Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

A Sam Raimi film for better and for worse.

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6, 2022. Below is a spoiler-free review.


If there’s one thing Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness accomplishes, it's putting the final nail in the coffin of the idea that directors aren’t allowed to put their distinct stylistic stamps on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Filmmakers like James Gunn, Taika Waititi, and Chloe Zhao all offered their respective MCU movies their quintessential style, of course, but there’s something about this newest chapter that feels like it’s screaming that these films are becoming the rule, not the exception. From top to bottom — and for better and for worse — Multiverse of Madness is a Sam Raimi movie through and through.

MCU detractors will call out an overall same-ness across the respective phases. While that can be true, especially prior to the introduction of more distinct-feeling films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, it also offers a universal watchability for casual audiences. It’s great for studio pocketbooks, but it doesn’t always make for the most compelling movie-going experience. This is all mostly to say that the newest Doctor Strange outing will, like the rest of the MCU, have its detractors, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone critiquing the film because they were bored by it.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - 44 Teaser Images

Director Sam Raimi’s full range of weirdness and spookiness is on full display from start to finish here. Whether it’s through the creatures, Raimi-specific cameos, or just the vibe, fans familiar with his filmography are going to be able to call out plenty of moments bearing Raimi’s signature.

Most times, that signature works. But, between some scenes that are weird for the sake of being weird and others that find themselves hobbled by screenwriter Michael Waldron’s sometimes hokey dialogue, even the biggest of Raimi fans may find themselves quirking an eyebrow from time to time. Still, the movie works far more than it doesn’t.

The horror element was a big elephant in the room for Multiverse of Madness. Original director Scott Derrickson departed the project because he wasn’t going to be able to make the movie the way he’d pictured it, leading some fans to believe that the newest Doctor Strange outing wouldn’t be as creepy as initially promised. But, by and large, those fears can mostly be put to rest. You’ve already met Zombie Strange in What If (and in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ trailer), but he’s definitely not the only thing that goes bump in the night in the newest addition to the MCU. Plenty of spooky scaries are lurking around corners — especially as things ramp up in the third act. Is it too scary for your kiddo? Your mileage may vary! The horror aspects help earn the PG-13 rating here, but contemplating the idea of half of the known universe suddenly disappearing seems a lot more complicated to stomach than a monster or two!

Multiverse of Madness is worth the price of admission just to hear the score.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ success is in no small part thanks to the performances. There’s not a bad actor in the bunch, but Elizabeth Olsen is constantly reminding us how easily she can shift into a capital-a-Actor as Wanda Maximoff. Meanwhile, Xochitl Gomez did an admirable job bringing America Chavez into the MCU and left us hoping to see more of her character in the future, while Rachel McAdams did the best she could with a once again under-utilized Christine Palmer. Of course, Benedict Cumberbatch was great as always. (His American accent is really starting to grow on me, guys. I don’t know what to say.)

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And the score, y’all. It’s Danny Elfman, so it’s not really surprising that it ruled. But it freaking ruled. From the notes of respective themes that come in as undertones as characters come into play, to an orchestral tone that follows the whiplash of Raimi’s narrative one, to an actual musical battle (yes, you read that right), it’s an absolute banger of an album that I will be using as writing music for the foreseeable future. Multiverse of Madness is worth the price of admission just to hear the score and see it at work.

Raimi’s first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an imperfect one, to be sure, but it still carries a tone I’d like to see more of as the franchise continues to evolve. The messiness is almost fitting for a Doctor Strange film, though I definitely hope that the script is tighter on the next outing. I won’t spoil anything, but what I can say is that some of the dialogue is on par with the supremely cheesy Moonfall’s (a comparison that only works for the 15 people that saw Moonfall, but is apt all the same). When you’ve got talents like Olsen, Cumberbatch, and McAdams that can’t even make these lines work, it’s probably time for a revision or two.

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Verdict

Are there aspects of Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that could be better? Definitely. The script is downright hokey sometimes, and there are odd moments that are weird for the sake of it without adding anything to the overall lore or character development. That said, it’s got a score that’s to die for, some rockin’ performances, and fans will never once be bored!
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review
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7
good
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a Sam Raimi movie from top to bottom, for better and worse.
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