The master of the mystical arts returned to the big screen this weekend when Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” debuted to a stellar opening of $450 million worldwide, pleasing Marvel Studios and Disney and becoming a the biggest release of 2022 so far.
Warning: Possible spoilers ahead
But the multiverse may have outgrown its welcome as a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) plot device in this rushed affair that has Doctor Strange bouncing through a variety of alternate realities to protect a girl who jumps from dimension called America Chavez and stop the Scarlet Witch from enslaving. the multiverse using an evil spell book called the Darkhold.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” again features Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular wizard, Benedict Wong as Wong, Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo. Also appearing in the magical fireworks show are Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez. (If you need to catch up on the sci-fi of the Marvel universe, check out our guide to the Marvel movies in order along with how to watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness once it leaves theaters for Disney Plus and other services.)
The teasers and trailers for “Doctor Strange 2” were somewhat misleading as to the Scarlet Witch’s motivations and purpose, so prepare for some sneaky bait and a switch.
It was basically a foregone conclusion that director Sam Raimi would bring his signature horror show to Marvel’s 2016 sequel to “Doctor Strange,” and the results are a haunting, spooky mind-trip into untapped depths of madness tied to a narrative. irregular which is often disconcerting. . Director Scott Derrickson was expected to return to helm the sequel, but due to creative differences and time constraints, he dropped out early to make “The Black Phone.”
Raimi got his start in movies with popular cult horror films like “Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” before venturing into more mainstream films when Hollywood capitalized on his twisted visions in the “Spider-Man” trilogy. ” from the 2000s. starring Tobey Maguire.
The last time Raimi directed a feature film was in 2013, when he directed “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and SFX technology has come a long way since then, allowing the filmmaker to deliver some truly amazing special effects, including a space squid. cyclopean, musical notes turned into magical shrapnel, and a dimension of color splattered paint.
“I didn’t come close to directing anything after that,” Raimi told Collider. “I needed some time off after that to get hungry again, I learned about film, I took some lessons, I did some gardening.”
This new MCU movie, long in development, is a convoluted mess at times, made tiring by the final blow, which feels like something out of a hyperactive Harry Potter show. While Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” offered a more measured approach to the character and delivered genuine pathos in his origin story, Raimi’s bombastic sequel feels like too many cooks spoil the narrative broth.
His flair for dramatic Dutch angles, undead heroes and cackling demons is evident, and if your idea of a killer Doc Strange movie is a rotting zombified sorcerer facing off against a witch mother trying to bond with her imaginary children, then you will be fully entertained. . But have a pair of earplugs ready!
The film is noisy, often visually arresting, strangely unattractive, and rushed all at the same time. With just a hair for two hours (including endless credits), it’s one of the shortest MCU movies in recent memory, though you’d be hard-pressed to find fans who would have yearned for more crackling energy bolts and mystical shields. exploding in endless showers of sparks.
While 2016’s “Doctor Strange” felt like a sophisticated movie aimed at adults, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” comes together as an acid-fueled, adrenaline-fueled after-school special with a teen lead who isn’t very convincing. , at least not enough. to anchor an entire MCU movie.
But the brilliant special effects are a revelation here, and the interdimensional contortions Cumberbatch undergoes will make you feel like you’ve been strapped to a roller coaster for two hours after ingesting a pair of foot-long corn dogs and a pie. funnel.
The obligatory post-credit surprise sets up the MCU’s future Multiversal War as the sorceress Clea (Charlize Theron) appears to tell Strange that she’s caused a dimensional incursion that needs to be fixed.
There are necessary references to Marvel TV shows like “WandaVision” and the “Avengers” movies, and having a solid handle on past events in the MCU is necessary to ingest everything that occurs.
The disjointed script, written by Michael Waldron (“Disney Plus’s” Loki), features some unexpected jump scares and paranormal fireworks, but it makes little sense if you dare stop to think about it too much.
In the comics, America Chavez is a powerful Latina lesbian superhero raised by two moms, but here she’s reduced to a generic teenager wearing an Old Glory jean jacket and sporting a rainbow flag pin. There was an opportunity to create an intriguing team here, but that never really manifested itself. Her pairing with Doctor Strange and her sympathy for her seems awkward at times, with inconsistent tones and a complete lack of chemistry.
One bright note we can attest to is that Raimi movie alum Bruce Campbell (“Evil Dead” trilogy) makes a hilarious cameo as a food vendor selling pizza balls on an alternate Earth. When Doc Strange hits him with a spell, he repeats his famous self-punching scene from “Evil Dead II.”
Despite its express train pacing, grueling exposition dumps, and oversized plot holes, all of the performances are rock-solid, and it will be interesting to see if “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” soars or fails in the run. box office once. more people have endured its Bizarro vibe.
Should there be a moratorium on multiverses in Hollywood? Yes please!
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is in theaters now. You can check out our Marvel streaming guide to catch up on the first “Doctor Strange” and the superhero multiverse.
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