Yeah, things are starting to get weird…
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks back into high gear; Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness unabashedly takes us somewhere the MCU has never been before with a psychedelic horror/fantasy offering that manages to be a little grim, a little life affirming and a whole hell of a lot of crazy with a blend of the familiar and some next level originality.
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.
While you can feel the places where the rumored reshoots and rewrites happened, this latest entry into the MCU is unabashedly like anything else we’ve ever seen before in this canon of comic book cinema as director Sam Raimi got to put more of his traditional stamp on these films then he did in the Spider-Man films (the first of which is now 20 years old?!?…god I’m old).
What makes this is so dynamic, original and basically fun…is that the rules have basically been thrown out of the window. All bets are officially OFF. Raimi and company truly don’t waste any time in diving us head long into some truly diverse ideas and story threads.
It’s certainly all a little conventional in it’s over all unconventionality but to take a tent pole comic book movie for a studio and turn it on to its ear into a haunted house/funhouse of general insanity is a brave feat unto itself.
Much like the line that Cumberbatch repeats in various iterations throughout this and several films before this one, we know so very little about the Multiverse….and that’s actually the point. He’s been warning us for several films that things are about to get scary, and he was right because while the film does have some familiar Sam Raimi beats that fans of his canon will be looking for, this is still very much a large scale action movie with big set pieces and excellent effects to spare.
It all pays quality fan service to the material that came before it (both on the big and small screen) but the only genuine downside of this film is that if you are coming into the MCU from a fairly uneducated place, you’ll be pretty confused with what is going on. Other than that, this film actually sets up not just the next Marvel movie, but SEVERAL others that are probably not even in pre-production yet.
There’s just A LOT going on this one, which kind of works both for AND against it but the reality is that the Marvel machine has the weight behind it to try different things and as this played in the realms of magic and other dimension, it opens an array of possibilities story wise going forward.
As the titular doctor, Benedict Cumberbatch is his usual stalwart self and while we got a little bit of emotional growth from the character he plays it all a little too wooden and without enough of the arrogant swagger that comes from the source material. As always Benedict Wong, Elizabeth Olsen and Rachel McAdams do quality work while in the orbit of Cumberbatch but it’s the introduction of American Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) as the young dimension hopping ward of both Strange and Wong how breathes some life into the material and lets the Doctor Strange character grow into the leader that these future installments of the MCU will need him to be.
It’s weird to say that a movie that probably cost upward of $200 million to make is a daring piece of cinema…but it kind of is. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness dazzles us with action and some safe horror demons and gore; it channels the spirit of some of the best science fiction that has ever been made. It throws out some pretty weird ideas, and owns them wholly and truly, and that’s why this critic can’t wait to see what else is coming in the next decade….let’s just hope I’m still working as a film critic by then