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Film Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

10 May 22 words: Kieran Burt

After Spider-Man: No Way Home opened the MCU up to the multiverse on the big screen, Sam Raimi stepped in to take things to a new level. But should he have?

Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez
Running time: 126 minutes

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has finally arrived in our universe - but despite the amazing visuals and Sam Raimi’s direction, the film comes together in a confused and unfocused way that doesn’t do justice to the concept advertised to the audience. 

Before diving into the shortcomings, though, there are some positives that should be commended. The presentation of Wanda feels like a direct and natural transition from WandaVision, aided by the chilling performance given by Elizabeth Olsen. Her storyline deepens in its tragedy, and is clearly consistent and easy to understand. 

Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez is the stand-out of the film, however, with her innocence and naivete developing into bravery and confidence as she gradually understands the extent of her powers - which includes an ability to travel the multiverse at will. 

The multiverse has been established in a few Marvel movies before this, and yet nothing feels consistent from property to property

Marvel has also upped their visual game since the first Doctor Strange. This can be clearly seen in a few sequences, but is best displayed in the opening scene. It is certainly a feast for the eyes; unquestionably Marvel’s best visuals yet. Multiverse of Madness also manages to subvert the traditional third act tropes, replacing the overdone, large-scale final battle with a more emotional climax. 

This film manages its tone very well, too. Leaning into the more horrifying aspects of the MCU without completely alienating the younger portion of the audience is tough, but Raimi straddles the line remarkably well. And there is still humour to be found; it is more reserved than other MCU films, but when the small comedic moments occur, they are genuinely funny and serve the characters, instead of simply happening for no reason. 

However, when turning to the rest of the film, problems start to occur. The multiverse has been established in a few Marvel movies before this, and yet nothing feels consistent from property to property, causing unnecessary confusion within an already complex topic. This, coupled with several other unfocused decisions, leads to a project that doesn’t quite come together as a cohesive whole, or fit neatly with the rest of the MCU. This is unusual for Marvel, who, under Kevin Feige, have built a largely clear universe - but recently the decision-making has become increasingly vague. 

The film buckles under the weight of juggling the multiverse concept, acting as a sequel to Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, and attempting to drive the narrative of phase four forward

Multiverse of Madness also somewhat fails to live up to its title. While the multiverse does feature prominently, it is used as a plot device more than the marketing would suggest. Some of the dimension-hopping sequences are certainly trippy, just as would be expected, but these don’t get nearly enough time to shine. 

Overall, the film buckles under the weight of juggling the multiverse concept, acting as a sequel to Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, and attempting to drive the narrative of phase four forward. There are certainly elements to like here - the visuals, Wanda’s arc and the reserved use of humour - but it doesn’t manage to live up to the hype. Hopefully when the multiverse concept is revisited in future projects, a more consistent and clearer vision can be presented to the audience. 

Did you know? Elizabeth Olsen flew to London to work on this film just two days after she finished filming WandaVision.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now showing in cinemas 

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