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‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (review)

Even though the good Doctor Stephen Strange has left an indelible mark on the MCU as a key player in the conclusion of the Infinity Saga, he is nonetheless the character who has thus far had the longest hiatus between solo outings, having had six years pass since his MCU debut in his eponymous solo feature.

Aside from Loki and Wanda Maximoff, magic users were few and far between in the early phases of the MCU, but with 2016’s Doctor Strange, magic was thoroughly examined and properly introduced, as Stephen Strange struggled to harness the spells that would eventually make him one of the most powerful Avengers.

Since then, magic users have turned out to be among the mightiest of both heroes and foes alike, which was especially the case with the advent of WandaVision, as this first MCU Disney+ series expanded on the history and development of the powers of Wanda Maximoff. Here, the grieving heroine was turned into a tragic anti-heroine, displaying just how formidable her powers truly were when she embraced her full potential and became the Scarlet Witch.

And the series is not only of relevance to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness because the Scarlet Witch is one of the film’s main characters, but also since this is the first MCU feature film to rely significantly on narrative elements from one of the franchise’s Disney+ shows.

As such, those who have not watched WandaVision prior to attending Strange’s second solo outing may find themselves unable to fully engage with where Wanda currently finds herself emotionally and mentally, just as the importance of her children will not pack as much of a punch if one is not familiar with the narrative arcs of Tommy and Billy from their time on the show.

All things WandaVision aside, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a maddening rollercoaster of some of the most bizarre things the franchise has had to offer to date, and that is most certainly a good thing.

Here, Sam Raimi manages to rather successfully marry the MCU style with a surprisingly substantial amount of his trademark horror style, both in terms of camera work, editing and visual gags, which induce gasps, screams and laughter in equal measure.

While the horror has of course been toned down enough to fit the standard MCU format ratings-wise, it is nonetheless their creepiest feature yet, and it makes sense that the filmmaker who masterminded such gems as the Evil Dead franchise can match his trademark humor and absurdity well with the multiversal madness of a superhero that it very different to the Spider-Man whom Raimi is of course also responsible for with his trilogy about the beloved webslinger.

Embracing many of the zanier concepts from the Doctor Strange comics, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at times exudes a hint of kinship with the likes of Army of Darkness, which is unlike anything the MCU has previously seen, but it somehow manages to fit into the wider narrative just fine.

However, the film does suffer from evidently having had a little too much left on the cutting room floor.

While the superhero action and wacky horror comedy elements make for a thrilling enough ride, it nonetheless feels like a significant portion of slower and more character-building moments have been left out, which is to the detriment of the overall impact of the film, resulting in the viewing experience becoming uneven in places.

That being said, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness still manages to be a satisfying entry into the MCU in spite of its narrative shortcomings, but it would be great if the franchise would enable director’s cuts to be become available down the line, as it ultimately feels like Raimi’s longer initial cut of the film would have made it a more complete and engrossing feature.

Verdict: 8 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Kevin Feige
Written by Michael Waldron
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor,
Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams

 

 

 

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