By this point, you would think that there wouldn’t be anything too divisive coming out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Know for just how well they’ve ironed our the formulas of their films (I think it’s a good thing) even the likes of Chloe Zhao couldn’t break the mold very much. You also wouldn’t think the godfather of the modern superhero movie, Sam Raimi, would be the guy to deliver a divisive film either given he basically established the genre with his Spider-Man films. You finally wouldn’t think that Doctor Strange would be the character to deliver what is probably going to be the first Marvel film that people either love or hate considering how milk toast the first film was.
However, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is going to be really divisive. It is the kind of film that people who like it are really going to like it and those who don’t are just not. It’s the first movie that really feels like it’s bust out of the MCU mold and delivers a director’s full vision and that director being Raimi that vision is weird, cheesy, dumb, campy, and wonderful. You’re either going to love it or hate it. I loved it.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Director: Sam Raimi
Release Date: May 6, 2022 (Theatrical)
Multiverse is easily the most comic book MCU film made. What does that mean exactly? It means it’s really the first MCU movie to actually dive into just how incredibly stupid comic books can be, wearing its heart on its sleeve, its nonsenses proudly, and its complex plotlines splattered all over the place. Raimi — a devoted reader, and lover of comics — goes full bore into comic bookiness with this film and Marvel lets and the end result is something akin to picking up a comic in an antique shop when you were a kid and reading one of the most batshit crazy stories you’ve ever read and still loving it.
The movie picks up with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) trying to live his life as a powerful sorcerer while his love Christine (Rachel McAdams) moves on with her life. Then America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) comes literally tumbling out of the sky from another universe being chased by a giant tentacle monster. Turns out that the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is not actually OK after the conclusion of WandaVision and she’s hunting down this girl to steal her ability to jump universes so she herself can jump to one where her children are. Dr. Strange, alongside Chavez and Wong (Benedict Wong), must stop her as he tumbles throughout the multiverse.
This is a Sam Raimi film through and through, his signature style and tone permeate throughout the film delivering a movie that feels and sometimes even looks drastically different from anything else the MCU has put out. This doesn’t just show up in his love of first-person camera shots or his off-kilter framing or even the obligatory (and fantastic) Bruce Campbell cameo. Solid chunks of the movie feel like a horror film, it is easily the most violent MCU film, and it is tonally all over the place. In short, it’s as if we tumbled into an alternate universe ourselves and are watching an MCU film through the eyes of Sam Raimi. It’s magical for those that want that.
Not everyone does want that, though. There’s a reason that the MCU films are so successful and it’s because they very rarely try to do much different. Even the more out-there movies/shows like Thor: Ragnorok or WandaVision still feel one with the rest of the MCU. This does not and that means it won’t fit what a lot of people want. Camp in my MCU? Getting too ridiculous? No thanks, give me Spider-Mans, please.
It also has to be admitted that the film doesn’t handle everything as well as it could. Wanda’s turn to the dark side is fantastic but the movie, and Olsen, play it to the hilt. It works for fun but probably not for her character. The film also moves along at a breakneck pace as we’re ushered through a series of universes and an insane amount of surprise cameos. It’s easy to get lost, and even more so if you aren’t here for all the weirdness that goes on (zombie Dr. Strange!). This isn’t character-driven or socially motivated like some of the best MCU films out there but it’s also not supposed to be.
But back to the good stuff. Raimi’s action direction is still top-notch. The director was able to perfectly capture the feeling of Spider-Man swinging through New York and his frantic and unique camera choices in Multiverse pay off as well. A violent, tense, and horrific battle against the Illuminati and Scarlet Witch is probably the most vicious thing we’ve seen in the MCU and every frame of it works. When Raimi is flinging magic and spells across the screen it is non-top fun to watch.
What is abundantly clear about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is that it just kind of wants to have that fun. It seems less concerned with being a coherent part of the whole and more concerned with just going as bonkers as it can. There could be major ramifications for the MCU in the film but there could also just be a bit of multiverse fun. Raimi isn’t here to make an MCU film he’s here to make a movie where a sorcerer and a witch throw down while ripping through multiple universes. Read that sentence and if you don’t think horror and camp were the right way to take this film… well… you’re strange.