The MCU has been changed forever as Doctor Strange leaps head first into the expansive multiverse in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. What lies within are alternate versions of Stephen Strange that threaten the fabric of the multiverse, requiring the combined efforts of Doctor Strange, Wanda Maximoff and more!
Without a doubt the place to begin is by highlighting the horror icon himself, Sam Raimi – his direction on this film is what elevates it beyond any other generic Marvel adventure. He’s a director with a particular style and aesthetic that is evident through all of his projects, most of which are rooted in horror, and like nothing we’ve seen in the MCU. In the Multiverse of Madness, Raimi injects his horror touch quite brilliantly and seamlessly into the story, tone and general vibe. I expected there to be some slightly haunting moments, but what I didn’t expect is for this film to be packed with jumpscares and effectively scary horror sequences. The horror elements in here are used really well to intensify the narrative and heighten the stakes, sucking you right into a number of key sequences. It’s not even just the scares that are heightened, this is almost certainly the most confronting MCU film when it comes to including a bit of gore and bloody violence. Now, it’s still an MCU film, so don’t expect anything extreme – just a nice flavouring of violence to make it unique.
That right there is exactly what Raimi has bought to this film – uniqueness. Being rooted in horror, with a lightly stylised story structure and dark tone, helps make this a memorable MCU entry. I feel like Raimi is undoubtedly the most important element of this film as without his influence, this most likely would have fallen into being a very formulaic Marvel adventure.
When it comes to the narrative within this highly ambitious and grand journey through the multiverse, I really dug it. It promises a tonne of multiverse content and delivers that in spades. It adopts a fast pace right from the beginning, thrusting the story deep into the multiverse and powering through plenty of awesome moments early on. To say there’s a lot going on would be an understatement – this film packed with multiple weaving narratives that collide, drift apart and collide again. Most of the time it’s awesome to follow all these arcs, although parts of the second act felt very bloated and not quite as enjoyable as I’d have hoped. It gets very busy through the second act to where I’d say it’s a little too busy. More things are happening than you can react to in time, which takes some of that shock value out of it. It’s trying to do so much, and hit so many beats, that it moves on a little too quick from most sequences. If only it paced itself out a little more, lingering on some cool moments a bit longer, the impact could have been greater. Don’t get me wrong, I loved most of what the story had to offer, it just felt like we were rushing through the middle of the film in order to cram in every desired story beat – ultimately hurting the film.
In taking on the multiverse, this sequel has a bit of an edge over other MCU entries when it comes to the visuals. This is a very beautiful-looking film littered with stunning shots and mind-bending visual effects. There’s not as much of the Inception-esque effects seen in 2016’s Doctor Strange, but I like that it explores something a bit different here. The action is loud, fun and exciting the entire way through, and also not overbearing or exhausting in any way. Whether the action incorporates a little bit of horror, or it’s more in line with a conventional superhero fight scene, I found myself locked in every time hands and spells were being thrown.
When it comes to performances, none stood out more than Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. This is Elizabeth’s best appearance as Wanda, really going deep into the emotional turmoil of her character, stemming off Wanda’s rather distressing journey through Wandavision. Every scene with her at the forefront is all the more engaging, whilst still not taking away from the fact that this is a Doctor Strange movie. Benedict Cumberbatch is as good as ever as Stephen Strange, nailing the sarcasm of the character and playing into the comedic beats. He’s quickly risen to being not only one of the most powerful heroes in the MCU, but one of the most likeable, and that’s down to Cumberbatch’s pitch perfect performance. Rachel McAdams returns here as Christine, and I really enjoyed her arc and purpose through the story. She has some great moments alongside Cumberbatch that are interesting and do well to further their story.
Obviously, there is a lot more within this film that I could talk about, such as one of the young lead characters – who I absolutely loved! But I’m going to hold off on all that for the sake of spoilers. Some of what I could elaborate on is shown in the later trailers, though I consider anything not shown in the initial trailer information you just don’t need.
In the end, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is (almost) everything it was set up to be. The MCU’s first deep dive into the Multiverse is an exciting showcase for what could be possible in the future. Sam Raimi has pulled off the scariest MCU entry to date, incorporating a number of genuinely chilling horror sequences that make it gloriously unique. Where the horror was great and the story overall was thrilling, the film doesn’t handle its second act all too well. There’s just too many winding narratives packed into the middle of the film, resulting in it all feeling a bit bloated. There’s not enough time to appreciate everything going on, because by the time you take something in, the movie has already moved on. It’s still a very exciting film nonetheless, and one that every MCU fan must see!