As the MCU tackles the mysteries of the multiverse in Phase 4, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness goes deep into these realms as a new threat emerges that can put the existence of infinite universes at stake. The latest Marvel film marks the return of Sam Raimi, who is known for the original Spider-Man film trilogy as well as being one of the masters of horror filmmaking. The sequel to Doctor Strange is a visually appealing piece of work that stands out from the rest of the MCU library. What the latest installment does differently is focusing more on the visual effects and the cinematography that help elevate the story. We also get some amazing action set-pieces that give the film promise of a fun watch. The film has a distinct style as the MCU tries to cater to each director’s tastes as Sam Raimi puts his own spin on the Master of the Mystic Arts.
Following up on the events of Spiderman: No Way Home, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is plagued by dreams of another universe where he sees an alternate version of himself being chased by a creature alongside America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). He comes to the realization that this wasn’t just merely a dream, it was an event that happened in a parallel universe. We soon find Strange and Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) running into America as a big creature starts chasing after her and causing destruction in their world. It is revealed that America has the power to travel to other universes and an unseen force is out to take her power. Strange enlists the help of former Avenger Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) who goes by the Scarlet Witch to find a way to save the multiverse and stop this new enemy from wreaking havoc.
Sam Raimi takes full advantage of his filming technique as he embraces his horror roots as well as his experience in comic book films. The whole film has imprints of his signature style, whether it’s the cinematography, the spooky elements, Easter eggs, cameos, or even the tone. Fans of his work will be satisfied to see some of Raimi’s best hits on display here. Some of Raimi’s filmmaking style works in the film, but there are also times when it just doesn’t mesh well with the humor that the MCU is known for in some of its movies. Certain scenes can go weird just to be weird, but it may not work all the time. However, the movie does well to outweigh those flaws.
What Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness does so well is bringing horror into a superhero genre. Despite the PG-13 rating, audiences will still get plenty of frights that will keep them on the edge of their seat. We got to see different versions of Strange and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In every corner, expect to be terrified thanks to the imagery that the film brings out so well. Once the third act begins, things go full-on horror and it just makes one hell of a chilling affair that will go down anyone’s spine. Thanks to Raimi and cinematographer John Mathieson, the film makes the seamless transition from being a crazy multiverse trip to a horror-themed special. Mathieson does well in distinguishing each universe with a different palette of colors that makes every one of them unique.
The performances in the new film also have to receive some credit. The true standout must go to Elizabeth Olsen playing Wanda. Her arc in WandaVision pays off here as we get to fully grasp the power that she holds and the journey she endures throughout the film. It is a powerful transition that unfolds onscreen and it further proves just how well of an actress Olsen is. She packs in an emotional performance as her character comes full circle going from Avenger to becoming the Scarlet Witch as we know in the comics. Benedict Cumberbatch still brings in his wit as Doctor Strange as he has in the past few films. Xochitl Gomez brings enough to the table as America Chavez even though we don’t get enough screen time with her, but hopefully, we’ll get to see more of her in the future. Rachel McAdams also gets more to do here as Strange’s ex-lover Christine Palmer after being underutilized in the first film.
When it comes to leaving an emotional impact on these characters, sometimes it is never enough. It seems like Doctor Strange is constantly trying to fix things without knowledge of the consequences. With every film he’s in, it’s as if Strange still hasn’t learned his lesson when it comes to the cost of using powerful magic. We know that Strange hasn’t been happy in his life since taking on the role as a superhero, but we don’t get to see how it has led to this point after the first film. Even America Chavez has an interesting arc regarding her origins, but the film doesn’t get fleshed out enough. We do get a lot of plot development throughout the film, but it’s fair to say that it causes character development to take somewhat of a backseat.
Another thing that has to be said is the incredible musical score by Danny Elfman. The way that the background music is used throughout the film just sets the tone perfectly. We also get a few nods from Raimi’s other work that fans will recognize when it plays. The score suits the kind of style that Raimi is trying to use in The Multiverse of Madness. There’s also a scene that turns the score into a set piece that is visually stunning to see and just great music to the ears.
What it all comes down to is that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fun theater experience to be had. It may not be Raimi’s best work but it still carries his flare in filmmaking that is a welcome addition to the MCU. The movie does have the messiness of the plot, but sometimes it needs to find direction in where it wants to go. Despite some cheesy dialogues here and there, it’s never a dull moment. If we only had time to develop the relationship between these characters, this would be a solid film. However, it seems like MCU is trying to change the game as we go into more horror with this installment in Strange’s journey.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.