Seeing the Marvel logo in a theater for the first time in 3 years was really weird. Or odd? No, that’s not right. I feel like I’m forgetting the perfect synonym…
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was released in 2022 and was directed by Sam Raimi. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Steven Strange, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. In a world still recovering from the drastic events of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, we now find Doctor Strange once again in universe ending circumstances when a teenage girl, America Chavez, who is struggling with her powers that can transport her between realities, comes to him on the run from creatures sent by a supposed DEMON.
The main cast is all quite solid. There isn’t necessarily any standout performance, but the actors blend together on screen in a triumphant fashion. Cumberbatch does play different versions of Strange, for various reasons, and each of them had just enough subtle changes to mix things up, while still having the character feel the same.
The character development is done well, the area that best shows this would be the use of setup, and payoff. It has a lot going on in terms of keeping track of the appropriate time to use callbacks and understands the importance of staying on board with its ideas. It is important to note, that at times, the character arcs are a bit on the nose and near the end change quickly to accommodate the needs of the story.
Madness’ biggest strength is the pacing. The story is always moving forward, making sure the viewer is always on their toes. The biggest downside of Madness is also the pacing. While there aren’t long pauses that halt the progression of the film, it’s just as important to make sure the audience knows what’s going on, when that isn’t the case, as shown here, an unbalanced tone is created.
On the topic, the film’s tone is the edgy, teenage, metal rock vibe that we all feared The Batman would capture. The first act practically has its own three-act structure, and the consistent feel of an MCU project, while the later portions suffer to keep good footing.
In the second act, we get some fun cameos, which feel more like a placeholder to show the villain’s power than anything else. These moments were also where Madness felt like it was studio/producer controlled.
We finally have a film to use as an example to show the flaws in Marvel’s latest, “watching everything to know what’s going on,” scheme. If you haven’t seen WandaVision in particular, the film gives you only the bare minimum in order for you to understand Wanda’s motivations, making her big moments feel unearned. Even the director himself didn’t watch that show all the way through being quoted as saying, “I never even saw all of WandaVision; I’ve just seen key moments of some episodes that I was told directly impact our storyline.” That’s either the laziest or most legendary thing I’ve ever heard.
Though, Raimi did deliver on the action, which is Madness’ saving grace. You will be entertained and have fun with this new Doctor Strange. While there were times I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, I was never bored. My personal favorite set piece comes during a fight involving music, and spell casting. Without Raimi’s unique eye, this film would be forgotten almost instantly.
Through this style, there are some pretty fun crowd-pleasing moments that were really cool to watch unfold. My favorite is a brief dialogue exchange between Strange and Christine after she thinks there isn’t a proper way to complete a spell.
Due to a poor balance of tone, a very “curious” plot structure, and a lack of focus at times, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness can make you feel like a stranger in a strange land (I’m sorry, I had to). What keeps this from the bottom tier of MCU outings is the incredible entertainment value, these action scenes are so much fun and make me want to revisit the sequel to WandaVision, I mean, Spider-Man: No Way Home, I mean Doctor Strange.
[My Grade for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a B-]