Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Written by Michael Waldron
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sheila Atim, Julian Hilliard, Ako Mitchell, Momo Yeung and Daniel Swain
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.
There is something consistently wonderful about the ever expanding story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of those things is the reward of immersing oneself in that universe and being rewarded with the fruits of that investment. I say that to say this: You do have to be a fan of the MCU in order to understand and enjoy the second solo (relatively) outing of Doctor Stephen Strange on the big screen.
Multiverse of Madness does not hold your hand as it tells its story and it relies on the audience being familiar with the events of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel’s…What If? animated series, WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home to understand the characters, concepts and stakes involved in this adventure.
The movie starts with great action as a variant version of Strange (Cumberbatch) is running through a beautifully designed world with new MCU character America Chavez (Gomez) in tow. As they run from a CGI monster, Strange decides that he needs to take Chavez’ powers in order to prevent their enemy from taking it and creating one of the character defining moments of the film with Strange not being trusted because of the choices that he makes. A theme that will continue with the Strange from our universe.
In the aftermath of the battle, Chavez makes her way to our marvel universe and Strange has to leave the wedding of his former love Christine (McAdams) in order to save Chavez and fight the monster chasing her. The film has some great action sequences throughout and Raimi does something that few directors could by deftly blending horror elements throughout the plot. Multiverse of Madness is definitely a more intense marvel film and evolves a lot of its action with larger stakes and some well executed jump scares.
America Chavez has the ability to travel between worlds in the multiverse and that has made her a target of an unknown enemy using dark magic to track her and destroy anyone that gets in the way. This prompts Strange to go find Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) aka The Scarlet Witch in order to enlist her help. I have no plans to spoil the film, but there is a reveal in their scene that changes the dynamics of the movie in an interesting way. A dynamic prompted by Wanda’s experiences in WandaVision.
Strange and Wong (Wong) find themselves fighting to protect America Chavez as powerful dark magic is employed to find her and ultimately kill her. Wanda is given some great character moments in the film and an agency that makes her both profoundly scary and profoundly sympathetic.
In order to escape, Chavez transports Strange through the multiverse where we get to see different realities. The sequence was beautifully done and a wonderful mind trip for the audience. Eventually, they end up on a world where Mordo (Ejiofor) returns and introduces Strange to the Illuminati, a group of superheroes who control and protect the multiverse. There are some great cameos in this moment and one that is a definite not to fans of the MCU and fancasting in general.
The film deals with some personal issues with the characters as Strange deals with his own moral code as well as his relationship with Christine, America deals with her inability to control her powers and Wanda continues to deal with her grief and loss as she continues to look for a way to reunite with the children she created.
The movie isn’t perfect. There are some character moments that felt a little forced and some plot points that could have been settled with a conversation, but Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a bold leap forward for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and definitely an experience that is fun, funny, scary and breathtaking in its visuals, style and story.