With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel Studios delivers one of its most creative movies yet. Doctor Strange always lent itself to impressive imagery but this is a film which manages to bring the mind-bending and reality warping of the first movie and combine it with great visuals, impressive action set-pieces and most uniquely of all, elements of horror, which help this movie stand-out within this epic franchise.
This is because director Sam Raimi delves into what he is best known for. Raimi’s creativity is clearly all over the movie, from the inventive scares, the rating-stretching violence and gore and of course, a good line in dark humour in places. This combined gives Doctor Strange a feel of something different, and special, within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and becomes a better movie for it.
The old formula and successfully tried and tested ideas are still there but better hidden. The story is a quest movie, albeit one which branches across the Multiverse (a concept introduced in Spider-Man: No Way Home but used to much better effect here) but ultimately boils down to hero and villain both need a MacGuffin and fight in many different ways to get it. The difference here is how well hidden the usual tropes are beneath a franchise which leans into its recent past. It feels more creatively free.
With the idea of a Multiverse is a whole host of interesting elements which means the story twists and turns. As each new universe is visited or hinted at, new characters, or at least versions of characters, are also introduced. Benedict Cumberbatch is clearly very comfortable playing Doctor Strange but here we see many versions of the hero, both good and evil, which you can clearly see he relishes.
That enjoyment goes for all the returnees. Benedict Wong gets the most to do as namesake Wong, delving into the action and delivering lines and reactions that have made him a fan favourite. Chiwetel Ejiofer plays a slightly different version of his character but adds gravitas to his scenes. It is Elizabeth Olson that continues to impress though, making Wanda Maximoff, or Scarlet Witch as she is mainly known in this movie, one of the most interesting and important characters in the whole franchise. She arguably gets more to do than Cumberbatch’s Strange and has the more interesting arc, one full of rage, heartfelt emotion and most importantly, a satisfying conclusion. The film also manages to give the events of WandaVision, and those that tuned into the Disney+ series, some credibility and importance.
With both Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch as two key characters in the movie, the use of impressive and very creative visuals is a must. Raimi doesn”t disappoint and there are plenty of impressive set-pieces. Battles between Strange and Strange, Scarlet Witch and a room of fantastic cameos or the surprisingly dark finale, with a very unique version of Strange, all make for one of the most visually but also fresh takes on the Marvel Universe.
Those cameos and surprises don’t disappoint either. Slightly more than just a one-scene fan service, there is plenty to digest once key characters are revealed. Their actions and impact afterwards also makes for one of the best moments of the movie. Not everything in this ilk works though, which is why it may be time to retire or rethink the use of post-credit scenes, especially when they amount to very little than a confusing reveal and cheeky smile at the camera. Gone is the impressive foreshadowing that made you excited for the next movie in the ever expanding franchise.
Overall, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Marvel’s most creative movie yet. The story is a mind-bending, exciting trip through many different worlds, meeting many key characters, and varying versions of them, in a compelling movie. Add to this some great set-pieces and one of the best Marvel villains we have had so far. Look past some rushed attempts to hint at future sequels and you have one of Marvel’s best movies in the series.
Rating – 4.5
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