It’s been a hot minute since I went to the cinema to go see a movie. I honestly missed the feeling of going out, sitting in a dimly lit theater and eating cheese flavored popcorn off my fingers (and my shirt) while watching things go zip and bang on a projected image. I decided the time was right to finally venture out and do it again but I wanted to do so with not just any movie. Rather, I wanted to do it with one of my most anticipated movies of the year, which just so happens to be my first Marvel movie after the world finally reopened. Of course you know I’m talking about Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
The biggest reason why I was looking forward to this movie is because the trailer didn’t reveal a single iota regarding what the movie is all about. All I know is it involves the multiverse and I guess a lot of craziness involved in it. With that level of mystery as well as it being a new Marvel movie, how could I not watch it on the first day? Well, I just did and I’m writing up a SPOILER FREE review on it right now!
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness takes places some time after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision. When a mysterious girl claiming to be from another universe encounters the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange decides to go to another magic user, Wanda Maximoff, AKA the Scarlet Witch, and seeks her help in order to stop the monsters which seem to want this new girl’s power of being able to jump to different multiverses. Now, I can’t reveal any more details beyond this; this is a SPOILER FREE review after all. However, what I can say is it does link to previous Phase 4 entries, namely WandaVision and What If…? to fully grasp what’s happening.
One thing I noticed while watching Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (I’ll just call it Doctor Strange 2 from now on since that title is super long to type out) is, well, it’s one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s more serious entries. Marvel movies usually has the formula where they have a serious moment and then slap on a comedic punchline to lighten things up. Not so with Doctor Strange 2! There are some comedic bits, particularly with Doctor Strange and Wong, but they’re few and far between.
There’s also a lot of horror elements to the movie, which did catch me off guard. They’re not incredibly scary but there are a few tense moments when you expect something to jump out at you. It’s still kid friendly horror, though, so it’s not too intense for young kids, if that’s what your concerned about. I hate to sound incredibly pompous but I actually liked the cinematography in Doctor Strange 2 as well. I generally hate it when some reviewers bring up the “cinematography” but, with Doctor Strange 2, I just have to bring it up. The use of awkward camera angles, quick zooms and jarring quick cuts to give the horror impression made it look different from other Marvel movies, which I definitely appreciated.
The acting here from everyone is all kinds of awesome. Newcomer Xochitl Gomez does an adequate job as America Chavez, the aforementioned multiverse jumping girl. Benedict Wong’s Wong (Haha… sorry, but it’s just funny how his name and his character’s name are one and the same) manages to balance out the serious and levity, especially when it comes with his interactions with Doctor Strange.
Speaking of the titular character, Benedict Cumberbatch once again takes the role and he does a phenomenal role of displaying confidence while trying to hiding his deep insecurities. The “worst” performance comes from Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. I put the word “worst in quotes because it’s not really a terrible acting job but rather she seems to give a very understated performance in general, especially when compared to the other main characters. There are a lot more actors here with much smaller roles but revealing them would be considered spoilers and, since this is a SPOILER FREE review, I won’t mention any of them. Let’s just say they do good, too.
However, the best performance in Doctor Strange 2 is, hands down, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda/Scarlet Witch. She basically has to run the gamut of emotions here and she does it extremely well! There are legitimately really emotional and touching scenes here and you can really connect with her on an emotional level thanks to her almost flawless performance. I know they don’t give Oscars to “dumb” superhero movies but I will say Elizabeth Olsen’s performance here is of that caliber.
Unfortunately, Doctor Strange 2 definitely has some problems. The production design feels a little iffy. Most of the special and practical effects look great but the sets look a little uninspired. You would think since they’re going to different universes they would go a little bonkers with what’s in those worlds. They didn’t and I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. What they did was go crazy on the fight scenes as some of them are really creative and fun. However, they’re also somewhat confusing because it seems like anyone with magic can do whatever, like create buzzsaws of light to cleave a bus right down the middle. Doctor Strange and Wanda/Scarlet Witch don’t have any real defined powers or abilities so it gets a pass but it does feel like the writers knew this and would just write whatever power they could think off because it would be fun to see on screen. I’m not complaining but at least try to have some consistency with what they can do.
Speaking of the writing, that’s where I found the most problems with Doctor Strange 2. The dialogue can feel a little childish and cliche at times. Rather than sounding witty, they sound downright cheesy. There are a few bit characters thrown in but are given so little screen time, you don’t really have any time to care for them. There are also a ton of script conveniences wherein the character would need something and it just so happens to be just in reach or a character would convey some important bit of knowledge in order to move the story forward. I can suspend my disbelief for so long but, at a certain point, it started to get ridiculous! You can also nitpick the heck out of some of the choices made by the bit characters and the cameos as, ultimately, they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
This might also might be another negative for some people but, as I said earlier, you kind of have to have watched WandaVision and What If…? to get the full impact of some of the scenes and understand the motivations of some characters. It does act as a reward for longtime Marvel Cinematic Universe fans who’ve watched each and every entry religiously. In fact, WandaVision almost seems like a prerequisite because of how it influences Wanda/Scarlet Witch’s decisions throughout the movie!The problem is both WandaVision and What If…? are on Disney+… and not all countries have Disney+ yet! I mean, I managed to watch both shows by hook or by crook so I was able to follow. However, some fans who are only interested in watching the theatrical entries or simply are unable to watch WandaVision and What If…? might feel a little lost regarding what’s happening.
It’s because of those reasons I can’t really give a glowing review to Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It’s a good movie and really entertaining. I just can’t help but feel somewhat underwhelmed with the finished product, though. Perhaps my expectations were too high for it being my return to the cinema scene. I will say it’s worth a watch or two, especially if you’re up to date with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel comics lore as you’ll fully get all of the neat callbacks. I say go watch it but taper your expectations. It may be called Multiverse of Madness but it’s definitely not as crazy as the title suggests.
Have you seen Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!