Movie Review – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Sami Rami reunites with Marvel, directing the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Rami’s horror expertise strengthens the movie’s visuals and tension using his signature point-of-view shots, and make-up effects turns new and familiar characters into horrific versions of themselves.

In Multiverse of Madness, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) runs into the multiverse traveler, America Chavez (Xochiti Gomez) as an unknown enemy is in pursuit of America for her abilities. Despite the vastness of the multiverse, Strange and America are running out of places to hide.

The movie has been divisive amongst fans. I’d say the movie is only disappointing because its overly simple narrative. Simple isn’t always bad, though. In fact, it’s actually useful when the context of the story involves complex ideas such as the multiverse.  However, the movie fails to deliver a compelling story. Right off the bat, the movie lacks stakes. Characters encounter problems that seemingly are solved within minutes, such as the way the Darkhold is almost instantly replaced.

Don’t get me started on how bad the CGI is at times, either. There are a handful of surprising characters that make their debut to the MCU, and most of the details in the costume are CGI, so it really doesn’t make sense why something as simple as Stephen and Wong (Benedict Wong) being held by a tentacle monster looks so poor.

Another issue I took with this movie is the emotional themes don’t go beyond the surface. Early on, a character asks Strange about whether the events of “Infinity War” were unavoidable. Seeing as this movie deals with alternate universes, you’d think we’d see a Stephen that not only made a different choice but one that was a better choice than 616 Stephen. Stephen is asked repeatedly throughout the movie if he’s happy, and I’d argue the “What If…?” series does a better job with “What if… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hand?” showing the emotional contrast between what Stephen wants and what he’s willing to do in order achieve such happiness.

The cast in this film is stacked, and Gomez is a welcomed addition to the list of Marvel cinematic superheroes. The actress has natural chemistry with Cumberbatch and gives a performance so sincere it makes her arc a much more satisfying introduction to America Chavez, especially when compared to Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams (as Christine Palmer) at the start of the film. I don’t know what happened, but any of the chemistry between the two of them from the first movie is gone. Oddly enough, there’s a deleted scene that shows the two with a bit more chemistry as Doctor Strange is asked if he saves people’s lives for the glory of it. The final sequence between the two actors manages to make up for the poor performance earlier, but the moment comes so late in the movie that it doesn’t really matter. Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic as Wanda Maximoff, and watching Disney+’s WandaVision enriches the experience and the character’s emotional arc.

One of the more surprising moments that does NOT appear in this film is the presence of 616 Baron Mordo. An alternate version of the character is introduced, but it seems like a missed opportunity not to conclude the story that was teased for him at the end of the first movie, or even to present the original version as a juxtaposition to the alternate version.

Despite the presence of an evil version of Doctor Strange in the film, it’s unfortunate that the “Multiverse of Madness” doesn’t connect back to the “What If…?” version of Doctor Strange Supreme, even if it was just in costume only. The two have one of the most unique battles we’ve seen in the MCU that includes the visualization of musical notation. Not only is the sequence a feast for the eyes; it’s also a reminder of how much Danny Elfman’s score highlights and fills out this movie. From the usage of detuned guitar riffs when a character starts the ritual to dream walk to the dark themes used during a particular jump scare that involves red mist.

Although 2022 has a better movie about the multiverse – “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” – the Multiverse of Madness has some entertaining moments that are sure to surprise casual audiences and die-hard comic book fans alike, while introducing potential new characters for upcoming MCU projects.

Rating: 3.5/5.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Big Comic Page received a screener for review purposes. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” arrived on Digital June 22. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD release is scheduled for July 26.

The Multiverse of Madness comes with bonus features. ‘Constructing the Multiverse’ and ‘Introducing America Chavez’ are surprisingly underwhelming. Both are very short and don’t do the justice for the covered material.

I highly recommend ‘Method to the Madness’ for fans of the movie and Sam Rami fans, because as short as the feature is, it’s almost like a brief overview of Rami’s previous horror work.

A three-minute gag reel is included, mostly showing the cast laughing and dancing in-between takes, but there are fun clips of Elizabeth Olsen struggling to fly with the wire work.

The Deleted scenes are pretty good namely ‘A Great Team’ and ‘Pizza Poppa.’ Both would have been great additions to the final product, especially Bruce Campbell’s Pizza Poppa vowing to get revenge on Doctor Strange.

‘It’s not Permanent’ is just an extended cut of Stephen’s spell on Pizza Poppa.

The Audio Commentary features director Sam Raimi, producer Richie Palmer, and writer Michael Waldron. This is not only one of the better commentaries Marvel has released in recent memory but just in general. The commentary reveals several comic book references and call backs to Sam Rami’s work. The commentary also reveals that there could have been a longer cut of the movie that address a lot of my gripes with it. Perhaps one day we’ll see it, but I highly recommend checking the commentary after viewing the movie.

Lawr_avThe writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511

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