Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Michael Waldron
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Patrick Stewart
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
I’m not the biggest fan of Marvel movies, but the lore and characters of the comics they’re based upon are great fun. I enjoy giving each new offering a chance and though I more often than not leave the theater at least slightly disappointed, the occasional great film slips through the cracks. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is no masterpiece, but it is one of those superhero films elevated by good direction, solid acting, cohesive plotting, and thoughtful writing to become a thoroughly enjoyable and captivating fantasy adventure.
That said, it has some glaring issues, most notably in the execution of its villain; the character is portrayed well, acted brilliantly, and supplied with good lines, so what’s the problem? If you didn’t watch her television show, then you’ll feel like you’re missing something throughout the entire film. Sure, the viewer is given all the vital information, but something gnaws at you, ambushing the edges of your perception, ever so slightly distracting you from fully enjoying the movie. It shouldn’t be necessary to watch an entire television show to enjoy a Doctor Strange sequel. Making the first in the series necessary, sure; making other films in the Marvel canon required viewing, okay I’ll bite; but to make every single television series on every single streaming service pivotal to enjoy each new Marvel movie is overkill and I hope they don’t continue down this path too strenuously.
Still, despite the magnitude of this pitfall, it’s the movie’s sole major lapse in production. The cast is small, concise, and each character is carefully executed with sincerity and purpose. The script is one of the entire canon’s best. The humor, something Marvel films so often fail at stupendously, is well timed and genuinely funny. The special effects are fun to watch and ponder without being confusing, over the top, or inducing seizures. The plot is a thematic bulls-eye that aligns precisely with the multiverse, keeping the viewer interested and excited. Doctor Strange’s character development is a long time coming, but also realistic and appropriate.
And it has possibly the best single one-on-one fight scene of any comic book film ever, which counts for a lot in this type of movie.
In the end I couldn’t ignore the size of the crutch the film used regarding WandaVision and the inability to fully encompass its story within the allotted runtime of the movie itself. I’ve always enjoyed references or using prior films to build upon one another, but here it is taken too far, as it actually hinders one’s experience if you have not seen the television program. Without this massive shortcoming Doctor Strange 2 could have been one of the four or five best Marvel films, but it will have to settle for simply being really fun.