The dark and messy Doctor Strange sequel brings horror-tinged multiversal chaos to the MCU
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, and Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Sam Raimi
am Raimi brings a touch of horror to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a busy, interweaving sequel that takes some beloved characters on a dark journey and has enough surprises up its sleeve to please fans of the behemoth franchise.
The latest entry in the long-running series lives up to its title, as Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) faces off against a force more powerful than anything else in the universe: a woman’s love for her children, even if they are but a figment of her own imagination.
The action commences with the arrival of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager who can leap between universes and is being chased by demons because of her multiverse-hopping powers. She is rescued by Doctor Strange, with help from Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong). Sensing witchcraft is at play, Strange seeks the counsel of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), only to realize that she might be the very person causing the multiversal chaos.
Wanda’s arc from the Disney+ series WandaVision is central to the tale, as the film continues her tragic story of grief and delusion. This may be a Doctor Strange movie – and yes, Cumberbatch is terrific as the titular character who appears here in various incarnations – but it is Elizabeth Olsen who effortlessly steals the entire show, bringing both fierceness and poignancy to her character as she yearns to be reunited with her magically manifested children, her sorrow-stricken mind refusing to believe that they are not real.
Olsen is absolutely terrific in her role, even when the film around her isn’t quite as solid as some of the MCU’s strongest instalments. There are times when the chaotic storyline seems to be all over the place, and it sometimes feels like the movie takes more than a few pages from The Suicide Squad handbook. But the action-packed instalment does offer a horror leaning that feels unique within the MCU, and Raimi’s touch is palpable throughout the adventure; admirers of his work will certainly appreciate what he brings to the project. Multiverse of Madness isn’t the perfect superhero movie and perhaps it isn’t quite as satisfying as you would hope, but it has enough moments of, well, madness to keep things interesting, even if it leaves you with the sense that a bit more polish (especially when it comes to the screenplay) could have made some of the elements more convincing.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection