“Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is more infuriating than multiverse.
The 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is helmed by horror and comic book legend Sam Raimi, best known for directing the original “Spiderman” trilogy and “The Evil Dead” films. His distinctive style is well known to fans of both genres and is again on full display in “Multiverse of Madness” as the normally upbeat and cheerful series takes a dramatic turn towards darkness with a particular focus on the undead and the pathos of wickedness. There are still all the hallmarks of the comic book genre to list; there’s a charismatic protagonist, a slightly humorous tone, and action scenes with neat choreography littered throughout the 126-minute runtime.
The story revolves around Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who rescues series newcomer America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, after she is nearly abducted by an extra-dimensional Cycloptic octopus monster. America is pursued by a demonic entity so that her powers of opening dimensional portals to another universe can be harvested and transferred to this antagonistic force. Things quickly spin out of control once it’s revealed that the force pursuing America isn’t so much a demon as it is a former Avenger named Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, who has fully embraced her alter ego Scarlett Witch. and his descent into wickedness. She seeks to gain the power to open pathways to the multiverse in order to become a version of herself that has a family after her lover Vision is brutally killed in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The problem isn’t so much the execution or the premise, but rather the wasted potential on an interesting concept. Unlike another multiverse-themed movie released a month ago titled “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, Dr. Strange’s journey through the multiverse isn’t that impressive as the number of universes visited can be counted with one hand and the differences between the universes seem to be more cosmetic than anything that makes sense. You continue on red at a red light instead of green, and flowers are strewn all over New York City, suggesting a more environmentally conscious civilization. In another universe, an alternate version of Dr. Strange possesses the Darkhold, a mythical book of evil spells that corrupts whoever wields it, but rather than exploring the differences between the two versions of the titular character, it simply becomes an obstacle to good. doctor to overcome.
Where the film resonates most is in its tone and visual style. Sam Raimi’s unique blend of horror and camp is fully effective. There are zombies, dark spirits, and more gore than I can remember in any Marvel movie, though most of it is implied or cut so the movie doesn’t get too mature too quickly. Nothing feels out of place or forced, but you almost feel like Raimi wanted to go further but got embarrassed. The MCU is known for its homogenized tone and execution, and “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is no exception, both to its credit and detriment. The bones of a unique experience are there, but they’re repressed by the standards set before the film was even conceived. You don’t have to have checked out the full catalog of MCU movies to follow this one, but sometimes it feels like it would help more than it should.
Dr. Strange is anything but weird as the film follows a typical formula despite the best intentions of the director and marketing team. Perhaps misplaced expectations are at the heart of most disappointments, and this is no exception. What could have been felt would have been if it was a different universe. There are genuine moments of weighty conflict between Wanda’s grief and America’s innocence, the execution is exceptional, and the visual effects maintain the standards we’ve come to expect from Marvel and Disney. It’s still a major blockbuster viewing experience, and you’ll find more than enough fun in the shared experience of discussing the film with friends and family long after it’s over due to the amount of links. and links to history, or maybe just the beginning of what could be in the future.
— “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is rated PG-13 and premieres at Marquee Cinemas, Galleria 14, Beckley.