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May 5, 2022 / Walt Disney Studios Canada

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Directed By: Sam Raimi

Doctor Strange teams up with a mysterious teenage girl from his dreams who can travel across multiverses, to battle multiple threats, including other-universe versions of himself, which threaten to wipe out millions across the multiverse. They seek help from Wanda the Scarlet Witch, Wong and others.

Written By Darren

Rating 9 out of 10

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness lives up to its name, delivering a wild and absolutely exhilarating experience that benefits greatly from director Sam Raimi’s signature stylings of the horror genre.

Twenty-eight films into the MCU with an established formula, Marvel decides to change things up for their latest film, and it’s sure to divide fans. But I personally thought this was a daring and exciting direction for the MCU, mixing parts of their formula with the unique style of Raimi. There were issues with the film no doubt, but once it got going I was enthralled by everything and found myself cheering, laughing, and even jumping in my seat, delivering that big screen experience that makes watching a Marvel film on opening night the only way to watch a Marvel film.

Unlike Marvel’s previous films which for the most part are family friendly, this film goes dark and provides some truly disturbing moments with jump scares and brutal violence unlike anything else we have seen in the MCU to date. It’s no surprise that this film hails from Raimi, who created the Evil Dead trilogy, as that unique blend of horror and comedy can be found throughout the film. I will not lie, there were some truly startling jump scares that definitely had me squirming in my seat. It’s that Amblin-esque horror that we got in films like Poltergeist, which is scary enough to make this film not something you would want to show a six year old, but still tame enough to introduce younger audiences to the horror genre without scaring them to death.

Picking up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, the film follows Doctor Strange as the multiverse is opened as a threat to humanity emerges that is too powerful for himself, Wanda and Wong combined to stop. To say anything more than the official synopsis for the film would constitute a spoiler, but if you have seen the trailers, you have an idea of what is in store for this film. We get our first film that sees our characters entering other universes in the multiverse, variants of characters appearing, and of course some surprise cameo experiences that Marvel has been teasing for a while with this film. Unlike the marketing for the film which spoiled some of the characters, I won’t say who is in this film other than to say that these characters can be compared to Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man: No Way Home. They are not “blink and you will miss it” cameos, but serve a larger purpose for the film’s story and get a significant amount of screen time. There’s some great casting for the cameos that had me and my theatre breaking out with applause and cheering last night, so much that we actually missed a few lines of dialogue because everyone was freaking out. It’s these moments that distinguish a Marvel film from any other film, and have helped sustain the franchise over the past fourteen years and will continue making it one of the biggest franchises over the next decade hopefully.

The entire film feels very much like a Raimi film, with his signature blend of comedy and terror, which creates some truly wild moments. It’s this style that leads to some of the most grotesque and brutal violence in a MCU film to date that actually had my jaw drop on several occasions because I cannot believe they put that in a Marvel film! So bravo to Raimi for pulling that off, because it truly shows his directorial efforts being recognized by the studio and not being toned down to create a film that is made for everyone. However, Raimi’s style does lead to some minor pacing and tone issues in the first act of the film. I found the first thirty minutes a little bumpy as Raimi did not establish his tone but was using the standard MCU tone for the film, which was a weird clash of styles. The first act was also a tad rushed in introducing America Chavez and establishing where Wanda and Doctor Strange were at, relying heavily on setup from previous MCU projects but not exploring where they were at in this exact moment. But once the true story is revealed and events of the film are set into motion, Raimi’s style finds its footing and the problems of the rushed setup quickly fade, delivering a great film to the end.

Visually, the film is stunning with wild moments of CGI that is unlike anything you have seen in a Marvel film. Danny Elfman’s musical score puts a great spin on Michael Giacchino’s Doctor Strange theme, while creating something dark and sinister to match Raimi’s vision for the film. Plus, Elfman's score soars in that scene involving a musical note battle! As a major lover of film scores and music, I was absolutely in awe of the creativity of that battle and the use of music in it.

But, it is the performances that make the film. Benedict Cumberbatch is once again great as Stephen Strange, delivering a complex character study as to where Stephen is after disappearing for five years and trying to find a new purpose and happiness in life as he returns to a changed world, but also one that he must protect from sinister forces. As he has done with previous appearances with the character, his mix of arrogance, charm and humour creates a charismatic hero, but it is his exploration of Stephen’s vulnerability and emotions that makes his performance. Xochitl Gomez is a blast as America Chavez, bringing to life a wonderful new hero in the MCU full of spirit and joy that is sure to make her a fan favourite in the MCU going forward. I will never protest Rachel McAdams being in a film, and it was delightful to see her return as Christine for the sequel. With an expanded role, McAdams gets an expanded role and shares some wonderful moments with Cumberbatch. Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor return respectively as Wong and Mordo, both delivering solid performances with standout moments for each, even if their characters are pushed to the sidelines for the majority of the film.

However, it is Elizabeth Olsen who steals the film as Wanda. Continuing the brilliant portrayal from WandaVision that gained her an Emmy nomination, Olsen explores the grief of losing her boys after the events in Westview with an emotionally painful experience that tugs right at your heartstrings. At the same time, she fully embraces the Scarlet Witch and takes Wanda to new places that we have not previously seen before, delivering so many incredible moments that will have audiences talking long after the credits roll.

And like any good Raimi film, there is a fun Bruce Campbell cameo so keep your eyes open for him. With great creative control, Sam Raimi blends multiversal madness and horror in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, that thanks to a spectacular performance from Elizabeth Olsen, many great fan moments and brutal violence that creates some jaw dropping moments, this is guaranteed to be one of the most entertaining but divisive films of the summer!

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