The Marvel Cinematic Universe is filled with Avengers, Guardians and Web Slingers. Yet among these heroes is none other than the Master of the Mystic Arts: Doctor Strange. Marvel ‘s resident sorcerer finally graced the big screen in 2016. Since then, Strange made his presence known in films such as Avengers: Infinity War and, more recently, Spider-Man: No Way Home. Yet despite his numerous appearances it has been some time since Doctor Strange has had his own adventure; that is until now as after some changes and a few delays the Sorcerer Supreme returns in the next installment in the MCU-Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The new film sees Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) on a mission to protect a mysterious girl named America Chavez (Xochiti Gomez) from a threat that could shake the Multiverse itself. Slated to be the MCU’s horror film, this new entry would be perfect for a director like Scott Derrickson. However due to various reasons Derrickson dropped out of the project. Yet the movie got the next best thing as it was helmed by none other than Sam Raimi-a man who no stranger to horror or Marvel for that matter. Raimi and Doctor Strange is a combination that makes as much sense as chocolate and peanut butter, and with the Multiverse being such a hot topic these days it was interesting to see how Marvel Studio would handle this subject. What transpired was a blockbuster that was as much otherworldly as it was off-putting.
Given the nature behind Doctor Strange, it made for the character to tackle a concept such as the multiverse. However, while traveling to different universes made for a compelling concept, the execution left much to be desired as evident in the film’s story. Along with its rushed storytelling, the plot hardly goes into its main concept as it felt like it only scratched the surface of the multiverse. While this idea has been seen in both Spider-Man: No Way Home as well as the Disney+ series Loki, it felt like Marvel’s multiverse needed more clarification but unfortunately that was not the case for The Multiverse of Madness. Furthermore, despite its touting, the story hardly goes into I consider horrific with only some moments capturing this aspect. However, the story had a thematic side as element such Strange’s choices gave the story the needed attribute to keep things interesting. Along with its themes, the plot had its moments that were thrilling and worthy of any Marvel film. The plot could be captivating but a hard time balancing out its eventful nature with its keen elements, and this clash in storytelling made this strange tale feel unnecessary.
Along with a conflicting story, the movie featured an impressive cast with a few inconsistencies. In the case of Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch shines once again as the Master of the Mystic Arts. While I felt that Strange needed more dilemma in his arc, the character still had the presence and charisma that has made an effective player in the MCU. Equally as impressive was Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch. Despite some questionable direction for the character, there was no denying that Olsen brought a stellar performance to the troubled avenger and has some good with Cumberbatch’s Strange. As for the rest of the cast, the movie featured solid characters such as Wong (Benedict Wong) and, much to my surprise, Chavez-though the character needing some more development. Other additions included Rachel McAdams as Christine who was decent in her role; as well as Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo who was impressive but had minimal impact to the overall movie. The cast also featured some surprises, but these characters left a vague impression on the film; though, admittedly, it was cool to see Professor X (Patrick Stewart) interact with characters like Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch.
As for aspects such as visuals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a stellar spectacle. While the effects could be inconsistent (especially at the beginning) there was a sense of creativity to the visuals that was fitting for Doctor Strange. This creativity was not just privy to the effects but the cinematography as well as the movie featured some captivating shots that help gave the movie an eerie tone that aided in the film’s horror moments (scarce as they were). When it came to music, it was no surprise to see Danny Elfman creating another soundtrack for Sam Raimi, though I cannot say it was among the acclaimed composer’s best work. While the music was fitting, it did not leave the impression I would have hoped for-especially when compared to the first film’s soundtrack.
Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness is maddening to say least. The latest Marvel film no doubt has factors working for it such as its impressive cast and creative sense of spectacle. However, the inconsistency within the film’s direction was apparent leaving elements such as the story to feel off-putting and making difficult to grasp the purpose behind this superhero movie. I can appreciate what Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set out to accomplish, but its sporadic nature leaves me scratching my hat as this marvelous blockbuster comes off as a less than magical experience.