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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

From the very opening moments of DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS I felt a prickling sense of unease. After watching over twenty entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve experienced brief moments of what I’ve dubbed as “superhero fatigue,” but they have been surprisingly fleeting. For the most part, the MCU has soared, delivering hit after hit while continuously keeping the audience engaged and entertained. Just prior to the release of MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME established itself as one of the best entries in the entire catalogue, soaring to inconceivable heights in action, humor, and thrills.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) wakes up from the terrifying dream with a overwhelming sense of unease. What he doesn’t know, is that this wasn’t just a simple nightmare. What he was envisioning was another Stephen Strange in the multiverse who actually fought (and lost) this killer creature. Shortly thereafter, the city is attacked by a different monster, and as he battles it, he sees the gal from his dreams. The beast seems bent on finding her specifically, and after Strange and his pal Wong (Benedict Wong) gruesomely defeat the tentacled cyclops, he finally meets the young woman whose name is America Chavez.

MADNESS begins with the dial cranked to 11. The snarkiest of AVENGERS (now that Tony Stark is out of the picture) and a mysterious girl (Xochitl Gomez) find themselves in an intense battle with a raging monster, navigating a world that is filled with trippy visuals and plenty of peril. Sure, it looked cool, but the CGI effects weren’t quite as seamless as they have been in the past, and I truly believed if I looked hard enough I’d be able to see the green screen. It was like walking into the room while one of my kids was playing a particularly well-designed video game, as if the MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS was brought to you by Xbox.

America has the ability to travel throughout the multiverse, but cannot control when these jumps happen. They occur when she is terrified and considering that she is being hunted by a malevolent entity, it is starting to happen with a fairly regular occurrence. Now that she is in our beloved Strange’s world, things are going to get a lot more complicated.

Ever since the events that took place in WANDAVISION, Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) has been unable to let go of her children that existed in Westview. She knows they are out there somewhere, and she will do anything to get back to them. This includes embracing an evil entity that exacerbates her powers, allowing her to transform into the Scarlet Witch, an all powerful being that has the ability to destroy virtually everything that stands in her way.

Director Sam Raimi has plenty of experience in the superhero realm. He directed each installment of the Toby Maguire-led SPIDER-MAN films, which at the time, were revolutionary in their own right. He is a visionary filmmaker with a unique flair for delivering over-the-top sequences and bestowing audiences with the greatness known as Bruce Campbell. The interesting thing about the execution in MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, though, is that it feels a lot more like DRAG ME TO HELL than it does SPIDER-MAN. There are scenes in this iteration of DOCTOR STRANGE that are amongst the most violent we have seen in the MCU. Given the fact that we already dealt with Thanos and his penchant for genocide, the fact that the gratuity has been dialed up a notch will not sit well with everyone.

There are moments of MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS that are absolutely dazzling. One sequence in particular, in which our heroes are travelling through a litany of universes, stands as one of the highlights of the entire production. There are spectacular cameos that have likely already been spoiled for you, and the performance by Gomez is particularly good. Joining the MCU as a central character is no easy task, and the teen carries this burden with impeccable ease. For the most part, however, the latest installment in the Marvel juggernaut doesn’t have the same spark that has made many of the others so spectacular. There are multiple moments that are meant to be serious, and yet are ludicrous to the point of distraction. The previously mentioned sense of video-game inspiration permeated throughout most of running time. Wanda made for a maniacal villain, but for a character driven by love, her humanity was completely non-existent. This is no fault of Olson, who was excellent as always, but the story provided. She was like a supernatural terminator without the quippy taglines. Sure, her body and spirit were being possessed by evil, but even Thanos had dimension.

While I certainly didn’t mind going along for the ride, I already find myself hoping that the upcoming THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER will bring a bit more to the table.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERE OF MADNESS: GRADE: C+

RATED: PG-13
RUN TIME: 2h 6min
GENRE: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
STARRING: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor
DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
WRITER: Michael Waldron

Brian Miller