RELEASED: May 6th 2022
WRITTEN BY: Michael Waldron
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Danny Elfman
STARRING: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong & Rachel McAdams

REVIEW: Six years after his first solo outing, Doctor Strange finally gets a sequel, this time with Spider-Man and horror virtuoso Sam Raimi behind the camera.

The film sees Strange cross paths with the dimension-hopping teen America Chavez, as she flees from a monstrous force that seeks to claim her powers for themselves. Realising that in the wrong hands, such powers could have cataclysmic results, Strange embarks on a jaunt across the multiverse to keep Chavez safe.

As a big Doctor Strange fan, I’m very happy with the decision to bring director Sam Raimi on board. While still beholden to the wider MCU, Raimi manages to infuse Multiverse of Madness with his signature campy horror vibe which really fits the property well. From the Evil Dead-esque aesthetic of the various monsters to the way he frames a shot, this film is definitely a lot more creative and unique than the majority of its predecessor (although I don’t blame Derrickson for that, so much as I do the Marvel machine).

There’s a creepiness factor and a level of gore that’s so far been largely absent from the MCU; deaths and fights are creative and shocking in equal measure – so much so that you could call this the least kid-friendly Marvel Studios movie so far (although they’d probably still be fine – if a little shook). Raimi really makes the monster pursuing Chavez seem suitably eerie and threatening, and I’d love to see him take another shot at a Doctor Strange film even more contained to his corner of the Marvel Universe.

However, while Raimi does a solid job in the director’s chair, the film still falls short of what it could be. The film hits the ground running, and while certainly entertaining, its somewhat erratic pacing makes it feel rushed at times, as it bounces between set pieces and cuts past things that could perhaps use a bit of breathing room.

This is compounded by Michael Waldron’s script. Some downright goofy lines aside*, the film often seems to be more focused on the spectacle than it does fleshing things out. Sure, there are some much needed slower moments, but certain things seem rushed in their explanation, and a lot of things feel like they could be better fleshed out.

Chief among these – and I am going to dip into SPOILER TERRITORY here, but nothing that isn’t revealed in the first 20 minutes or so, or hinted at in the trailers – is the villain.

Trading spells with Strange this time around is none other than Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, powered up after the events of WandaVision and now on a hunt across universes for her lost children (also introduced in WandaVision; definitely watch WandaVision before you watch this movie). Sure, we know, in short, why she’s taken a heel turn (she’s been corrupted by an evil book), but the film rarely does much to actually explore just how she came to be here. We’ve seen her fall from grace, but to go from subconsciously holding a town hostage (before seeing the error of her ways) to outright mass murder… seems a tad abrupt.

The film continues to try and justify Wanda’s actions – she’s been corrupted, she’s a mother longing for her children – but it never really takes the time to explore her inner turmoil or exactly how she became so unhinged. She’s just downright evil.

Still, Olsen works past these faults and gives a great performance as the film’s villain. She’s emotive, creepy and threatening, and backstory aside, she makes for an excellent pseudo-horror movie antagonist. Just one that could use a little more fleshing out (which is mad, really, considering she’s been in this franchise for 8 years).

The rest of the cast are similarly entertaining. Cumberbatch, Wong and McAdams continue to be enjoyable presences, and Gomez is a welcome addition to the franchise, even if her character could also do with a bit more fleshing out. There are some fun cameos from other dimensions who will no doubt be talking points going forward, all of whom make good impressions with the limited time they have.

Overall, Doctor Strange is another fine outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Raimi ensures it has more flair than its predecessor and most other MCU flicks, but the uneven script and pacing mean it doesn’t quite reach the same heights the best of the franchise.

As far as Phase 4 films go, it’s middle of the road, better than Black Widow and Eternals, but not quite as strong as Shang-Chi and Spider-Man.

All-in-all, I give Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Thanks for reading! What did you want to see most in this movie – the magical or multiversal elements? Let me know in the comments below!

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