Multiverse this, multiverse that.
The word flippantly thrown around as it weaves its way into the tissue of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the events of the Disney+ series LOKI and Spider-Man: No Way Home, the multiverse is rearing its legs and wanting to take hold. But what does that mean for our heroes? In Stephen Strange’s case, it’s a new adventure through it which includes Wanda Maximoff, fresh from her own experience after Wandavision.
Sam Raimi takes the Director’s chair after Scott Derrickson ran into the classic ‘creative differences’ with Marvel. After seeing the film, what the differences appear to be are less of the horror Derrickson wanted to inject, versus the thematic continuity which the MCU has established. Not to say it’s a bad thing, but it is somewhat jarring when certain musical cues and attempts at jump-scare interrupt the scene.
But what is the scene?
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is figuring stuff out. He says he’s happy, but is he? Then America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) punches her way into his universe. Yes, that is literally her power and it is awesome. Noticing some very familiar witchy things, Strange enlists Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) to help figure out just what is happening across the multiverse. A concept about which we know frighteningly little.
The pace of the film is relentless, as Raimi expertly navigates the audience through the necessary beats of the story. At the same time, this pace and tempo is akin to the aforementioned “jarring musical cues and jump scares”. Tumbling through your own multiverse thanks to the way it’s delivered, it may rattle and grate as you career toward the conclusion.
The cinematography is stunning, with a film which looks like standard Marvel fare but lashed by the Raimi touch. While the horror and pace can come off as camp, along with some stiff dialogue, it’s fun to see Raimi still pulling off the same schtick they’re beloved for.
Outstanding cameos will satiate the whim of fans, with the reveals only a taster of more to come. Olsen is a tour de force as Maximoff. They deliver a character who has descended past the point of loss they experienced in Wandavision. And Cumberbatch gets to portray a Strange who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, countering their typical arrogance.
“Are you happy, Stephen?”
By the end we’ll find out, but what about the audience? I’m sure it’s fine. The film muddles itself between being a Marvel feature trying to free itself from this bondage. While it may be something Marvel need to look at in future, compared to the first film I enjoyed just how much Strange got to be strange. A bonkers ride through a story which seems to reinforce the idea that nothing else matters because it exists somewhere else.
What this means for our next saga though is still yet to present itself. Maybe that job is being left up to July 7th’s Thor: Love & Thunder.
"Still a concept about which we know frighteningly little"
But a fun ride nonetheless! Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fun romp that takes the formerly arrogant Doctor and makes him question a little more of his reality.
While it certainly won't topple the highs of the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home, it's a fine enough addition to the continuing wave of Marvel movies.