Film in 500: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

Certificate: 12A
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Michael Waldron
Production: Marvel Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture International
Platform: Theatrical Release (Reviewed)
Release Date: Out Now!


The concept of the multiverse has recently hit the mainstream film world, such as in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Everything Everywhere All At Once, and the sequel to Doctor Strange (2016) uses it as a central plot device. Since then, surgeon-turned-sorcerer Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has appeared in numerous ensemble Marvel films; the newfound prominence has led to this sequel becoming more of a group venture, in similar vein to Captain America: Civil War.

Characters such as newly-promoted Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) have significant roles, with Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) especially key, carrying on their arc from Disney+ show WandaVision. Well, I say that, but we immediately discover aspects of Wanda that rob them of agency and rush new character beats. After WandaVision, where Wanda was developed in a dynamic way, the contrivance that causes their motivations here is an unnecessary and disappointing waste of potential, particularly as Olsen supplies a brilliantly fierce performance.

Strange starts off battling a wedding-crashing monster – a vibrant sequence that’s an early indicator of the creative magic use throughout. Said monster is after new character America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), because they’re capable of crossing between universes. It’s a sought-after ability, so Strange decides to protect America despite being outmatched. That’s essentially the plot, complicated by the pair inadvertently fleeing into the multiverse. It isn’t quite what the film name suggests; mostly, we’re in a small handful of universes, even though we get glimpses of others in one gloriously imaginative, fractured shot.

Going in, my concern was that the story would be diluted by a mishmash of crowd-pleasing multiverse reveals. Sadly, it falls into this trap. One particular scene is blatant fan-service and falls flat; it’s hard to care about characters we have no attachment to yet. Counting on the recognisability of the casting and role feels shallow, and means nothing in-story. For comparison, the returning characters in No Way Home worked because we’ve already developed an understanding of them.

Thankfully, the final act rescues things, suddenly remembering it’s not only a Doctor Strange film, but also one directed by Sam Raimi! We finally see Strange take the initiative and show character growth, which allows the talented Cumberbatch to flex his acting muscles more. Combined with as much Raimi-esque horror that the age rating allows, the film starts to become something distinct. What’s undeniable is the visual spectacle, with inventive and stunning shot compositions. It’s backed up by the soundtrack from Danny Elfman; there’re multiple noticeable instances of how the soundtrack compliments the numerous tone changes.

Final Thoughts

Multiverse of Madness occasionally delighted but often disappointed me. There’s many instances of plot being prioritised at the expense of character investment. Mainly, this is in regards to decisions on where to take the character of Wanda, and the way certain reveals are handled. The final act starts to address this balance and, along with phenomenal visual styling, left me entertained overall. Ironically though, for a film about the multiverse, I was hoping for so much more.

6/10

Rating: 6 out of 10.

7 thoughts on “Film in 500: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

  1. Maybe they should have lost the Multiverse of Madness title? Of what we got I would have liked to spend more time in some of the places we saw them passing through quickly- those places looked fun! I’d have done a few minutes in paint world.

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    1. Yeah the title is a tad misleading I feel as we mainly spend time in maybe three, including the 616 we already know? That shot of them crashing through the universes was so good… Enjoyed the animated one, feels like we’re getting closer to the day when we get a live-action/animated crossover film of some sort! 🙂

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  2. It feels like a decision somewhere to sort of limit the variations to three. Spiderman had the three live action actors and here three Earth alternatives. Could of course be a happy coincidence but you imagine someone somewhere has made that call that it’s what the audience can comprehend and keep track of.

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    1. Yes I could see that being the case; I think one or two more would have been nice as proper locations, as I think we spend a bit too long in the first one we visit. The more damaged universe we go to near the end felt like a welcome change of pace personally!

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      1. I didn’t mind the smaller focus as it allowed the variants to bleed but did feel it was sold as this huge event of realities coming together and 3 was a little underwhelming.

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