It’s no secret the multiverse was ripped wide open in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) tried helping Peter Parker out and, in doing so, tore the fabric of space and time open so that anybody could come into the MCU. That plays a massive connection into the new Doctor Strange film. Wanda/Vision also played a huge part in setting up this film. The stage is finally set for the MCU to go mad! And go mad it does but is that a good thing?
This film starts out hot and heavy with Defender Strange, an alternate version of Doctor Strange, and a new character introduced for the first time in this film, America Chavez (Xochit Gomez). She has the power to traverse the multiverse with portals. It turns out that somebody is out to get her and use her powers for nefarious reasons. The Doctor Strange of our universe, 616, enlists the help of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for help in protecting America. She may have a personal reason of her own to get involved in this mission though.
Sam Raimi was the replacement director for Multiverse of Madness after Scott Derrickson left the project due to the dreaded creative differences. Most people — including myself — thought Raimi was a good choice to replace Derrickson. His horror movie sensibilities lend themselves perfectly to this film. Raimi leans in on those horror sensibilities with crazy, weird, and wild stuff. The darker aspects of this film are also right up Raimi’s alley. However, this film may not be for little kids because of those darker, more serious elements. These horror elements aren’t for the faint of heart either.
Some of the technical aspects of the film leave something to be desired. Using the multiverse and alternate realities as a focal point of the film means a lot of visual effects and CGI. These visual effects don’t necessarily look all that great. As the film moves forward, they get better, but they look really bad at the beginning. One aspect of the film I did love was the score by Danny Elfman. It had so many interesting beats and ups and downs, including a dueling scene involving pretty cool music notes. This score was excellent.
This film introduced a new character called America Chavez. The actress Gomez who plays her is a revelation in this film. I can’t wait to see her in future MCU projects, including a Young Avengers film or Disney+ series. She brings a lot of emotion to the character. Sometimes she cries, and other times she acts like a teenage girl would act. And just like teenagers, she also knows it all and is nervous and shy at specific moments in the film. She is the best part of the film from my perspective. Her innocence as a character shows out in Multiverse of Madness.
Besides Gomez, the cast is quite extensive, returning a few actors from the first Doctor Strange film. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) plays a much bigger part in this film than she did in the first Doctor Strange. She added an element I didn’t know would be a big part of the film, but I liked her added presence alongside Cumberbatch and Gomez. Also, Wong (Benedict Wong), a beloved character by fans, comes back in a larger role, and he’s pretty good when given more to do. Strange’s foil from the first film comes back as Chiwetel Ejiofor returns as Baron Mordo. The film has some nice cameos that I won’t spoil here, whether you may have heard their voices in the trailers or thought you may have seen them in some of the marketing materials. The cameos brought a smile to my face.
Benedict Cumberbatch has proven he can lead a big tentpole film such as this. Doctor Strange was well-received by critics and fans alike. With his follow-up appearances in Infinity War, Endgame, and No Way Home, he has proven he is the new go-to guy in the MCU. The multiverse of Madness was supposed to bring this character full circle in the context of the MCU. You can have all the Oscar nominations you want, but if the story and script fall short of your abilities, it doesn’t matter. Cumberbatch gives it the old college try doing everything he can to salvage this film into something worthwhile, but it’s not enough. The dialogue is clumsy and almost laughable at times when it’s not supposed to be. That’s not a good sign of a good film.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a mind-bending, mind-numbing mess of a film. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a straightforward romance film dealing with relationships between people or a weird crazy horror film. It has some good technical aspects, mainly the score by Elfman and some solid performances from McAdams, Wong, and a breakout performance from Gomez. In the end, this film is a jumbled mess of many things that don’t advance the MCU at all. We are right back at the beginning of where we were when this film started. I guess that’s fine, but it means this film was mostly a waste of time.
2 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media