Review: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

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Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’. (Marvel)

Ibrahim Ali

The wait is finally over as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) newest movie, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’, has arrived in theaters.

It was not the movie most audiences, including myself, expected to see, but I think the MCU’s latest blockbuster shows great promise for the future of the franchise despite its flaws.

The movie is directed by veteran superhero director, Sam Raimi, who was brought on board to direct after the director of the first “Doctor Strange” movie, Scott Derrickson, left the project.

For fans of Raimi’s previous work like the “Evil Dead” franchise, and the original “Spider-Man” trilogy starring Tobey Macguire, this is a delightful treat.

 

From the mind-bending movements of the camera to the stunning visuals and unique editing style, it has Sam Raimi written all over it.

This has cemented the movie as the MCU’s first venture into the horror genre, which Raimi is known for, and he uses his whole bag of tricks to make it Marvel’s scariest movie.

Though it was given a PG-13 rating, a few gory moments and violent killings make it unlike anything the MCU has ever shown on the big screen, and it may be especially frightening for young children.

All of this is somewhat new territory for the MCU which, despite being the biggest franchise and movie series in the world, is still doing new things by exploring different genres. In the last year, Marvel Studios released a sitcom, political drama, crime thriller, animated anthology, martial arts movie, and now a horror film.

The movie also features a lot of creative and unique action scenes that include horror elements, which gives it its own distinct flavor.

Though some audiences might be turned away by what this movie represents, I find Marvel’s experimentation exciting.

However, I believe the franchise still works because it still tells compelling stories, which ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ manages to do.

The movie focuses on Doctor Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, after the events of a previous MCU movie ‘Avengers: Endgame’.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’. (Total Film)

Strange is forced to confront his personal weaknesses when he discovers the new threats posed by multiple universes and is obligated to protect newcomer, America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, from a dangerous villain who is chasing her.

To do this, Strange requests the help of Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, who recently became a prophesied figure: The Scarlet Witch.

What follows is a wacky adventure through multiple universes that cause the three to discover personal truths about themselves.

Though Strange’s character arc is interesting, the star of the show for me is Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. This movie represents the culmination of a journey for the character that started in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” all the way back in 2015.

The world of the MCU has given nothing to Wanda Maximoff but pain. Before the events of this movie, her parents were killed during a period of war when she was a child. She was subjected to torture and experiments that unwillingly gave her superpowers, her brother was killed in battle, she failed to save civilians from an explosion, and she was forced to kill the android Vision, whom she loved.

To cope with all of her grief, she created a false reality called The Hex in which she lived a life with Vision and their pair of imaginary twin boys during the events of the Disney+ series “WandaVision”. Eventually, she had to give up her new life to save the people caught in the crossfire.

In this movie, she is in a darker place than she has ever been before and Elizabeth Olsen plays her to perfection.

In my opinion, Olsen delivered the best performance of the movie as a grieving mother and wife cursed with powers that she could not control, and is deserving of an Academy Award nomination.

Though many were eagerly anticipating the movie to have major consequences for the future of the MCU, they instead got a fairly straightforward and self-contained story about the main trio of Doctor Strange, America Chavez, and Scarlet Witch.

However, there are a fair share of surprise appearances in the movie that resulted in wild cheers and applause from the theater I watched it in. There was just enough to satisfy me, but not too much to overpower the movie.

A lot of people such as myself enjoyed the movie, but it has received more conflicting reactions than previous MCU movies.

I personally felt the movie slowed down during the middle and some of the writing in that section could have been improved.

Similarly, it moved too fast at other points and did not give the emotional moments enough time to sink in.

The film also could have used an additional few minutes to create a more satisfying conclusion and I generally was not on board with some of its creative decisions.

Moreover, it simply did not explore all the crazy possibilities available in a setting like the Marvel multiverse outside of one memorable sequence.

However, these common criticisms did not prevent ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ from being a success as it earned  $185 million at the box office in the US and Canada in its opening weekend, which is the second biggest opening of the pandemic behind ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ and the biggest of the year so far.

As audiences continue to flock to theaters to watch ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’, the experience will live up to the hype for some while not meeting the expectations of others.

However, regardless of how this movie is remembered in the future, it represents something special for the MCU.

It means the biggest enterprise in entertainment that has usually played it safe can be bold enough to stray away from the established formula to take risks, go in different directions, try new things and allow talented artists to create their own vision.

The way I see it, that is something worth getting excited about.