Directed by: Sam Raimi
Premise: The second Doctor Strange movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) protects an interdimensional traveler (Xochitl Gomez) from Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).
What Works: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is often at its best when it gets weird or eccentric as seen in The Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. Those films fused Marvel’s house style with the director’s personal touch. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness makes the same compromise and it has moments that are distinct within this franchise while adhering to Marvel’s overall tone and style. The picture was directed by Sam Raimi who had previously helmed the three Tobey Maguire-era Spider-Man films but Raimi is also steeped in the horror genre having directed the original Evil Dead trilogy and Drag Me to Hell. That horror influence shows up in The Multiverse of Madness which, although not a horror film, does have macabre elements that distinguishes the Doctor Strange sequel from other Marvel movies. The most interesting character of this film is Wanda Maximoff played by Elizabeth Olsen. Since Avengers: Infinity War, Wanda has suffered traumatic losses and her need to control things leads Wanda to become the villain Scarlett Witch. Her motivation is complex and empathetic, making Wanda the most compelling character in the movie.
What Doesn’t: Marvel’s continuity has become complicated and knowledge of other movies has become a prerequisite to watching new entries in this franchise. The Disney+ series WandaVision is essential to making sense of The Multiverse of Madness and viewers who haven’t kept up with the other movies and television shows may be lost. That’s not necessarily a flaw of this movie but it is a caveat that will shape the viewer’s experience. The Multiverse of Madness suffers from too much plot getting in the way of the story. There are a lot of narrative mechanics with characters moving through time while searching for sacred objects but there’s not much urgency. Unlike X-Men: Days of Future Past, the different time periods are not intercut in a way that maximizes the drama. The characters of The Multiverse of Madness don’t grow. The first Doctor Strange film was an origin story in which the title character learned to let go of his old life and accept responsibility for his newfound powers. Nothing that interesting happens to the characters in The Multiverse of Madness. Everyone is essentially the same at the end of the movie as they were at the beginning. Nothing meaningful is affirmed or achieved, resulting in a movie that is dramatically flat.
Bottom Line: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has enough color and weirdness to distinguish itself. Its lack of interest in character and somewhat messy narrative keeps this a mid-tier entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Episode: #901 (May 15, 2022)