It’s kind of hard to imagine that the first Doctor Strange movie came out way back in 2016. That it has already been six years since we were first introduced to doctor Stephen Strange and his magical abilities. The reason why this period doesn’t feel so long as it is, is because Strange has been popping up in several other MCU movies since then. He played a big part in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, as well as Spider-Man: Now Way Home. Just a mere four months after appearing in the latter movie he’s back in his own movie: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
In the Multiverse of Madness Doctor Strange comes across a teenage girl named America with the ability to travel across multiverses. An ability she can’t control and can only use when she’s extremely scared. After saving her from a giant intergalactic one-eyed octopus, Doctor Strange turns to Wanda Maximoff for help, only to find out that she’s actually behind the attack and wants America so she can travel to a multiverse in which she can take the place of another Wanda who has two living kids.
If this sounds confusing to you, you might want to check up on the TV-show Wandavision on Disney+. Which brings me to the problem the MCU now has.
The MCU used to be this relatively simple construct. Characters have their own movie with an end credit scene that tied the movie to other movies. The Avengers was a culmination of all the previous movies, but you only would have had to see five movies that have been released over the course of four years. Today there are about three MCU movies each year and about the same amount of TV-shows on Disney+. All interconnected.
Some YT-channel like Pitch Meeting or Honest Trailers once called the MCU “the most expensive TV-show” and they’re right. At this point it’s impossible to watch a Marvel movie without having seen about 25 other movies and six TV-shows. This also makes a review of these movies the ultimate personal view. My review of In the Multiverse of Madness is based upon the fact that I have seen all the previous Marvel Movies and Disney+ TV-shows. My advice upfront is: watch the other movies Doctor Strange is in and Wandavision then come back to this movie.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a wild ride, but one that doesn’t live up to expectations. Expectations that were pretty high considering this movie follows the excellent Spider-Man: Now Way Home, another movie dealing with multiverses and also featuring Doctor Strange.
The whole multiverse aspect is a bit of false advertising. They sold the movie on Doctor Strange going to all sorts of alternative universes. He does during one montage, but he and America mostly hang around in just one other universe. A universe that isn’t that much different than the main universe. In this universe the red and green lights of traffic lights have been swapped and pizza comes in the shape of balls. It’s not like they’re in a universe where they’re made out of paint or are hand-drawn, as is shown in a montage.
Director Sam Raimi returns to superhero movies after directing the 00’s Spider-Man trilogy. He still brings a kinetic approach to shooting scenes, giving the MCU some of it most interesting visuals as well as long-time collaborator Bruce Campbell. It’s Raimi’s approach that makes the movie actually interesting and brutal even. In the Multiverse of Madness is Marvel’s first horror movie and with veteran Raimi behind the camera the PG-13 rating is pushed to its limit. Necks are snapped, people crushed and one head even implodes on itself. The third act even features a zombie version of Doctor Strange and a whole bunch of demons that seem to have been taken out of the Evil Dead movies.
For once the finale was the best part of a Marvel movie. Usually this act is reserved for a big uninspired CGI fight. But with Raimi behind the wheel, the finale is a bonkers ride which will not be to everyone’s taste. While I loved Raimi’s zaniness, my girlfriend hated this movie. At first she considered it to be a pure kids movie when Doctor Strange battles a giant octopus during the opening scene, but when the movie shifted to a Marvel rendition of the Evil Dead she called it quits and walked out. She loved No Way Home by the way, so this is a very divisive movie.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a movie that is certainly not for everyone. The youngest Marvel fans might find this movie to be scary. In a way this movie is the Batman Returns of the MCU; it’s dark, crazy and a lot more brutal that the average Marvel movie. But that’s what I love about this movie, even though the movie fails on other aspects like the plot, which is kind of flimsy. It’s basically a 2 hour chase movie like The Terminator. In fact there is scene in which an alternative Wanda is being mind controlled by our universe’s Wanda and she behaves just like the Terminator. A silent killing machine, murdering anyone who comes between her and her targets.
It might not be the best MCU movie, but it certainly is one of the most interesting ones.