Originally posted on Soda & Telepaths May 17th 2022
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness Plot
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness picks up not too long after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) trying to return to some kind of normalcy which means he has to do something he’d been dreading… attend the wedding of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Of course, because no hero from the MCU is capable of having anything remotely resembling a day off, the wedding is interrupted when a giant cycloptic octopus appears in town, chasing a young girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez).
Once Strange, with an assist from the Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), has dealt with the octopus he learns that America has the power to hope through dimensions, a power so great that in order to try and help America he must get some assistance from Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Sadly for Doctor Strange, the moment he tries to bring Wanda into the situation is the moment when things turn from bad to absolutely nightmarish.
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness Review
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is the MCU’s first time dipping their toes in the horror genre and they’ve called in for the talents of Sam Raimi to show what can happen when you take a standard Superhero movie and infect it with the nightmarish imagery that seems to fill the brain behind the Evil Dead franchise… and turns out you get a pretty damn effective horror film that pulls double duty as a continuation of the overarching MCU story.
When Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness wants to lean into the horror, it goes for broke. You’ll undoubtedly spot several familiar images from other Sam Raimi horror films (a lot of them from Evil Dead) but there’s also some new nightmare fuel with characters we know and love (or new characters who we quickly come to love) being torn apart before our eyes with almost impish glee. It’s disturbing in all the best ways, especially any time the film’s main villain decides to start tearing through a new location like it was made out of tissue paper.
On top of just being disturbing, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness might actually top the original Doctor Strange in terms of visual spectacle because it has such a wide array of new toys to play with now that Strange is a lot more confident in his powers. Every new scene is just throwing another grand visual treat at the audience and it pulls you in so easily before using that very visual treat to put a good healthy dose of fear into you, particularly whenever the time comes to shift to a new universe.
There’s at least one time, in particular, the film will put the audience in the most serene looking imagery you could imagine, before turning everything into hell and clueing everyone in on what’s about to happen with at least one of our main cast.
Speaking of that cast, while everyone is absolutely brilliant in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (including newcomer Xochitl Gomez who basically captures the audience’s heart from the first second she’s on-screen) the entire picture belongs to Elizabeth Olsen whose Wanda is now officially the bad guy of the film (not really a shock, they’ve made it clear in all the trailers). If you sat through Wandavision and thought that you were seeing a world-class performance then, you’re in for a treat because this is the most soul-crushing, powerful, horrifying and completely captivating performance that Elizabeth has ever given.
Elizabeth is carrying Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, it might as well be hers for how much the narrative leans on her motivation of trying to reunite with some version of her children in order to push the story forward. Her desperate quest to just be the mother she was during Wandavision is so powerful and intense that you can’t help but fear her and feel sorry for her in every single scene. Seriously, it’s the kind of performance you will be thinking about long after you leave the theatre and one of the best performances you’ll see this year.
Of course, what else you might be thinking about once leaving the theatre after seeing Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is how it compares to the other times the MCU has handled the topic of the multiverse. If you want a very basic description, this version of a multiverse story is certainly not as fun and nostalgic as it was in Spider-Man: Far From Home but it’s certainly a lot more wild and creative, taking full advantage of the idea that an alternative universe could really look like anything.
It’s also definitely suggesting that now we have America Chavez as part of the MCU, there will inevitably come a time when we visit a few more of these realities we get a taste of here and the creativity shown here is enough to make that an exciting prospect. Just saying, let’s all be shocked when America Chavez is a major part of the 20th anniversary and they go HARD on the nostalgic cameos.
Oh and speaking of cameos, there are a few genuinely great ones in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness but they’re handled well. They’re interesting little ideas, at least one of them feels like Kevin Feige is testing the waters for something later on (and if my cinemas reaction is any indication, the test shows people like it) and they all just work. They don’t overload it as much as the reports before the film suggested, it’s a fun little moment that serves the story well but will undoubtedly give you one moment at least where you’re unable to resist the urge to scream and cheer.
Honestly, the biggest problem that Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness has is that it is trying to do a LOT and some parts feel like we’re just glossing over them. It’s got a lot to do since this is directly following up the final shot of Wandavision, showing the potential of the Multiverse in the MCU, growing the Doctor Strange character into a new form for future entries into the franchise and telling this elaborate complicated tale that involves dimension-hopping between realities…
It’s a lot of stuff to get through and there’s a chance that some of it will just fly right by you without you catching how important it is. Basically the film feels like it needed another 20-30 minutes to let some of these scenes breathe, but that’s about it.
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness Overall
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is definitely full of madness in the best way possible. Fast-paced and unrelenting, once the insanity begins there is no holding it back for even a minute. Filled with the kind of top-notch performances, visuals and horror one would hope, this is a welcome return for Sam Raimi to the worlds of both horror and superheroes. Tense, fun, full of moments that will shock and horrify, if this is what it looks like when Marvel decides to try and do the horror genre properly then I will take as much of this as I am able to get.