Movie review | ‘Doctor Strange’ Is Reasonably Entertaining – Times-Standard
At just over two hours, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a bit short when it comes to today’s big-budget superhero adventures.
And yet it is a lot.
This sequel to 2016’s arguably strongest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry “Doctor Strange” – the first film built around the 1963 Marvel Comics character and the pages of his “Strange Tales” – is a fast-paced, sometimes exciting and often messy. .
With more sorcery than a ‘Harry Potter’ movie – and perhaps more computer-generated effects than any previous MCU film – ‘Multiverse of Madness’ moves between parallel universes and plot developments. exaggerated. (Remember how much you enjoyed what Marvel’s Multiverse brought to you in last year’s delicious “Spider-Man: No Way Home”? This movie kinda feels like the bill for all that fun to come. )
Speaking of Web Slinger, “Multiverse of Madness” marks the MCU debut of director Sam Raimi, who before making the 2000s “Spider-Man” trilogy was best known for creepier fare such as “The Evil Dead.” from 1981. We’ve known for a long time that this MCU entry was going to contain horror elements, and if you thought you were going to escape it without encountering a zombified version of a major Marvel character, think again.
If it seems like we’ve come a long way without getting into the movie’s plot – written by Disney+ MCU “Loki” series head writer Matt Waldron – it’s no accident. Disney-owned Marvel Studios has been careful in its preview images, including the very recently released final trailer, to reveal little about the “madness” in store for fans.
And, of course, surprises lie in this tale.
We can say, of course, that the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch once again plays Dr. Stephen Strange, aka Doctor Strange, a brilliant surgeon turned powerful wizard who, in the opening moments of the film, is living what seems like a powerful dream. In it, he witnesses an alternate version of himself trying to protect a young woman, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), from otherworldly dangers.
After waking up, our Doctor Strange goes about his business which, unfortunately for him, involves attending the wedding of the woman he loves, Christine (Rachel McAdams). However, he must make an early – and dramatic – exit from the wedding reception, as a giant tentacled creature with one eye storms the streets of New York City within sight of the gathering.
Lo and behold, the cycloptopus is after Mrs. Chavez, who, we learn, can travel across the multiverse – a powerful ability and one she has yet to learn to control. After finishing off the creature (in the crudest way imaginable), Doctor Strange swears to protect America, just like the alternate universe version had.
Knowing that a great force must be desperate for America’s power, Stephen seeks the aid of such a being in the coming fight: fellow Avenger Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). We won’t say much about Wanda except that she’s grieving after the events of the hit Disney+ series “WandaVision” and we’ll finally see her wield the full power of her alter ego, the Scarlet Witch.
Other familiar characters who appear include Wong (MCU regular Benedict Wong), Stephen’s pal and reigning Sorcerer Supreme, and old enemy Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor from “12 Years a Slave”)
As the story progresses, Doctor Strange will of course traverse the multiverse, running the risk of causing an incursion – essentially the not-so-sweet merging of two universes.
Boy, he really doesn’t want that on his resume.
“Multiverse of Madness” gets strong performances from its main cast including Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Olsen (“Wind River”), McAdams (“Game Night”) and MCU newcomer 16-year-old Gomez (“The Babysitters Club”)
One area where the film really excels is its sound design. Some of the audio effects are spectacular, and a sequence in which (for some reason) Doctor Strange extracts musical notes from sheet music and attacks his enemy with them sounds really good, if nothing else.
Its parade of visual effects is a mixed bag, on the other hand. There’s no doubt that they took a lot of time and resources to create, but they almost always come to the fore and distract from the convoluted story being told.
As for the aforementioned horror elements, they undoubtedly helped the film earn its PG-13 rating, but they shouldn’t be too much for anyone except young children and the very fear-averse. We’ll note that Raimi provides a classic jump scare; even though you know it happens… bam.
Usually, however, the film moves too quickly to be scary.
And while we can appreciate that near-blinding speed, when “Multiverse of Madness” slows down, it fails to find its emotional balance. Raimi and Waldron want us to invest in Stephen’s pain of losing Christine to another and ultimately being happy, but they fail to achieve that goal.
At the end of the day, the summer movie season kicks off with what is very traditional summer fare. You get what you pay for, but what happens on screen doesn’t always make a lot of sense.
If you’re looking for real cinematic magic, you’ll have to keep looking.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Magic” is rated PG-13 for intense violence and action sequences, chilling imagery and some language. Duration: 2 hours, 6 minutes.