When we talk about cinema, we’re talking about storytellers and, with a storyteller, comes a point of view—a style.
This has been the case since the beginning of time. Not only in cinema, but in all forms of art. Real art always makes you feel the artist’s presence. Such is the case with Sam Raimi. I’ve known him for his Spider-Man films, and “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness” feels like it jumped out of that world and into the MCU.
The iconic angles and signature shots make their way into the multiverse giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) a new look with vibrant colors that feel fresh and necessary after years of dull cement grayish grading. I’m a fan of noir color palettes but this film feels very distinct with the shades.
The movie was colorful over-all and dark when the scene demanded, which perfectly describes the tone of this film. The dialogue writing feels a bit amateurish but still works, even with the quips they try to pull off. There isn’t any forced comedy in this film, which is a huge improvement from the MCU franchise.
The CGI is noticeable, but it works with the classic look they were attempting to achieve. Rather than the modern world, this really does feel like it’s set in the “Raimiverse,” so I wouldn’t call it bad. It worked for me, unlike most other MCU films, which feel like they were shot entirely on green screen. The interdimensional and multiversal travel scenes are incredible.
As impressive as the film’s cinematography is, the score is as generic as it gets. I was a big fan of Michael Giacchino’s score for the first “Doctor Strange” film, which felt fresh and original. Something this film lacked. The score was so disappointing that the best parts of the film were the ones where everything is silent.
Direction is remarkable but the action choreography could’ve been better. The characters, Including Wanda and Stephen, feel underutilized. The battle could’ve been massive but, instead, it was a little underwhelming.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange is a perfect casting and he continues to prove so. I loved seeing different versions of him throughout the Multiverse. As a character arc, it felt as if there was some missing potential. This may possibly be because of the rushed runtime of the film. There could’ve been better decisions taken, which I’ll further elaborate on when we come to the plot.
Elizabeth Olsen is perfect as Wanda Maximoff. It felt like a natural progression with her arc, even if there was a gap between where her arc ended in “WandaVision” and how it began in this film. Throughout the film, her pain, love and anger felt very justified. A mother’s love for her children, and a child’s love for their mother, are powerful story-telling drivers, especially if you enjoy Indian cinema. The climax of her character arc in this film felt very similar to “Spider-Man 2.” It was Raimi magic at its finest!
Benedict Wong as Wong is seriously being underutilized at this point. There’s nothing that even remotely feels like “Sorcerer Supreme” in him. The character simply exists here for a few laughs, but Wong was more useful in this film than the first one. His appearances in every film in-between felt like a waste. This one did too, but not that much. He could’ve had a really good arc if he wasn’t shown off as a goofy character.
Xochitl Gomez is an excellent choice for America Chavez. I only know Chavez because of this film, and I like it as an interpretation. Her arc’s progression felt natural, and this may be one of the few times Marvel has introduced a character before having a solo film, and one of the few characters whose story I’m actually interested in seeing develop.
I never felt that way about Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, or any other Marvel character because they never presented a need for a story. They only have solo movies because they can afford to make them. No, forcing arcs does not qualify. I’m glad Raimi broke that stereotype by giving Chavez a story and bringing her from fear to confidence, leaving her at a point where they can take her on a new path to connect the story with her origin.
The current Marvel phase is uninteresting, with “WandaVision” being a good addition, “Loki” being an interesting concept and “Eternals” having a good potential for how they addressed the grand scheme with Arishem’s call for judgment in the future. The rest of the slate, including “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” disappointed me, so “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” feels like a huge improvement, and a show or movie centered on America Chavez would be something I’d be interested in.
It’s fast-paced, but it’s enjoyable, and I don’t think it has much to do with any storyline other than “WandaVision,” which is questionable given that the trailer made it appear as if everything was happening because of the events in “No Way Home,” what if, “Loki” and “WandaVision” which is very disappointing. It would’ve been so awesome to have Jeffery Wright have a conversation with Strange or simply have some connection with the previously introduced characters.
Though I believe the film would have benefited greatly by being at least two and a half hours long because this eliminates a lot of necessary breathing space, which sometimes takes away the emotional depth of certain moments.
This film is very Snyderian, and by that I mean, it needs a director’s cut. When it comes to the arcs, I believe it would have been more beneficial to the character’s journey for Christine and America to see that this Strange is different from the rest by having him destroy the Darkhold throughout the Multiverse after its use. Wanda’s sacrifice is reminiscent of Doctor Octopus redeeming himself in “Spider-Man 2.”
“Killing” her was a wise decision because, according to the universe 616 theme, Wanda is the only one who is twisted. She messes up the equation of that universe by being evil, and having her realize this and take the necessary steps to restore balance was a much-needed climax, and while I believe Wanda could’ve had a much more prominent arc, it’d be wise in the honor of the storyline to keep her dead even though we didn’t see her die.
I never knew America Chavez, but seeing her character develop in one film was very satisfying. I’d be very interested in following her progress. The only thing that bothers me is how they progressed from her realizing she has control to her opening the portal. It would have been much more impactful if Wanda and her could have had a conversation during the fight about why Wanda did what she did, and then maybe Chavez would understand that Wanda needs closure with her children, and then she’d open the portal. If there was ever going to be an extended cut, it might be able to fix that.
When it comes to cameos, there are two possibilities. Even though I was pleased to see the ones we got, I felt they were completely wasted. On the other hand, it helped to demonstrate how threatening the Scarlet Witch is. It would have been more epic if they had fought fairly before they died. Reed Richards and Blackagar Boltagon (Blackbolt) were a no-show while Professor X was simply embarrassing. Having two God-like beings not fight at all is a huge letdown. I’d like to see the X-Men show up and Krasinski keep playing Reed Richards, even though it was quite embarrassing to see the smartest man in the world expose his biggest power card just like that.
The film relies heavily on suspension of disbelief, and one question that I couldn’t stop thinking about was why they didn’t look for a universe where Wanda’s children are alive but Wanda isn’t, and they need a mother. Seeing her breakdown, realizing how much of a threat she had become, and sacrificing herself so that no one else would be tempted to use the Darkhold’s power was incredible. Since the film is very short and fast paced, potential emotional connections that could’ve been built weren’t, which is what makes the film seem very abrupt with its decisions.
It was also amazing to see Doctor Strange use the Darkhold and dreamwalk. I’m not sure how I feel about Clea’s (Charlez Theron) cameo at the end and how he ends up with the third eye, but it would be fun to further explore.
Traveling through the multiverse was easily one of my favorite scenes, mainly because there was silence that brought some gravity to the moment, which Elfman’s score certainly did not. It was weird to not see White Vision at any point of time in the film, not even in the multiverse.
The stronghold build-up at Kamar-Taj could have been much more powerful if it hadn’t been so goofy and toned down, but I loved the scene. The fight with Sinister Strange could have been better as well, but it was underutilized. If this film were to be extended, I believe a montage showing the path of Wanda and Sinister Strange driving into madness due to their respective stories and that playing a role in the climax would be more effective than being toned down completely. It builds up to something but doesn’t live up to it.
Overall, this film feels like a great experiment by Marvel, and they should try to bring Raimi back for more, but it would be much more beneficial if they gave the creators more control over the final product instead of adding a million studio additions to make it more commercial. Nonetheless, I’d give this film three out of five stars and hope to see Raimi return to the game. He has a unique style and it’s great to hear a creator’s voice in a creation.