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Movie Review: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Works Because of Sam Raimi’s Wild Spirit

Movie Review: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Works Because of Sam Raimi’s Wild Spirit

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: Michael Waldron

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong

Synopsis: Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff

In 2002, when director Sam Raimi directed the first incarnation of Spider-Man, there was no way of knowing that 20 years would go by and the comic book genre would dominate the modern blockbuster landscape the way that it has. But outside of a few features from both the MCU and DC, there haven’t been many who have captured the magic, wonder, and vision of what Raimi brought to the original Spider-Man trilogy. With his background in horror and comedy, his sensibilities as a director brought something exciting to a newly explored genre, and with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, his return brings a jolt of chaotic, fun energy that has been desperately missing in superhero movies. In doing this, Raimi’s style is the catalyst for why this film is one of the best MCU to date.

Picking up after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is trying to pick up the pieces of his life he left behind in order to become a Master of the Mystic Arts. In a relative time of peace, he starts to see visions of a cosmic universe, where he witnesses a version of himself who has to help a young girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) escape the clutches of evil beings trying to drain her of her powers, which is the ability to jump from any multiverse she wants with just a single punch. Strange, thinking this is all a dream, gets dressed, and heads to the wedding of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), the love of his life and the girl who got away. Everything is going well, until a portal opens, and America is seen fighting off a giant monster in the middle of NYC. Strange, alongside Wong (Benedict Wong), helps vanquish the creature and assist America in finding a way to control her powers, as well as find a way to understand the multiverse more than the very little they know.

In order to fully understand the power that America wields, Strange seeks out an old friend, and former Avenger, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). When we last saw Wanda, she was grieving the loss of Vision and the children that she created in the Marvel TV show WandaVision, and found some dark powers within her to form the Scarlet Witch, a powerful witch capable of destroying everything in her path to get what she wants. When Strange realizes what Wanda has become, no longer seeing the good that was once in her, it sets off a chain of events to get America out of harm’s way from Wanda, in this universe and beyond.

From the jump, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an adrenaline rush built on the backbone of craftsmen who understand what they are doing. Throughout many of the Marvel films over the last fifteen years, creatives behind the camera have had to give into the machine-like nature of Marvel, with fans and spectators having to stretch their imaginations in order to find a hint of a director’s personality within their film. Most of this has been attributed to producer Kevin Feige and Marvel’s episodic nature which allows their template to make it easy for anyone to slip into and make a name for themselves (looking at you Jon Watts). But when you hire Sam Raimi to make your movie, there is no hiding his flare for the theatrics, which is a perfect combination of playful humor alongside possessed beings, terrifying zoom-ins, campy visuals, and enough heart to tie it all together. There is a personality to this movie, a vibe that has been missing from cinemas since Raimi was banished for making the flop, Oz the Great and Powerful. With this return, Raimi has delivered the best direction anyone has delivered within the MCU, and has shown the world once again that he is the real king of the comic book genre. 

Alongside Raimi’s stellar direction lies two fantastic performances from Cumberbatch and Olsen. When we first met these two characters, they were middle of the road superheroes, who served a purpose to bridge us to the next chapter of the Avengers storyline, thus not being able to make a real impact. But over the course of time, and various films and a television series, we’ve grown attached to Strange, as he is struggling with keeping everything together while trying to understand what it must take for him to grow as a not just a hero, but as a man, and with Wanda, to understand why she has gone to the dark side. Her actions are sinister yet justifiable and thus make for compelling stakes when you realize that it is a movie about two broken people trying to mend their broken hearts and minds.

There are issues with the film. This movie continues the franchises trend of having the usual Marvel trappings of too many side characters with nothing to do, cameos that are only inserted to appease the fans, lack of stakes, over explanation in the dialogue, as well as an underwritten portrayal of America Chavez. Yet, whenever an issue came up, Raimi seemed to swoop in with something dazzling or inventive enough to keep me engaged and happy overall. 

 

Grade: B

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