Action Adventure

Review: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is a Deliriously Thrilling Mash-Up of Superhero Action and Supernatural Horror

May 3, 2022Ben MK

It may be hard to believe, but when Doctor Strange premiered in 2016, it was already the 14th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fast forward six long years and another 14 films later, and the Master of the Mystic Arts is back to reclaim top billing. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Benedict Cumberbatch reprises the titular role, donning the Cloak of Levitation once again to battle evil. But while its predecessor was tasked with ushering the realm of magic and mysticism into the MCU, the Doctor's second solo outing must contend with something even more daunting — taking the various narrative tangents from shows like WandaVision, Loki and What If...? and films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, and delivering a crowd-pleasing mash-up steeped in superhero action and supernatural horror.

It's certainly a tall order, but for director Sam Raimi, whose original Spider-Man trilogy helped lay the groundwork for what the MCU has become today, it's a challenge that he proves more than ready to overcome. And with Multiverse of Madness, we find Raimi at the top of his game, channelling everything from his past Marvel movies to his more fearsome forays into the horror genre. Whether it's a slapstick appearance from Bruce Campbell, whose cameo as a street food vendor from an alternate universe gives way to a tongue-in-cheek Army of Darkness homage, or scenes in which the skeletal appendages of dozens of ghoulish creatures threaten to pull our protagonist into the bowels of Hell, there's no denying that Raimi's trademark style and sense of humor is front and center. And as far as the storyline is concerned, viewers can rest assured, this sequel doesn't pull any punches either.

Penned by Loki creator Michael Waldron, the plot sees Stephen Strange still reeling from his failed relationship with Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), who has now moved on and married someone else. However, when a 14-year-old named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who originally hails from another version of Earth, suddenly shows up in New York City with a giant, tentacled creature giving chase, Stephen must put his emotional baggage on the back-burner, as he and the now-Sorcerer Supreme, the no-nonsense Wong (Benedict Wong), must get to the bottom of why someone wants the young woman dead. Could it be because she has the ability to traverse the multiverse? And if so, what sinister goal are they hoping to accomplish with her power? To help them unravel this mystery, Stephen reaches out to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who's also still dealing with her own emotional trauma, in the hopes that she may have some insight. But when things take an unexpected turn, will Stephen be able to resist his own dark temptations and summon the strength to defend the multiverse?

With the multiversal mayhem of No Way Home still fresh in the minds of moviegoers, what follows conjures up a comic book blockbuster that, while not quite as spectacular as the Web-Slinger's most recent adventure, manages to meet — and, in some cases, even far surpass — audience expectations. From the inclusion of fan-favorite characters from other unforeseen corners of the Marvel universe to how the film takes these familiar heroes and sets them at odds with one another in ways that most viewers won't anticipate, there's no shortage of awe-inspiring action, eye-popping visuals, and jaw-dropping moments to be found. Yet, at its heart, the movie still boils down to the stellar performances from Cumberbatch and Olsen, who elevate the story to a whole new level by bringing welcome depth, dimension and humanity to their respective roles, and oftentimes in more ways than one.

Make no mistake, the result is no small triumph. Both an over-the-top, horror-inspired romp and a poignant, heartbreaking tale of love and loss — not to mention another meticulously crafted cog in the grand design of the MCU — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is everything Marvel fans have dreamt of and more. And while not even the Time Stone can help predict what the former Sorcerer Supreme will face next time around, one thing's for certain — it will take some powerful moviemaking magic to top this one.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness releases May 6th, 2022 from Walt Disney Studios. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 6 min.

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