Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sees Benedict Cumberbatch return as the Sorcerer Supreme’s understudy and takes us on a relatively short journey through the Marvel multiverse. The film picks up after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, showing us Strange and Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff after both dealt with their own mini-crises post-Endgame.
It felt like director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead and Spider-Man films) was much more interested in Wanda’s character than Stephen’s. We get A TON of Wanda, and her character arc continues right where we left off after the series finale of WandaVision. Wanda is one of Marvel’s most interesting characters, and Olsen delivers a terrific performance in this film. It takes everything we loved about WandaVision and continues to build on it organically. However, this is a Doctor Strange movie, and it feels like his character has been pretty stagnant since his first solo outing.
Stephen is a bit cocky, arrogant, and stubborn. But he is also caring, tactical, and resourceful. It would have been great to see how they tackle his character in his second film. He decided to give Thanos the time stone. He sacrificed Vision and even Tony Stark because it was the one way they’d win. What is it like in Strange’s mind, and how does he carry such a stressful and heavy burden?
The Multiverse of Madness tries to break Stephen down physically and emotionally, but it fails to leave any real impact. We see the return of Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Karl Mordo, but we still feel disconnected from Stephen’s world. He’s constantly serving others in every appearance since his first flick, and this one is no different. Doctor Strange has become a supporting character like Black Widow and Hawkeye before him. Even in his solo film, the primary focus is on Wanda and newcomer America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez.
America is an egregious plot device and almost nothing more. In the comics, Chavez can jump between realities across the multiverse, and given the film’s title, she’s crucial. Unfortunately, these multiversal hijinks are pretty dull and take away from meaningful character-centric moments I wanted to see from Strange, Mordo, Christine, and Benedict Wong’s Sorcerer Supreme. Gomez does fantastic with what she’s given, but it just felt derivative of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Doctor Strange and a plucky teenager go on a multiversal adventure. Where have we seen this before?
The film isn’t a total bomb by any stretch of the imagination. Raimi brings his personal flair with incredible horror sequences that will send chills down your spine. The action is fantastic, it’s just as trippy as the first film, and Danny Elfman’s score is excellent. All of the technical aspects of the film are sound because Sam Raimi is a terrific filmmaker. It’s a fun time, and it features great set pieces.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fine adventure flick that serves as the proper series finale to WandaVision rather than a Doctor Strange sequel. It doesn’t give us enough to further Strange’s growth and instead takes us through the multiverse in a pretty underwhelming fashion. It’s an enjoyable movie, but it could have been so much more.
There’s plenty I simply could not say in this review, both good and bad, so check out our full-blown spoiler discussion where we talk about everything there is to say about The Multiverse of Madness.