He might not be the most powerful Avenger, but Doctor Strange has his own strengths and weaknesses. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, the most magical Avenger is back to set things right, without realizing that it will take more than one ‘doc’ to get the job done.
In what can easily be termed as the most terrific as well as confusing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange gets to meet many friends, foes, and many friends who later turn into foes. Not only does he get the chance to correct his past mistakes, but also learns from new ones, that take him from ‘around the multiverse, in just 120 minutes’.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes place after Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) had supposedly ‘fixed’ the mess he created in Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, with the sudden arrival of America Chavez (Xochitl Gómez), the good doctor’s life enters a chaotic phase from which there is no escape until he ‘completes’ the job.
When he realizes that ‘others’ are also behind America’s superpowers – the ability to traverse the multiverse – he decides to ask for help but goes to the wrong Avenger. Unknown to Doctor Strange, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is the one behind the attack on America as she wants to use her powers to travel through the multiverse and be with her kids whom she ‘lost’ during WandaVision.
Despite resistance shown by Doctor Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and their sorcerers at Kamar-Taj, the Scarlet Witch forces Strange and America to seek help in other Multiverses, which takes them to different Earths. Will Doctor Strange be able to save America and defeat the Scarlet Witch or will the Scarlet Witch win and reunite with her kids, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes you on a ride that ends with the answer to these questions.
The audience gets to meet many MCU and non-MCU characters during this journey who help Doctor Strange in their own way, by either showing him the right way or standing by him when he needed them the most.
The film is quite fast-paced and has no dull moments, which is a welcome change for Marvel, who saw two of their last three flicks (Eternals and Morbius) fail miserably at the box office. Thankfully, the fans of Doctor Strange who last saw him fight alongside Spider-Man were able to retain their excitement and unleashed it as soon as the Sorcerer made his appearance in theatres. With director Sam Raimi back at the helm with his first Marvel flick in fifteen years, things were always going to be different for ‘Raimi’ reasons.
The director was aided in his quest by the best special effects team in the world but brought the ‘horror’ factor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He was also able to produce undoubtedly the best duel in MCU where two Doctor Stranges fight each other in what can only be termed a battle of magical musical notes. Also, the way he plays with the ‘dream walking’ effect is something only the director of Evil Dead could have pulled off. He must be indebted to Benedict Cumberbatch for staying in character(s) despite being in the Multiverse of Madness, and the same goes for Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in the movie. When the film began, the audience was sympathetic towards Wanda, but when she showed her true self, they switched sides and supported Doctor Strange who used his charms and confidence to win over the audience in no time.
Fan-favorite Benedict Wong was once again underused as Wong, which was sad, especially after his cameo in Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The viewers expected to see him in a bigger role, however, he spent most of the time either fighting the Scarlet Witch or arguing with Doctor Strange. Rachel McAdams as Doctor Strange’s love interest Christine Palmer had more to do in this installment and she would be remembered for her performance for a long time.
Somehow, I felt that Xochitl Gomez who played America Chavez was not utilized well as a superhero; instead, she came out more as a superhero-in-distress. She might have more to do in the next MCU flicks but in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, she had her moments, and nothing more. On the other hand, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo had a more interesting character and dialogues, without which the film would have seemed incomplete.
The makers of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness assumed that everyone in the cinema must have seen everything released or aired under the MCU umbrella. Even the most ardent fans might have missed a couple of episodes here and there, resulting in a brain-freeze moment. You might not have seen Inhumans or What If? because frankly, they came on TV and MCU is all about films (till recently). That’s why when a certain member from Inhumans makes his appearance or a variant from What If? appears on the screen, it leaves a few viewers confused.
The same thing happens to the viewers who missed WandaVision or didn’t have the chance to revisit the first Doctor Strange movie in six years, because what might be a normal thing for Marvel executives, might be forgettable for MCU fans who had to deal with bigger issues since Doctor Strange’s debut, including losing and finding their favorite Avengers!
Secondly, the film is as much a sequel to the original Doctor Strange as it is to Spider-Man: No Way Home but while Doctor Strange is revisited on a couple of occasions, the latest Spidey flick isn’t. That arc where Doctor Strange made everyone forget about Spider-Man should have been dealt with tactfully, especially since Sam Raimi is at the helm, the man who gave life to Spider-Man in the first place. It seems that the protagonist of this film is not Doctor Strange who helped Peter Parker a few months back, and was the main reason behind the arrival of beings from the multiverse to New York.
The Verdict 3.5/5
It was about time that Marvel’s mind-bending surgeon-turned-superhero Doctor Strange had a bigger problem to deal with. Yes, he made others forget about Peter Parker but in this venture, he takes on the repercussions from No Way Home. After watching the trailer, many thought that he and Scarlet Witch might join hands in their first flick after Avengers: Endgame, however, the ‘twist’ at the start of the film made it even more memorable.
Many people in the audience, especially younger people, had their doubts about the 62-year-old Sam Raimi who hadn’t directed a film in eight years, but he brought that aesthetic factor to the film that was missing in Scott Derrickson’s first Doctor Strange. He kept the narrative moving around Doctor Strange, and added a dose of horror, action, and thrill that made the audience fall in love with the title character, despite his cocky behavior.
There are a couple of surprise cameos in the movie, but that’s only for those who haven’t seen the films yet. At times it seemed that this Marvel adventure shouldn’t have been a PG-13 flick, because it uses many aspects from the R rated world, but then, the bigger the problem, the difficult the solution, and Doctor Strange couldn’t have saved the multiverse had he been restricted one way or the other.