The film’s logo, like the plot itself, alludes to mystery and horror. / PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY MEDIA KIT
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hit theaters this month, prompting excitement and chatter amongst anxious comic book fans and moviegoers. Directed by Sam Raimi of “Evil Dead” and “Spider-Man” fame, this enchanting sci-fi feature follows the titular mystic artist Dr. Stephen Strange as he protects America Chavez, a teenager capable of traveling across dimensions, from villains plotting to take her powers and use them for nefarious purposes.
A follow-up to both the first “Doctor Strange ” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” this chapter of the MCU takes a darker turn than its predecessors, as the action within does not shy away from fear or violence. The film demonstrates not only Raimi and his team’s raw talent in horror and superhero fare, but also shows what the heroes and villains we know and love are truly capable of. With this in mind, the new “Doctor Strange” is not exactly for kids and the faint of heart, so it is best to leave your children and younger siblings at home while enjoying this thrilling feature for the first time.
Moving across worlds and dimensions and exemplifying powers and abilities never seen before, the Multiverse of Madness excels in visually stunning special effects, also creating unique scenery to leave any viewer in pure awe. Although comic-book films may be known for stunning visuals, “Doctor Strange” goes beyond the standard for superhero fare in other ways, with intriguing characters, dialogue, and themes that truly distinguish itself from others in the genre. The character development and chemistry is evident not only between main characters Strange and Wanda Maximoff, but also new and rising protagonists such as Wong and America Chavez. The latter comes off as a sleeper hit, and while Chavez spends much of her screen time as “the kid who needs to be saved” trope, she shows much potential and truly shines when she is needed.
As a fan of Marvel comics and films since childhood, I am somewhat of a traditionalist. But, I still admire the progress and experimentation writers are taking to create something new and exciting, particularly after the conclusion of the Infinity Saga. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” remains my favorite of phase four thus far, however the new “Doctor Strange” does not fall far behind. While it does provide some of the fan service that “No Way Home” did, “Multiverse of Madness” ropes in twists and turns that keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
I have minimal criticism for this film, much of which lies in its pacing. With abundant special effects and a multiverse of dimensions to explore and conquer, the flick at times can be overwhelming, but that comes with any first watch for an action-packed superhero science fiction adventure.
The directing and special effects team also take advantage of visual and sound effects to establish a dark and shocking tone, although sometimes to excess. A “calm before the storm” effect, where a scene descends to near or complete silence before the scare or action comes in, can provide a brilliant point to captivate viewers; yet, this particular effect feels overused, becoming weak after being present in too many scenes.
The film also leaves out plot points and characters that would arguably explain or contribute to the story, especially in the high expectation of cameos and references. I mean, it is a film about the multiverse, directed by the man who brought us the iconic “Spider-Man” trilogy, so what else could we expect? It is understandable, but may lead to disappointment if you are expecting everyone and their super-mom to come busting in.
Despite some minor pacing problems, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” truly astonishes as a project that is all-new and all-different, opening doors to limitless potential for the stories and characters that may follow. Mixed reviews may mislead people to thinking the film is worth skipping, as it may disappoint viewers who are expecting a multiverse of their favorite characters to appear. My best advice is to not merely take the film at face value; be along for the ride, and you will find some surprises and maybe some familiar faces along the way.
Regardless of whether you are seeing it as soon as it comes out in theaters, or are waiting until it releases on Disney+ on July 8, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is worth the watch, even if you descend into madness waiting for it.