Friday, May 6

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Dir: Sam Raimi

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Xochitl Gómez

2h 6m

The latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands the possibilities of where these superhero films can go. With a multiverse in the narrative mix, we can have multiple Dr. Strange's or alternate worlds where events viewers have experienced alter enough to change familiarity. And, in the case of "Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," you can bring the creative genius of director Sam Raimi to incorporate his unique blend of cinematic madness into the mix. 

Madness is the best way to describe Raimi's return to the genre he had a hand in defining with films like "Darkman" and the original "Spider-Man" trilogy. The narrative is messy and convoluted from the start, with motions back to the Disney+ "WandaVision" series and the most recent "Spider-Man: No Way Home" film. But as the story settles into its multiverse theme, the exciting, exuberant style of Sam Raimi takes over, pushing the gore and horror elements about as far as any Marvel film has while also composing a frame of visuals that feels different for the Marvel cinematic style. It's refreshing watching the old tools used with new creative hands.

The film opens with alternate-universe Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) protecting a young girl with special powers named America Chavez (Xochitl Gómez) from a creature in pursuit. Things end badly, and America, who can jump from universe to universe but doesn't know how to control her power, escapes into the dimension with the familiar Stephen Strange. In this world, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), better known now as The Scarlett Witch, is still grieving the trauma of the reality she created, which ultimately came crumbling down, losing the family she so desperately wanted. America's abilities are powerful and feared, and Dr. Strange, along with ally Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), are the only ones who can help her. The two travel through numerous alternate universes in hopes of finding a solution. 

Sam Raimi composes "Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" at breakneck speed, hardly allowing any time for the viewer to get comfortable with the story before introducing either an action sequence or more exposition to race to the finish line. Raimi assumes that if you are in the theater for this film, you have watched the prerequisite shows/movies to understand the aggressive plotting. While the story is chaotic, sometimes in disarray, it utilizes the strongest characters, Dr. Strange and the Scarlett Witch, to anchor the emotions. The emphasis here leaves a problem for the newest character America Chavez, played with confidence by Xochitl Gómez, who isn't provided with many opportunities to impose emotions into the story surrounding her. 

Raimi's unique vision and style is the real champion of the film. With influences from "The Evil Dead," "Army of Darkness," and "Drag Me To Hell," Raimi pushes the film into horror movie territory with his iconic zooms, sound clashes, and mischievous use of horror mixing humor that has defined many of his movies. It's a real treat to see the director back in the comic book movie chair. 

It helps that Benedict Cumberbatch is leading the charge as the charming yet arrogant Master of the Mystical Arts, Dr. Strange. Still, the shining star of this film belongs to Elizabeth Olsen playing the vengeance-fueled Scarlett Witch. Olsen embodies a wide range of emotions, anger and rage countered by fear and sorrow. At one moment, both the chaos-magic-wielding Scarlett Witch and homemaking-mom Wanda Maximoff encounter each other; the concluding interaction is a fascinating look at the evolution of this character and the emotions that compose her entire story. 

"Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" may not execute all of its narrative ambitions consistently, but that never keeps the film from being entertaining and a fast-paced experience. Raimi's style, restrained within the Marvel Universe, still adds humor, heart, and, surprisingly, hints of horror throughout, especially in the film's second half, which feels just a tiny step away from going into the director's full signature. Hopefully, Sam Raimi returns for more of these superhero adventures. 

Monte's Rating

3.50 out of 5.00

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