Doctor Strange inThe Multiverse of Madness
Review by Paul Bowler
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sends Phase Four of the MCU well and truly spiralling into the Multiverse with a plot that is sometimes as equally astonishing as it is bewildering. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Marvel’s erstwhile Master of the Mystic Arts in this hotly anticipated first solo sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange. Having dabbled with a forbidden spell in Spider-Man No Way Home (2021) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sees Stephen Strange pushing the boundaries of reality ever further, with mystical allies old and new at his side, as he embarks on a mind-bending voyage across the alternate realms of the Multiverse where he must confront a deadly new adversary!
Wracked by unsettling dreams of the Multiverse its a decidedly uncomfortable Doctor Strange that attends the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams), where the lovelorn Sorcerer also gets berated by a melancholy guest with an axe to grind (played by Michal Stuhibarg). Fortunately Evil Dead director Sam Raimi doesn’t dwell on the reminiscing for long and he quickly up’s the anti with a giant one-eyed demonic cephalopod that’s running amok in NYC chasing a young teenage girl called America Chavez (Xochit Gormez) – who incidentally has the uncanny ability to travel between the dimensions of the Multiverse.
With help from the incumbent Sorcerer Supreme, Wong (Benedict Wong), Strange rescues America, and seeks out help from the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). However, Wander is still haunted by the idyllic life and children she created in Westview (Wanda Vision), and in her despair she’s become corrupted by a demonic spell book – the Darkhold.
Wanda wants America Chavez’s power to traverse the Multiverse and reunite with the life and children she’s lost. Strange and Chavez escape into the Multiverse, where even greater dangers await in the bizarre realms of these mysterious alternative realities. Benedict Cumberbatch is on fine form once again as Doctor Strange, who runs a gauntlet of emotions throughout the film as he struggles with heartbreak and the consequences of the choices and sacrifices he’s had to make. Cumberbatch also gets to play numerous alternate versions of Doctor Strange: including a defender Strange, a sinister corrupted Strange, and even a zombie Strange at one point!
Michale Waldron’s script makes great uses of the Multiverse concept, offering us fascinating glimpses into alternate words and radically different versions of some familiar characters. The introduction of Earth 838’s Illuminati to the MCU is a masterstroke in itself that gives us the Sorcerer Supreme Modo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Captain Carter (Peggy Atwell), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Reed Richards (John Krasinski) and the welcome return of Patrick Stewart as Professor X! It is their Doctor Strange who was the catalyst for the mystical incursions throughout reality, and his fate becomes on the many narrative threads that drive the plot. Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch gone bad is another revelation and almost steals the film out from under everyone with her towering performance, Olsen’s emotive portrayal as Wanda is central to the plot, and her characters journey comes full circle in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Sam Raimi brings a devilish sense of manic energy to the movie. Its perhaps not surprising then to see that nearly every character in the film is either dabbling in the black arts or wrestling with the consequence of their actions. Raimi of course was responsible for igniting our love of superhero movies with the hugely popular 2002 Spider-Man film, he brings the same flair for action and adventure to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as well, and a quite few nods to his Evil Dead horror roots as well – especially during the creepy Dreamwalking sequences. Raimi’s frequent collaborator Bruce Campbell even shows up as a pizza vendor for a couple of fun interludes too!
The visual effects are suitably impressive and bring a dynamic synergy to this otherworldly mystical adventure. From the titanic face-off at Karmar-Taj, along with Doctor Strange and America’s kaleidoscopic multidimensional journey between worlds, right through to Wanda’s scene stealing showdown with the Illuminati and Stephen Strange squaring off against a corrupt version of himself the pace of the film hardly gives you time for breath before the next big event crashes across the screen. The final act races to a thrilling collusion, delivering epic action, redemption and setting up momentous new developments for the future. It’s this same pace that is simultaneously the movies greatest strength and its greatest weakness. MCU and comic book fans are sure to get swept along with the sheer spectacle and be totally blown away by it all, however the uninitiated might be left completely baffled by the frenetic plot and onslaught of alternative versions of so many characters.
This current era of superhero films has become something of a roller coaster ride of crossover movies at the moment. They are hugely entertaining, especially when done as well as this, but the novelty could wear a bit thin if the MCU keeps returning to the well with the concept. Minor quibbles aside Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still a spellbinding adventure and brilliant fun! With great performances all round, Raimi’s assured direction, impressive score and gorgeous cinema photography the films epic scale more than makes up for any slight inconsistencies in the plot. Needless to say, don’t forget to stick around for those post credit scenes as well!
Images Belong Marvel Studios/Disney
About The Author
Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook