Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters this weekend and sees the culmination of the chaos that was set up in WandaVision, Loki, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. When demons enter the universe, they soon make it apparent they’re chasing a young girl, America Chavez (Xochitl Goméz), who can punch star-shaped portals into other universes. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) realize that someone is unleashing chaos from behind the scenes, prompting Strange to seek the help of his friend and former teammate, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen).
Soon, Strange and America Chavez find themselves hurtling through the multiverse in an attempt to figure out how to stop the foe pursuing them across multiple universes. Along the way, they’re aided by other universal variants of people they already know, including Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). But with their adversary being so powerful, there might not be anyone in any universe powerful enough to stop them–not even Doctor Strange.
Read on for three reasons to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when it hits theaters this Friday.
It’s Sam Raimi In All The Best Ways
There are few directors out there whose style is so unique that you can immediately pick up their fingerprints on a movie. Sam Raimi is just such a filmmaker, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has his distinct flourishes all over it. Admittedly, Doctor Strange’s second solo movie takes a while to find its footing. It suffers from the conundrum that most post-Disney+ Marvel show movies will have: Should the script be written for those who have seen the previous Disney+ shows and already know the background context, or should it be written for those who haven’t? To the detriment of the film, the first act leans too heavily into the latter. Still once Sam Raimi is fully allowed to do his thing and Doctor Strange 2 gets going, it really gets going.
Raimi’s trademark touches litter the movie, and his deep love of comics that have so influenced his visual style works really well here. Slightly distorted, fisheye lens shots and his love of the quick, close-up zoom and swirling action shots help to accentuate the chaotic feeling of a number of scenes. Don’t think that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a movie that takes itself overly seriously, though. Raimi is at his best when he’s also balancing action and horror with a bit of slapstick, and that’s exactly what the sequel does, especially in the latter half. Doctor Strange 2‘s best moments are when it makes irreverent winks at the audience (both figuratively and, in some cases, literally), letting you know that it knows exactly what it is. It’s a movie based on one of the weirdest, most out-there characters in the Marvel universe, after all. Despite his grandiosity, there’s always been something a little goofy about plenty of Doctor Strange’s adventures in the comics, and Sam Raimi (and writer Michael Waldron) not only remember that, but let the audience know it’s okay to know it, as well.
You Want Horror Elements? You’ve Got ‘Em.
Despite those zany, comedic flourishes, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness also strongly showcases Raimi’s other strength: horror. While it’s maybe not quite correct to call it a pure horror film, there are definitely more than a few jumpscares and creepy moments throughout. There are more than a few strong parallels to elements from Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell and his Evil Dead series, ranging from genuinely unsettling to a little cheekier and reminiscent of the Deadites in Army of Darkness.
But Raimi reserves most of the horror for Wanda. The terrifying potential of a version of the Scarlet Witch without scruples or boundaries is fully realized here: not the loving mother of WandaVision or the fierce Avenger who fought for her teammates, but a Wanda Maximoff left with nothing but the evil influence of the Darkhold spellbook to fill her emptiness with black magic and obsession. Raimi’s horror background is put to good use in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Scarlet Witch is genuinely terrifying, at times moving in a skittering, not-quite-human way, popping out of the shadows, or casually flexing her immense, murderous power. She is relentless and remorseless in a way we’ve not yet seen in a Marvel antagonist. Thanos liked to believe he was inevitable; the Scarlet Witch actually is. It’s an interesting twist that reminds us of just how destructive these heroes could be if they are led astray.
It Has Some Of The MCU’s Trippiest Visuals Yet
Naturally, a movie dealing with the multiverse would be expected to have some weird and trippy visuals, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness certainly does. America Chavez and Doctor Strange crash through multiple realms that are outside human understanding, but, surprisingly, the multiverse is the least interesting part of the visual adventure. In one scene, peas move around on a plate in stop-motion animation and a mug of coffee crashes like waves in a storm-tossed ocean in clever little moments. A fight between two versions of Doctor Strange is one of the more visually interesting fights the MCU has seen in a while, with Danny Elfman’s playful, dynamic score becoming part of the scene and elevating the imaginative fight. Raimi also clearly had a lot of fun with creepy creature effects and body horror, creating moments that are at times jarring and at other times a load of campy fun. For the faint-hearted, there are some genuinely gnarly deaths, so fair warning to you.
That’s not to say there aren’t some serious flaws with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The first part of the film struggles with the necessity shared by all Marvel movies to tie itself back to the larger MCU. When studios hire Sam Raimi to direct a superhero movie, it’s wisest to just step back and let him do his thing, and Doctor Strange 2 doesn’t do that nearly early enough in its runtime. Still, once it takes the training wheels off and really gets into the fun of it, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a solid and genuinely entertaining entry into the MCU. It will likely not be exactly what you were expecting, and that’s not a bad thing.