Marvel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
dir Sam Raimi
scr Michael Waldron
prd Kevin Feige
with Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne, Michael Stuhlbarg, Patrick Stewart, John Krasinski, Lashana Lynch, Anson Mount
release US/UK 6.May.22
22/UK Marvel 2h06

olsen ejiofor wong
See also:
Doctor Strange (2016) No Way Home (2021)

Is it streaming?

mcadams, cumberbatch and gomez
While this effects-heavy romp is cartoonishly entertaining, it also reaffirms a strain in the now-spiralling Marvel universe in which outcomes are never in question so each movie or TV show can slot in together. This instalment is essentially a sequel to WandaVision, and it has a remarkably straightforward plot within its nutty parallel-realities premise. It's also directed with a sharp sense of wit and horror by Sam Raimi.
After seeing her in his dreams, Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is startled when he rescues America Chavez (Gomez) from a gigantic one-eyed octo-beast sent by a demonic villain who wants to steal her ability to jump between parallel realities. And when he and sidekick Wong (Wong) see signs of witchcraft, they suspect Wanda (Olsen) might be able to help. Instead, Wanda ignites an epic battle that chases Stephen through various universes, as he tries to find the magical spell that will protect America. And along the way they meet various versions of themselves and others.
Fans will love the way this film folds in characters from across the Marvel spectrum, often with a witty wink. And Raimi gleefully includes wacky touches like a musical-note battle and a hero zombie, plus a series of eye-catching, colour-coded action sequences, plus one gritty fistfight. But almost all of the settings and costumes are fantastically artificial, which leaves the film without much grounding. So while it looks cool, it's difficult to care, especially when where it's going feels so naggingly obvious.

Because Stephen is haunted by regrets about his personal life, Cumberbatch has darker shadings this time. So even his cocky demeanour and witty one-liners have an edge. This helps us sympathise with him, even if we know that neither he nor the multiverse is in any real danger. Gomez has terrific presence and an intriguing hint of a back-story, while Olsen's Wanda has some depth, continuing to cause chaos due to her longing for a happy family life. Even if she's relentlessly destructive, Olsen gives Wanda a yearning soulfulness.

Frankly, the movie feels a little dull, with its endless expository dialog, digital overload and far too much weightlessness. Action beats are punchy and often genuinely nasty, but they never have an exhilarating kick to them. And the central theme about the nature of happiness has a bittersweet tone that's intriguing but not satisfying. So while the whizzy visuals, terrific running gags and sharply pointed cameos make it enjoyable, this is more like a lively interlude than a fully formed film.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 3.May.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall