Benedict Cumberbatch is superb yet again as the famed Marvel hero. But he is outdone by Elizabeth Olsen in Marvel Studios Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness!
It’s finally here. After all the delays, after the reshoots, and everything else, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness has reached theaters. Was it worth the wait? Definitely. Is it any good? It is a terrific if a slightly flawed piece of cinema. Has Sam Raimi managed to deliver a dark, twisted comic book movie? Of course, he has. Is it better than ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home.’? Not by a long shot. What we have been given is a movie that does what it needs to. It isn’t afraid to scare the pants off the audience and is two hours of pure fun. But the big surprise is who the film’s MVP really is. And believe me, it isn’t Benedict Cumberbatch.
Before we get started, allow me to make one thing clear. This review will contain NO SPOILERS whatsoever. In fact, it will be light on what transpires during the film. The reason is simple. Apart from a few areas, the whole film IS a spoiler. For the most part, what occurs during the film cannot be revealed as one small detail can easily ruin the entire movie for the audience. It really is that entwined and that involved. And it needs to be experienced CLEAN. No spoilers or plot details to be known ahead of time. So, forgive me. However, I will reveal the start of the film to you. And then reveal no more.
The film opens with Doctor Strange and America Chavez running from an evil creature somewhere in the multiverse. This Strange isn’t the one we are used to seeing. He is dressed differently and his mannerisms are not the same as OUR Strange. The creature wants America for her power. Gaining this from her will end her life. The only way to defeat this evil being is by America using her power or by gaining the book of Asante. After battling this creature, Strange awakens in his own bed. He believes he has been having a nightmare. Has he? Or has he experienced something else entirely? We shall find out.
MOVING THROUGH THE MULTIVERSE
Strange attends the wedding of his former girlfriend, Christine Palmer. Strange still has strong feelings for her but hides them well. However, there is a disturbance outside the wedding reception. Something is tearing through the streets of New York creating havoc. Conjuring his cape, Strange leaps into action, unmasking the hidden creature as it tears open a city bus to get to America Chavez; the girl he saw in his dream. The creature seems determined to get to America while Strange, joined once again by Wong, does battle to save her. Most of what we see has already been revealed in the trailers so it isn’t a spoiler to reveal it here. But it is the revelation of what America can do with her power that gives the film the basic plotline. And from here on in, the film is about to go to some very dark places.
The cast is outstanding. Benedict Cumberbatch once again shows why we love him as the Master of the Mystic Arts. From the second he first appears, we are on familiar and safe ground. It isn’t revealing anything when I say Cumberbatch appears as multiple versions of the character during proceedings. And every variation, despite their flaws, appearance, or deeds, still contains the spirit of the character. And Cumberbatch seems to revel in playing against himself in some scenes.
The actor looks to have put everything he has into his multiple performances here and they come off in some great style. By the time we reach the end credits, we can see Strange has been through the wringer. And I wouldn’t put it past him to say that Cumberbatch has been too. The actor slips into Strange’s cloak once again with ease. And he has some genuine laughs along the way, showing that Cumberbatch had a lot of fun playing the character again.
Benedict Wong as Wong manages to be more than pure comedy relief here. Yes, he does become the straight man for most of the comedic elements that occur during the film. But without him, the film wouldn’t feel right. And thankfully, Wong is an important part of what happens. He isn’t simply there to make up the numbers. His role is boosted up and becomes a vital cog in the whole machine. When he and Cumberbatch start to play off each other, the film lightens up. The pair make for an entertaining and amusing double act, one that we hope to see more of going forward.
Chiwetel Ejiofor once again plays Karl Mordo. Sadly, his screen time isn’t much more than an extended cameo appearance. We were hoping to see more of Mordo in his quest to destroy Strange. This doesn’t happen. But the actor’s appearance as the character brings the film a sense of enjoyment. His style in the film couldn’t be any more different than the way we last saw him at the climax of the first film. Here, he looks slick, and friendly but with an element of threat lying behind his words. Ejiofor plays the character superbly. Even with his limited screentime, his appearance hoists the film up even higher. And we can’t help but admire or tear our eyes from him the second he steps onto the screen.
Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez is a real find. Her portrayal of the youngster who doesn’t understand the power she contains is terrific. Going forward, she will be a great addition to the MCU. She plays the character to perfection. And we can follow her journey and feel sympathy for her at every turn. Again, her part in what we see on the screen is vital to the storyline. And Ms. Gomez brings everything she has to the tortured soul of America Chavez. As in the comics, the character is portrayed as gay, and that elevates the film even more. The way she plays the character is pitch-perfect and I cannot wait to see her next appearance in a Marvel film.
