After introducing the concept in the first film, and exploring it across three series and a joint film with Sony, Marvel Studios’ first multiverse film is finally upon us. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is hitting theaters this Friday, May 6. 2022, with advanced screenings the night before. On the run from universe crossing creatures, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) falls into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe where she is temporarily saved by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong). Knowing they need help, they ask Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) to join them and stop the forces trying to capture and steal America’s power.
The only spoiler of the film in this review is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has two post-credits scenes; one mid-way after the stylized credits and one after the end credits.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is All Gas from the Start
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gets the adrenaline flowing from the first frame of the film. There are no dull moments in this movie. It is action-packed, spine-tingling, or drama fueled with the splatterings of comedy and wit that subtly, but profoundly, elevate Marvel movies to that gold standard of superhero films. It is a truly ambitious film that explores the multiverse, some key characters, and includes quite a few surprises, all in just over 2 hours. However, despite the impressive amount of content in the movie, I believe many who watch the film will agree with me and feel like it wasn’t quite enough.
Not quite enough, does not mean the film is bad. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a good movie, and I feel in the upper half of all the movies. It has some truly spectacular performances, thoroughly chilling audio, and some of the most visually memorable things in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sam Raimi’s fusion of superheroes and horror is successfully achieved and will give many members of the family nightmares. It may also hurt some long-time and older fans of Marvel fans who have a particular penchant for the 90s or the comic books. But Raimi had to bring the scary, and he did.
The Four Fantastic Hearts of Sam Raimi’s Horror
There are four major components to Raimi’s horror in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the first two are the audio and visuals. Granted there are the two key components of the movie-watching experience, but the control of emotions the film has with the audio, from the incredible renderings of otherworldly sounds to the score, the movie will make you feel what it wants you to feel. There is an audio queue in the movie when heard, which will impact a large chunk of Marvel fans in a similar way to the moment we see all 3 cinematic Spider-Men, or Captain America finally says Assemble.
The visuals are out of this world, from another world, and from the depths of the darkest hell. There is the technical side of the use of colors, the lighting and color grading of scenes, and all these other subtle things that are hard to explain, but when it is done well elevate the movie experience. This film is an expert in all of those aspects. But on top of the technical, the CG, and the practical effects, the never-before-seen things that populate the film are incredible. The designs of certain worlds, creatures, and magical effects, it is awesome, beautiful, and in many cases, straight-up terrifying.
The third component, which might be where the real brilliance comes in, is the pacing of the film. I am not sure how this will play across a wide audience, but the fast pace of the film isn’t a single speed. It is always fast, but there are some less fast to almost seem slow stretches of the movie that really drive the terror in the scenes. In comparison to the all-gas approach of others, these less fast scenes drive the tension and terror until it is broken by horror, and then sped away from before you are able to settle. It keeps you at a certain level of unease that brilliantly enhances the horror aspects of the movie.
The final heart of Raimi’s horror is the heartbroken, heartbreaking, Elizabeth Olsen. Olsen delivers a horrifyingly powerful performance as Wanda Maximoff and the Scarlett Witch. She doesn’t get to play quite as many versions as she did in WandaVision, but the ones she does play are powerful approaches to the different depths of love and dedication. Without really giving much more away, the horror aspects mainly rely on Olsen, and definitely more so than any other character. And Olsen delivers masterfully. She has one of the coolest/badass/horrific lines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also, the questions about powerful she is are fully answered in the film.
Benedict Cumberbatch delivers his usual masterwork of Doctor Stephen Strange he has in every one of his performances so far. He is the driving force of the film and he fulfills his duty spectacularly. His arrogance and wit are as annoyingly charming as ever. But where I feel he elevated his performance is in the action sequences. Cumberbatch gets to show off a lot more range in his physical abilities, and he is impressive!
Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams are a lot more involved in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness than they were in the first film. To the film’s glorious benefit. Wong displays why Wong is a great Sorcerer Supreme and also why he is better suited for the position than Strange, while also never taking away from Strange. They have a great relationship and are one of the best back and forths of any Marvel duo. McAdams gets to be a part of a lot of emotional beats, but she also gets in on the action and even gets a great one-liner.
Xochitl Gomez is the breakout star of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. She delivers an awe-inspiring performance that drive the emotions of the film. Cumberbatch’s strange drives the mind and story, Gomez’s America Chavez provide the heart of it. Gomez is surrounded by top-tier talent and obviously learned and incorporated their teachings. She’s funny, awe-inspiring, and a perfect mix of overwhelmed and confident that matches the crazy situation of the film, but also the eclectic band of heroes and villains she is surrounded by. Cannot wait to see what is next for her.
The Dark Spot
The main critique I have of the film is that it doesn’t quite feel like it is enough. This is one of the few 2-hour movies that should have been longer. It is obvious in the movie there was a lot more on the table. While what is in the movie is more than satisfying, it isn’t quite fulfilling. Without giving too much away, some of the buildup, outside of the film, feels mishandled and underutilized. While the film is good, it just feels a bit unresolved and that the concept and possibilities took place over the characters and their stories.
The film obviously left some major elements on the cutting room floor, but I think the biggest hindrance the film will have, for many, is being too big a fan of the MCU. It is a really good movie, it just might not be enjoyed as much by some because they watched everything leading up to it. This is the first Marvel movie hindered by watching everything. Without being direct, the stories of some shows are handled with noticeably less attention in the movie. Hopefully, this is just a learning curve, because it can greatly devalue the importance and purpose of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s numerous series if it continues.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fast-paced horror-infused superhero flick that excellently packs in some of the most ambitious concepts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into just two hours. Sam Raimi’s horror expertise is masterfully utilized to create a genius superhero genre-crossing film that brilliantly utilized audio, video, and pacing to an impressively scary level. All of which are brought to life by powerful performances from every member of the cast. Though the film does feel a bit short and unresolved, it is still a fun Marvel movie that continues to expand its collective universe.
It is in the upper half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and will likely be more liked and more fondly remembered as these next phases occur.
My Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review gets a 3.5/5.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness releases in theaters on May 6, 2022. Tickets are available now.
ABOUT DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
Release Date: May 6, 2022
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Michael Wardon
Producer: Kevin Feige
Executive Producers: Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Scott Derrickson, Jamie Christopher
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, with Michael Stühlbarg, Rachel McAdams
In Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before. Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.
Are you excited about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Do you like horror movies? Did you already get your tickets? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to share your reactions to the film with us on Twitter.