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(Movie Review) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Stephen Strange has been busy the last few years.  He helped the Avengers save the universe from Thanos, and then he and Spider-Man got into a little trouble with the multiverse last year.  Now the sorcerer is back with his first solo adventure since 2016, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.  Star Benedict Cumberbatch can do little wrong around here, but this movie is a disappointing mess.

Disclaimer:  We'll do our best to keep this review spoiler-free.

Plot:

The movie finds Doctor Strange having to save a mysterious girl named America Chavez, who is currently being chased across different universes by an evil force seeking to steal Chavez's power.  He calls in Wanda Maximoff (who is fresh off of her emotional story in WandaVision.)  Strange's efforts take him across multiple universes, as he, and various versions of his allies, try to protect Chavez.

Observations:

  • This movie reportedly had extensive reshoots, and they're painfully obvious.  Right out of the gate, there are sequences where character appearances don't stay consistent and conversations are choppy.  There's also an issue with outdated special effects.  The bar is high these days, but there are times when it's distractingly obvious that someone is on a wire, or that a group of people are on a large sound stage with a fake background draped behind them.  It often looks like this movie was filmed in 2002.

 

  • The story is pretty clear, although you really should watch WandaVision first.  (More on that later.)  However, parts of the dialogue are stilted at best.  Some of sillier lines are clearly meant to be funny, but some of them fall so short, you might wonder if they were part of a last-second rewrite.  There's so much material to work with when you talk about a multiverse, and this film barely scratches the surface.  The movie tries to get in some broad points about fate and an individual's control over their own destiny and happiness.  It's interesting, but we would have expected more.

 

  • We have loved Benedict Cumberbatch since his pre-Sherlock days.  There's no doubt that he's an immensely talented actor.  However, there are times where it feels like he loses his grip on the role, and maybe we're actually seeing the actor walk down the street as part of another SNL skit.  This may well be connected to the reshoots, and we're happy to give him a pass this time.  No one bats 1.000. 

 

  • It's nice to see Rachel McAdams return as Dr. Christine Palmer.  We're fans of McAdams as well, and she manages to provide a little bit of grounding to Strange's personal conflict.  It would be great if she had a much larger role in the next film (whose existence is hinted at here.)

 

  • Xochitl Gomez is fine as America Chavez, but we don't get much more from her than a brief introduction to a character who will obviously return for later adventures. 

 

  • It says "Doctor Strange" in the title, but this is Wanda Maximoff's movie.  Elizabeth Olsen is outstanding from start to finish.  You really should seek out WandaVision first before you see this movie.  Multiverse of Madness shows her still struggling with her huge losses in that series.  She makes terrible decisions in this movie, but they're born out of an understandable pain.  Olsen carries the weight of this movie on her back, and she is almost enough to forget all of the other issues.

 

  • There are a number of cameos.  That should be one of the best parts about this story - you can throw the door wide open to all sorts of future story possibilities, and that's why these folks are here.  From our perspective, most of these folks come and go without making much of an impact.  One is a much thinner appearance than we would have liked.  The other is a horrific casting decision, and we urge Marvel to change it before it's too late for that chapter of the MCU.

 

  • Director Sam Rami tried to make a Marvel horror movie.  That's a tough lift, and we give him credit for trying, but it doesn't work.  What we results is a gorier than usual Marvel movie, but there's no real sense of horror to it.  Danny Elfman's overbearing soundtrack works overtime to try to build up the suspense, fear, drama, what have you, but it can't get the job done. 

 

  • Even the mid-closing credits scene is annoying, because it negates the impact of the ending of the movie.  Who approved that one?

 

Conclusion:

We have been looking forward to this movie for months.   Giving a Benedict Cumberbatch movie a good grade is usually an easy call, but no magic can make that happen this time.  Maybe the third film will go smoother and deliver a better experience. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gets a B/B-, and it probably would have been much lower  if not for Elizabeth Olsen's powerhouse performance. 

 

Doctor Strange Multiverse of MadnessThis is not Doctor Strange's best universe at the moment.  (pic via indianexpress.com)

 

 

 

 

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