Between cinema releases and mini-series being added onto Disney+, it seems as if there is a new Marvel project out every other month. From Black Widow and Hawkeye, to The Eternals and Moon Knight, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an ever-expanding playground, and a seemingly perpetual content maker.
But are you up to date with it all? Well, if not, you might want to get a bit of a move on because this week sees the release of yet another new instalment in the Marvel saga – and this one is a feature-length movie which is a bit of a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
The movie is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The film – directed by Sam Raimi – opens in UK cinemas today, and will hit the US from tomorrow.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, and Rachel McAdams. The picture is the 28th film in the MCU, and sees the eponymous Doctor travel the length and breadth of the multiverse, resulting in a mind-boggling journey that will have deep ramifications moving forward.
Picking up shortly after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the movie sees Doctor Strange experiencing nightmares. He dreams of an alternate world, and an alternate version of himself, as well as a mysterious girl with universe-hopping abilities.
But these nightmares soon become a reality when that same girl, later identified as America Chavez, crosses his path. America has been jumping across multiple universes in search of help, having become the unwitting target of an unseen foe.
Realising that America’s ability to travel the multiverse could be a significant threat to all of existence, Strange agrees to provide her with protection. However, as his knowledge of the multiverse is limited, he seeks out guidance from former Avenger, Wanda Maximoff, who he believes may be the key to protecting America.
But Strange soon comes to discover that Wanda is not the hero she once was and he has made a mistake in seeking out her help. Wanda has her own agenda and keeping America safe is not part of her plan.
As a battle breaks out, Strange and America are sent across the multiverse, where they soon discover new worlds and new allies. But can Strange get his head around his new surroundings long enough to save America, or is she and all of reality doomed?
Now, as mentioned above, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is somewhat of a big deal because not only does it explore the concept of alternate universes, it makes it clear this is now the direction Marvel is heading down for the foreseeable future. Marvel Studios is no longer just interested in teaming up its heroes for epic showdowns in the traditional MCU, the studio wants to tell bigger stories, which break away from the status quo, and move into some weird and wonderful new places.
The film bridges what has come before, with what will come next. The word ‘multiverse’ is included in the title as an indication that this is an important stepping stone moving forward, and as such, it is a chapter that fans really need to watch.
Audiences have already seen aspects of the multiverse before via 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well as the television shows, Loki and What If?. However, while all three of these projects explored the outer rim of the multiverse and offered up a flavour of what’s possible, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is essentially the next logical step, which brings things together.
Going into this movie you don’t need to have watched every Marvel movie or show to understand what is going on, but if you have watched plenty of Marvel content, it will give you a deeper understanding of what the multiverse is all about. But in my opinion, the only Marvel title you probably should check out pre-screening, is the television series, WandaVision, as the show is closely linked to this movie.
But regardless of what you have or haven’t watched by now, as with pretty much all MCU movies, what you should expect to get out of this movie is plenty of entertainment. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a wild ride and certainly worth the price of a cinema ticket.
However, I do suggest that some fans should lower their expectations a touch, because I fear some may be a tad disappointed with what is on offer. While the movie is good, and I liked it very much, it does suffer a couple of issues, and I think some of the hype surrounding what is or what isn’t in the movie, may not do it any favours either.
I’ll deal with the issues first, because I feel they are fairly straight-forward. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness suffers from two key problems: pacing and exposition.
In terms of pacing, the film feels like it stops and starts a bit too often. The action sequences are great and really help to drive the movie forward, but some of the conversational material is less interesting and this seems to slow things down.
Just as the picture gets going, the action slackens a bit here and there, and that’s when the pacing issues becomes noticeable. This is also when the film’s second problem arises, the use of exposition, which feels at times a bit too heavy handed.
With this film being the lynchpin (for now) in the multiverse saga, there are a lot of new ideas to introduce and explain. As such, the film has some very dialogue heavy sequences, and a fair bit of techno-babble to throw at audiences.
While neither of these issues derail this movie, they are worth flagging up. A few adjustments here and there, to the editing and writing, may have made this film zip along a bit more smoothly.
The other issue the film has, is less to do with the film itself, and more to do with the way the movie is being marketed by Marvel, and how it is being hyped by fans. Since the first trailer dropped for this movie, there has been a lot of chatter about twists, surprises, and hidden cameos in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and this has heaped a lot of expectations on the picture.
I am not going to drop any spoilers; but what I will say is that while the film does have its fair share of goodies, it is not a continual conveyor belt of treats. And, unfortunately due to some odd marketing by Marvel, which has been a bit too revealing, some of the best surprises are now common knowledge.
I have no idea why Marvel felt the need to reveal so much about the movie ahead of its debut, but someone clearly needs to have a word with the marketing team. There are at least four things in the trailers that could have been held back, so when they do pop up in the film, they don’t feel as special as they should.
Because of a few reveals in the trailers, this has increased expectations about other surprises which many fans are now banking on. Again, no spoilers here, I’ll simply say try not to build up a wish list, as this will lead to some disappointment.
OK, enough with the issues; now onto the good stuff – of which there is plenty in this movie. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a heap of fun, it is filled with some very creative moments, and two strong performances from its lead stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen.
If you’re a fan of either actor you are going to enjoy what they bring to this movie. Cumberbatch and Olsen are on fine form, and across the course of the story they get to deliver a range of emotions and elevate their characters to new places.
Fans of WandaVision will also be very pleased with this movie. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness picks up some of the ideas and themes from the aforementioned TV show, and takes them to a new level.
With this movie being in the hands of director Sam Raimi, it also means there is a nice touch of horror spread throughout the picture. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is arguably the MCU’s darkest entry to date, and Raimi brings his love for horror to the forefront of this film.
I wouldn’t say the film is particularly scary, but there are plenty of creepy moments. The film also has no qualms with killing off characters, and Raimi demonstrates that he is very comfortable turning some scenes into bloodbaths.
As a self-confessed comic book fan, Raimi also isn’t afraid to up the geek factor in this MCU entry. Of all the MCU movies to date, this one feels like it delves deeper into comic book territory, in order to serve up plenty of lore that long-time fans will adore.
Raimi understands his core audience and caters for them accordingly. There is one sequence in particular, which brings the film’s soundtrack to the forefront of the action, and this whole scene feels very much like a comic book concept brought to life.
At every step of the way, it is clear that Raimi has a handle on some of the more bizarre aspects of the Doctor Strange mythology, as well as the crazy ideas that often crop up in comics. He weaves them all into this picture and it ensures this film offers plenty of visual wizardry to keep audiences dazzled.
If you thought 2016’s Doctor Strange was a tour de force of strong visuals, then you will be very happy with what this new film serves up. Raimi knows that modern audiences want something special, and unusual in their movies, and that’s what he delivers.
Ultimately, this film is about keeping audiences entertained, while moving the MCU onto its next lifecycle. As far as I am concerned, he achieves both of these goals.
While I don’t believe Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits the same storytelling heights as Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies from the ‘00s, I do believe this is another strong super hero movie from the director. He takes his love for the source material, blends it together with a lot of creativity, and spreads it across the screen.
Will general audiences enjoy it? Yes, as it is very imaginative, and continues to deliver the same great experience that fans have come to expect from Marvel Studios.
But once again, please do manage those expectations. This film has a lot to offer, and some really cool moments, so don’t get too bogged down on what you hoped to see in the movie, and instead delight in what you do get to see.