After seeing ‘WandaVision,’ I was so very stoked to watch ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.’ It’s no secret that Wanda Maximoff is my favorite character in the MCU and her appearance in the film made it a must-see movie for me. The MCU has been quite successful, in my opinion, in translating the joy of reading comics and graphic novels into the film medium. It satisfies my childhood need to see superheroes in action, facing insurmountable odds, and (more often than not) dealing with the gray areas of the good versus bad/right versus wrong dynamics in the world in a bombastic cinematic experience.
But the MCU has a particular type. There’s a certain look and feel to each MCU despite its variety of directors and scriptwriters. The only two films in the MCU that feel different and have the mark of its individual directors were Taika Waititi’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and Chloe Zhao’s ‘Eternals.’
But now Sam Raimi’s ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ joins the ranks.
As much as this is an MCU movie, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is a Sam Raimi film. As much as Benedict Cumberbatch is the star as Doctor Strange, the spotlight of this film has to be Sam Raimi and his pitch perfect direction. He’s turned this story into a playground for his indelible style.
Under Sam Raimi’s exceptional and out-of-the-box vision, the movie is playful and unexpected. It has twists and turns – some you see coming, others surprise you along the way and keeps you on your toes – and it’s done with such stylistic flair that makes it feel so new and refreshing and, as a cinematic product, makes full use of the medium.
Raimi’s transitions between scenes are clever and visually arresting. He peppers the film with jump scares and hauntingly loud horror music by Danny Elfman. It has a lot of trademark Sam Raimi (who is famous for the first three ‘Spider-man’ films with Tobey Maguire, ‘Drag Me to Hell,’ and the cult series ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Army of Darkness’). There are surprising extreme close-ups, camera angles in the point-of-view of either the object or a hidden character, the aforementioned jump scares, and so on.
The story of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ involves the titular character facing a powerful enemy to protect a young girl, America Chavez (played with great confidence by Xochitl Gomez), whose powers has made her a target for the said-powerful adversary. Her ability – to be able to traverse the different universes – would be too powerful and damaging in the wrong hands. In an effort to save her, he is thrown into various universes, alternate realities that are similar to the one we’ve been following in the MCU but with variations.
So Sam Raimi’s direction even gives the feeling that we are watching an alternate type of MCU movie. The effect is dazzling. What also makes it enjoyable is that scriptwriter Michael Waldron manages to forego traditional narrative forms to really put Dr. Strange, America Chavez, and Wanda as the leads without taking away from Doctor Strange that this is his movie. Each character has something to face within themselves but since we’ve really explored so much of Doctor Strange and Wanda in previous MCU installments whether on TV or film, he doesn’t bow down to too much character development.
He doesn’t have to. Instead, the film really gives us endless possibilities by exploring the many different worlds and realities in the MCU. This gives the film a lot of chances to do fan service moments without major repercussions to the main reality while giving its main characters a big enough impetus to change.
I’m a little short on details because, in an effort to keep this review spoiler-free, I have to paint this critique in generalizations and broad strokes. This film is centered on the cinematic experience – any spoilers may ruin the audience’s involvement – but there’s also a lot happening that I am inclined to watch again; and in 3D, if possible, because the visuals are just amazing.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen must have had an enjoyable time being able to play with these characters and their different iterations in the realities offered. As actors, this must have been fun for them and you can see it in their performances. Benedict Wong manages to keep Wong as a solid character that can ground Doctor Strange, and Rachel McAdams is not relegated as an accessory to the cast. There’s enough meat for her character to play within this film.
This is a perfect MCU movie, up there with ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Avengers: End Game,’ wherein the film is aware of the audience’s expectations and plays with them in fun and surprising ways. And with the added touch of Sam Raimi’s direction, it is elevated into a wonderfully delightful experience that is surprising, refreshing, and makes you want more. While I was completely satisfied with the two hours and six-minute run time of the film, I wanted more of it.
So, I guess, I’ll just have to go to the cinema again to take it all in. But this time, I want to see it in 3D.
Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness is now showing in Philippine cinemas. Buy your tickets here.