“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is sometimes gleeful mixed bag



Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) searches through universes in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” The film is now playing in theaters.

Noah Sparkman, Editor-in-Chief

Is this all the multiverse has to offer?
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the next chapter in the MCU, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Doctor, as he traverses the multiverse. Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong and Xochitl Gomez also star, while Sam Raimi directs a script written by Michael Waldron.
Expectations were set high for this film following the delirious high fans were given with the return of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as their Spider-Men in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
With “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” picking up the multiversal plotline where that film left off, many hoped to see their favorite characters from past Marvel films appear, whether those films were under the Marvel Studios banner or otherwise.
In addition, with Raimi returning to the superhero genre for the first time since his beloved “Spider-Man” trilogy, there was an absolutely massive amount of hype surrounding this film.
Unfortunately, those expectations were misplaced.
There are no heroes from past franchises making epic returns here. This is not the next “Avengers: Endgame.”
Fans going into “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” expecting the next massive event film would be wise to check their expectations at the door. This is very much a film more focused on being a Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch serial than anything else.
However, the lack of cameos is not what makes this film disappointing. That is (mostly) down to the script.
Having previously worked on “Loki” and “Rick and Morty,” Waldron seems to have been a competent and actually rather exciting choice to pen this film. As the final product turns out, though, that statement is pretty far from the case.
There is no shortage of downright awful dialogue in this film. The actors are all on their A-game, but not even the likes of Cumberbatch and Olsen can save some of the lines that they have been fed.
One feels particularly bad for Gomez who, making her grand entrance into the MCU, receives the brunt of the lazy, expository lines.
Now, I know what you might be thinking: “It’s a Sam Raimi movie, obviously there is going to be some goofy dialogue.” It’s his thing.
The problem with that theory is Raimi is very clearly restricted creatively throughout the film.
There are many moments of sheer directorial brilliance on display here. There’s a great ‘80s-inspired montage (set to Danny Elfman’s divine score) featuring characters fading in and out of frame that I legitimately could not believe that Raimi got past the powers that be at Marvel Studios.
In addition, the rollicking, “The Evil Dead”-inspired third act is Raimi at his finest, and there were a few moments that had me tempted to stand up and cheer just because of how silly and fantastic it all was.
The camera movement, too, is as energetic and inventive as the rest of Raimi’s filmography, often elevating the proceedings far beyond typical MCU fare.
There is enough sheer pulpy fun in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” to make it easily worth a watch. There have been many MCU films that are far worse simply because they are content to stick to the formula, and do nothing more.
What disappoints me at the end of the day, even beyond the script, is that Marvel Studios did not just let Raimi do what he wanted creatively.
There are so many moments in the film where it’s clear that he might have gone much further, but has to stick to the established MCU formula. He delivers these gleeful, well-off-the-beaten-path moments, making one hope that maybe there is new ground being broken here.
If the third act of the film is carried into the next entry, maybe there finally will be. All too often in this film, though, it feels as though Raimi, as well as the audience, are restrained to doing the same Marvel thing over and over.
I just cannot sit through the typical, boring CGI fights in the film when there is significantly more creative action in other portions of it. And, while it may be a moot point by now, the Marvel quips are getting tiring, especially when put in contrast with Raimi’s comical sensibilities.
By the time it ends, it just feels like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” could have been so much more if Raimi had just been able to execute the film exactly how he wanted. I would absolutely love to see a third “Doctor Strange” from him if he’s given the opportunity to write the script.
The whole affair brings one thing to the fore. Marvel Studios needs to start trusting their filmmakers more, because the formula is getting boring.
Sure, the films are still making a lot of money, but people are running the risk of being burnt out.
If the MCU gets more entries like the best parts of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I believe that the series can find new life, and bring an air of excitement back to the franchise that some recent efforts have been missing.
However, if all we get are films that encapsulate the more mundane parts of this film, I fear for the future.