Just as the cinematic universe became the hottest thing in Hollywood, it seems that the concept of multiverse is shaping up that way. Now alternative timelines and worlds are nothing new, but it feels like we’re getting a lot more of them than usual. It does have me worried as I feel like Hollywood would take away the wrong lessons just like they do with cinematic universes (looking at you Universal Dark Universe.) Fortunately, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes on the multiverse in a fun way that had me giddy in my seat.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.
Story: Simple In a Good Way
The movie opens up on an alternative Doctor Strange and a new companion, America Chavez running from a monster. Our Stephen Strange soon wakes up from this dream to find that it was actually real. He saves America from a huge demon as he and Wong try to protect her from sinister forces. Now the story is pretty simple which is surprisingly good. It’s shocking how the movie jumps immediately into the thick of it. You’re on this wild ride that doesn’t stop for a moment. It treats you like you’ve seen all of the MCU and doesn’t have to explain much. So if you haven’t seen WandaVision for example, you’re going to be really lost.
Characters & Performances: Bow Down to the Witch
It’s a no brainer on how good Benedict Cumberbatch is at playing Stephen Strange. He’s appeared multiple times so far in the MCU that his voice is the one when I read comics. The examination of his character by using different variations of Strange throughout the multiverse is fascinating. It’ll be interesting to see where they take this character going forward. But by far, the clear standout is Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch.
I can’t go too much into it as even her first scene is a big spoiler. What I’ll say is she has this raw energy and gives one of the best performances in an MCU movie. There’s so many notes and complexities to her character that it’s fascinating to watch. What I can mention is how awesome Wong is. I’m glad that he’s appearing a lot more in Phase 4. Benedict Wong has so much charisma that we need to see him in either his own movie or Disney+ show.
The Christine Problem
One of the problems with the first Doctor Strange movie was Christine. It’s not because of Rachel McAdams, but more of the lack of story with her. Then episode 4 of What If…? did a 180 and made the relationship with her and Strange feel genuine. I was expecting to have that same feeling for this movie, but it went back to its own ways. And they really harp on this relationship which I don’t see. We all know Rachel McAdams is amazing so please give her more story. The potential was there during What If…? and it’s wasted again.
Cinematography & Sound: A Sam Raimi Movie
The absolute best thing about the movie is how this is a Sam Raimi movie. A constant criticism of the MCU is how there isn’t a lot of creative freedom with the directors. How they’re tightly confined into the view of the MCU. Not to say that’s for every movie as James Gunn and Chloe Zaeo put their own stamp on the Guardians movies and Marvel’s Eternals. I’m very happy to say that’s the case for this movie. If you’re a fan of Raimi, you’ll see a lot of his trademark style flourish on-screen.
We get quick cuts, tilted angles, POV shots, crazy transitions, and many more. There’s so much eccentricity that feels so electric and makes this movie fly off the screen. This style may turn some people off, but if you liked Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness then this is right up your alley. It’s still an MCU movie at the core of it, but the added element of scariness is something that sets it apart. Moments that I won’t dare spoil are actually pretty chilling when looking back at it. They just show you enough that makes it memorable without being excessive.
Danny Elfman Triumphant Return
I feel like Danny Elfman has gotten a bad rap with recent comic book fans lately. He’s one of the best composers of all time and has composed iconic scores including Batman and Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. Yet, when he was hired for Justice League after Joss Whedon took over, fans took an immediate backlash to his work. Granted, the problems of that movie wasn’t his fault as it was a last minute replacement. With his score for this movie, this is the redemption he needed from disgruntled fans. If this film is a roller coaster then this is the soundtrack for the thrill ride. While Elfman does abandon Strange’s theme that’s been in the MCU, there’s plenty of material presented that has been on a loop for me.
Editing & Pacing: Always on the Move
As mentioned before, this movie feels like an extreme roller coaster. A normal ride would have peaks and valleys to build up to the big drop. This ride is filled with non-stop drops and quickly goes up again just for the thrill of it. Granted, it sounds excessive, but if you have the word “madness” in your title then you better deliver on it. That feeling is kinetic and makes you so invested in what’s going on.
Now this doesn’t mean that Doctor Strange 2 is rushed, but it does move at a quick pace. Which is why if you haven’t been following past movies and Disney+ shows then you’ll get lost. However, instead of focusing on exposition from past properties, we could have let some scenes marinate for a moment. Not a criticism of the pace, but more of how good some of these scenes are. Yet, we get a little bit of it before moving on to the next scene.