Sam Raimi‘s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” wastes no time in living up to its title. Seconds after the Marvel Logo fades we’re hurtling through an alternate reality as a ponytailed, bi-lingual Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and a young woman we later learn to be America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) is pursued by a vicious demon. Chavez has the ability to punch through dimensions, opening star-shaped doorways through the multiverse and she is being hunted by someone, or something, that wants that ability for themselves. This chaotic opening scene sets the tone for the entire film, which never really slows down for fear of having to make sense of the plot.
Simply put, Strange and America, clumsily traverse the multiverse while he tries to enlist the aid of his friends (who are occasionally now evil), his enemies (who could be allies), and various incarnations of himself. Besides the ever-loyal Wong (Benedict Wong), first on his list is Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) who is still suffering from the repercussions of the Disney+ series “WandaVision.” Along the way he encounters some fun cameo characters, but not as many as one may hope. The trailers teased a heavy connection to the excellent “What If?” animated series, but unfortunately these tie-ins aren’t much more than fan service. The upside is, none of the Disney+ series are required viewing to enjoy this “Multiverse of Madness.” “WandaVision” definitely fills in some gaps on Scarlet Witch’s background, but still not required.
With a messy script, plot holes aplenty, and rather misleading trailers, what keeps this film at a 4-star rating? Simply put, it’s a lot of fun. Strange’s action scenes are clever and show off his flair for the dramatic. Danny Elfman‘s score is exceptional. He’s reveling in the task he was given and even pays homage to some memorable character themes in key moments. One scene that combines both a battle and Elfman’s score is a literal “music fight.” (Check out “Lethal Symphonies” on the soundtrack for a preview.)
What makes this movie even more unique and enjoyable is that it is truly a Sam Raimi film on a studio’s budget. Sure, he’s done studio films before, but they’ve often held him back. The first half of this film feels a lot like Raimi‘s “Spiderman 2”, but the second half is essentially Marvel’s take on “The Evil Dead.” (There’s even a fun callback to a famous fight scene in “Evil Dead 2.”
Yes, it’s messy and doesn’t carry the heaviness of everything that led up to “Endgame.” But “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a lot of fun, tosses us horror fans a bone, and is a great way to spend a couple of hours in the theater.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness