ever and being the New Sorcerer Supreme he really is under a lot of responsibility in this film and makes sure that Strange knows it which sets up a great comedic dynamic. Rachel McAdams returns as Christine Palmer from the first film but also as a variant of the character. The original Christine doesn’t have much screentime but shares a great heartfelt moment with STrange near the beginning while the other Dr.Palmer plays a much bigger and more vital role, guiding Strange through some of the challenges he faces.
The story in this film is truly a direct continuation of WandaVision, with all the major plot points and emotional weight being surrounded by either The Darkhold or Wanda. This film is about grief and what maternal love and loss can make someone do. Wanda starts off the film in grief over the loss of her kids, she was able to find peace in WandaVision but was short-lived as she lost Vision and her kids yet again, leaving her looking through the evil book ok the damned, “The Darkhold”. Wanda takes Vision’s line of “What is grief if not love persevering?” to great heart as she in her grief makes some questionable choices for love as we saw at the end of WandaVision, she was haunted by the loss of her kids. Now she is out to get what she wants and she won’t let anything or anyone get in the way of her path to her kids. While Doctor Strange is thrust into dealing with America Chavez’s problems which causes him to make some questionable decisions that he perhaps shouldn’t have made. The writing puts you in a great dilemma because you love these characters and you know why they’re making those decisions but you also see how wrong those decisions are. The story overall is quite linear and just flows. It places the focus totally on Wanda and Strange, making it all feel gelled and coherent.
These days with fans it seems like they want every marvel movie to have 50+ cameos per film at least for it to be a good film. This film certainly gives you some great cameos but if you’re going in there for just cameos this isn’t your type of movie. This movie instead packs its surprises with the plot, the world-building, the impact on the universe, the horror elements, and the brutality. This film truly has some great surprises, which are bound to have fans cheering and screaming throughout. With lots of scenes one after the other which are straight from the comic books and lots of scenes that just put you in straight shock of what you’ve seen. The Creepiness and gore in the film certainly come as a great surprise and keep on going, to places which you wouldn’t expect an MCU film to go. Sam Raimi was given a massive toolbox to bring his horror style to and he does it extremely potently, putting the film into Evil Dead mode at times.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the dream film for a Sam Raimi fan, not only is it his signature style but the immense toolbox he’s given allows him to stretch it all so much further. The emotional heart of the film is also very strong and heartbreaking and the places this film goes with that emotion are truly alarming. Doctor Strange is finally starting to feel the weight of all his decisions and is put in an uncomfortable situation, while Wanda is trying to deal with the loss of her kids but her grief has clouded her judgment. The film puts you in a great dilemma, which could’ve been used much better than it actually was. The fast pace of the film allows it to feel like madness as you’re thrust with one thing after another which is exciting, it does take some time to make you feel emotion but just as you’re starting to truly feel it, the film pulls further. Those moments really could have used more room to breathe to extend the film’s emotional heart and make it feel more complete and satisfying. The film however still maintains a great emotional tone and Sam Raimi really makes it feel personal with his close-ups. Sam Raimi truly makes this film a delight to watch with his unique pans, close-ups, eye shots, and just great cinematography and color grading. If you were starting to feel some MCU fatigue this is your cure, the horror, the fresh palette, and mind bendingness are sure to get you excited for what’s to come.
This new auteur-driven darker juice that this film and Sam Raimi provide to the MCU is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Cine Geek Score
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness premieres exclusively in theaters tomorrow!
Stay Tuned for our Spoiler Review and Breakdown dropping next week and meanwhile read our Review for Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight.