From: Silver Screen

REVIEW: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is visually intriguing but fails to achieve the MCU standard

REVIEW: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is visually intriguing but fails to achieve the MCU standard

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

This review contains spoilers from “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “WandaVision.”

The sudden thump of hearts, rush of adrenaline and the thick anticipation as the loud, booming sound of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s introduction sequence flashes up on the screen is a common phenomenon amongst the franchise’s ardent fans. This is true for Marvel’s newest installment, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” This suspense was heightened by the film’s repeatedly delayed release date due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the high expectations that this movie garnered were hard to reach as the film took an untraditional route in its directorial style, fight sequences and plot continuity and the film ultimately failed to meet expectations.

To understand this film, it’s important for moviegoers to have an understanding of the Stephen Strange storyline. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who loses everything after a car accident damages the nerves in his hands. In his first film, “Doctor Strange,” he uses ancient magic and becomes a sorcerer who helps defend New York from evil beings, a storyline which would carry throughout a number of subsequent Marvel movies. However, in the new film, he is faced with fighting creatures from other universes, other versions of himself and the largest villain of all: Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).

Marvel has been known for integrating its past movies into its current films to enrich the viewing experience. However, this is the first Marvel film that draws heavily on one of the studio’s miniseries. A viewing of “WandaVision” is important for viewers who wish to fully understand the pain that Wanda is going through in this film — and her motivation behind wreaking havoc. 

Olsen’s acting is impeccable as she goes through a range of emotions and showcases the vast power the Scarlet Witch holds. At many points it seems that “Wanda Maximoff in the Multiverse of Madness” would be a more apt name for the film. Still, the vilification of a former hero feels out of place as Wanda’s arc in “WandaVision” relies on her realizing the wrongness of her past actions and coming to terms with losing her loved ones. While “WandaVision” ends with Wanda embracing her powers for good, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” disregards this emotional healing and character arc by making her the villain once more for the same reasons. 

Marvel devotees will note the cameo appearances of characters like Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). But ultimately their appearances do not live up to the hype the film created, particularly in regard to potential cameo performances. With the possibilities afforded by the multiverse, the filmmakers could have brought back whichever characters they wanted, alive or dead. Thus, the anticipation of seeing beloved lost Avengers like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) or the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) was looming but ultimately unfulfilled.

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America Chavez’s (Xochitl Gomez) character is another disappointment of the film. Although this film marks her first appearance in the MCU, her character’s only power is the ability to travel through the multiverse, and even this capability is only achieved by accident. Compared to Wanda’s immense strength and Doctor Strange’s evolved magic, Chavez’s powers are belittled, and her involvement seems unnecessary considering the possibilities dream walking allows.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, the directorial skills of Sam Raimi are unmistakable and push the boundaries of the film’s PG-13 rating. Raimi infuses interesting and often graphic elements of horror into the film, something Marvel normally shies away from. This addition was new and refreshing, adding an enlivening element to Marvel’s typical style.

Sadly, the film is chock full of hit or miss scenes. Sequences vary often in quality. Many great moments of CGI and action are bogged down by a tired script and strange visual effects seemingly out of place in such a high-budgeted movie.

Overall, the film is a letdown following the hype it received. However, stellar acting performances from some MCU legends, a new directorial style for Marvel and its references to previous Marvel movies still make it a movie to watch.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opened in theaters on May 6.

gdinardo@theeagleonline.com


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