Friday, May 6, 2022

Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness - Movie Review

The Movie: Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness

The Director: Sam Raimi

The Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stühlbarg, Rachel McAdams

The Story: Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff.

The Review:
Okay, Marvel, I see where you're going. If we thought Infinity War and Endgame were mind blowing excursions into super hero, comic book nirvana, then Marvel top dog Kevin Feige, director Sam Raimi, and everyone else involved with this movie are giving us just a taste of how they are about to blow the roof off of all our expectations while throwing in a few hints about a potential Secret that may be in the pipeline. Before we get too carried away here with multiverses, variants, and and unlimited supply of potential stories, characters, and locations, let's not forget that this is a Doctor Strange movie and the character is of course once again played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The story can be considered a direct continuation of the the first Doctor Strange movie although let's not kid ourselves into thinking you could go in cold straight from that one to this latest effort without having seen or at least having a fair amount of knowledge of stuff that has happened in between. We also get continuation of the overall Avengers timeline and a direct connection to the Wandavision series that aired on Disney Plus with Elizabeth Olson's Wanda Maximoff playing a primary role. There really is a lot going on with both Strange and Maximoff in this story and a lot of exposition comes with that, but I still feel like Raimi did a good job of balancing out information with entertanment.

An absolute highlight of the movie for me is Xochitl Gomez in the role of America Chavez, a young woman who has the ability to create portals that open up to different universes, a power which she has no idea how to control. With Gomez entering the mix, we are seeing another step towards a possible Young Avengers movie or series or series of movies with Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop having been introduced in Hawkeye and Iman Vellani's Kamala Kahn getting ready to make her debut in Ms. Marvel. To have these young women in the mix as building blocks for the future of the MCU is so important in so many ways when it comes to representation and all three are fantastic actresses as well.

What does all of that mean for this movie? To be honest, not a lot but it's definitely worth mentioning. That being said, Chavez does play a key role in how the story plays out and her powers are integral plot device that drives the story forward which makes sense given this is about the multiverse and she can travel through it. As you can imagine, that sort of thing might be valuable to an antagonist or two who might look to exploit something like that. Of course, we avoid spoilers here so nothing else about all that in this review.

Getting back to Elizabeth Olson's performance, I think this might be her best work in the MCU and maybe one of the best performances from anyone in the franchise to date. What she does with her character and the road she travels emotionally is top notch stuff when it comes to bringing a super hero character to life. Honestly, Marvel has been building to this ever since she was introduced alongside her brother Pietro in the post credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and all I have to say is: worth it! Wanda has several "holy shucks!" moments in this movie and I was on 100% on board for all of them.

Did I mention this is a Doctor Strange movie? Man, there's so much packed into this film, it's honestly quite impressive how Cumberbatch is able to keep his character from getting lost in the multiversal mash up of mishaps and mayhem. It really is a testament to his talents as an actor as well as his never ending supply of star power and it feels like he is fully invested in making the character the best he can possibly be. It was nice to see several threads from the first movie continued or at least referenced if not outright resolved. As I mentioned earlier, there was a valiant attempt made to create this movie as a direct sequel story wise to the first movie while also going crazy with continuing the overall MCU arc.

A few brief notes. Visually, the movie is as stunning as you would expect a Doctor Strange movie to be with some pretty crazy effects shots which I want to mention but they are kind of spoilery so you'll just have to see them yourself. The music from Danny Elfman is top notch as you would expect a Danny Elfman score to be and it definitely matches well with Sam Raimi's directing style. The action scenes in this movie are wild with lost of the fancy magic stuff Strange and company are known for and then add in the unlimitedness of the multiverse and holy cow this movie will blow your socks off.

Is this a perfect movie and will it satisfy everyone's expectations? Absolutely not. I felt the first two acts were heavy on exposition with so much explaining about what has happened, what is happening, and what it all means but you know what. I think it kind of needed that to get to the eventual payoff and to help in laying more foundation for the overall MCU narrative. Where the movie really shines is in the third act and Sam Raimi goes full Sam Raimi (he's known for his crazy horror movies) and the payoff is just so good I couldn't help but be happy with the end result. Again, you have to see all of this for yourself but yeah, it's pretty bonkers.

The Verdict:
Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness is mostly a brilliant Sam Raimi movie while also checking off all the requisite MCU boxes and for me, almost none of that was a bad thing. The movie has plenty of crazy multiverse cameos, the action is intense, and the primary story involving Strange, Maximoff, and Chavez is very compelling. Is this the best Marvel movie you will ever see? Certainly not. It doesn't need to be and with the bar already set exceedingly high, you certainly shouldn't expect it to be. Just go and have fun, it's a Marvel movie!

There is a mid credits scene and a post credits scene so make sure to stay for both.

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