Rachel McAdams returns as Christine Palmer. Despite reports that she wouldn’t appear in the film, the character is again a vital cog in the scheme of things. Rachel McAdams seems to effortlessly slip back into the character. And her interactions with Cumberbatch’s Strange are easily the emotional highpoints for the two characters. Again, Ms. McAdams seems to relish getting her teeth into the role, bringing Christine more into the story than we would have anticipated. Vulnerable one minute, strong and resolute the next, she plays the character as she deserves and needs to be played. Again, going forward, it will be interesting to see what part she has to play in future MCU projects.
But despite their best efforts, none of the cast can match Elizabeth Olsen. Her return as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch is the real crux of the film. And she gives the performance of a lifetime as the character. Every second she appears on the screen, we are hooked. We can’t take our eyes from her. We hang on every word she says. And we feel her pain. And despite what happens during the film, we are never anything less than sad for her. Coming off the back of her performance in ‘WandaVision‘, Olsen again plays the character to sheer perfection. This film isn’t supposed to be about her. She isn’t supposed to be anything but a co-star. Elizabeth Olsen is magnificent.
Without a doubt, this is HER film. She commands our attention at every turn. And we feel every emotion she displays during the film. Elizabeth Olsen steals the film from under the noses of everyone else. And she does it with ease. You can forget the special effects, this is acting at its finest from an actress that knows Wanda’s every mannerism. Every quirk, everything that makes up the character. Elizabeth Olsen proves that she is one of the MVPs of the Marvel universe.
In the hands of someone who doesn’t have the visual flair and the nuance for the material, the film would fail. But in the hands of director Sam Raimi, it soars. Raimi’s direction is once again exemplary. From the outset, we can see his fingerprints all over the film. From the set designs, the look, and the visual effects, this is a Raimi film without a doubt. The film has the advantage of being in the hands of a master filmmaker. And someone who can handle the scary and horrific elements seen on screen in his sleep.
I have to admit, I smiled at several points during the film, just at the look of what Raimi has presented here. Elements of his ‘Evil Dead’ films are seen during parts of the film. And that is not a disadvantage. Younger viewers won’t recognize these elements when they see them. But for most of the adult audience, his visual flair and style will once again amaze and entertain them.
The visual effects seen in the film are incredible. One sequence brings back memories of the first two ‘Evil Dead’ movies. There are times when I was taken out of the film by a visual effect that didn’t quite match up with the rest. But 99.9% of the time, we can believe what we are seeing. The effects portray the more horrific elements of what we are viewing in full, unadulterated clarity. The ‘Jump’ moments use the effects to sell the scares even more. And it works.
We can actually believe that Strange can conjure up a spell that sees him create a huge saw blade in the middle of New York. We can actually believe that both he and America Chavez are falling through various stages of the multiverse. And we can believe, at some points, that what we are seeing isn’t a visual effect to create a zombie character but a real walking dead creation. Again, these effects have the fingerprints of Sam Raimi all over them. And that is to the film’s advantage.
Sadly, the film isn’t without its flaws. On too many occasions, I felt the film rushed through things a bit too speedily. This can be blamed on the editing. I noticed several moments that appeared in the trailers were not included in the final film. And I suspect that these scenes MAY have made a difference to some of the sequences and scenes that appear uneven. The film also at times feels convoluted.
At a tight running time of 126 minutes, it tries to cram a little too much into itself. It may have been better to allow the film to breathe a bit more with an extended running time. Not much, only a few minutes or so. But they could have made all the difference. And raised the film up that little bit more. They say less is more. In this instance, a little more could have made the film hit the top 1% of the best Marvel movies. In addition, some characters appear and then vanish for periods only to return suddenly. It takes us out of the film at times, which is a real shame.
On the whole, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is a delightfully twisted and darker affair than we have come to expect. There are several shots that I found to be pushing the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. You will know them when you see them. But in the end, the film does exactly what it needs to. It tells the story extremely well and entertains us from the start. The performances are top-notch as are the visuals. Once again, we are treated to two stingers during the end credits. The first will have Marvel fans clapping and cheering as it reveals a thread for the MCU going forward. The second, though, is a classic Raimi touch. And sends the audience home with a beaming smile on their faces.
There are many things that I haven’t revealed here. And for good reason. They will bring the house down. The shocks and surprises keep on coming. And brings the audience a flawed but hugely enjoyable cinematic experience. It doesn’t need to be seen on an IMAX screen as I saw it in but it brings the film to life even more if you do. The sheer scale of what it contains bursts from the screen from the start. And delivers an adventure that will send the fans and non-fans alike home happy. It won’t please everyone. But for the most part, it does exactly what it needs to do. And firmly plants the seeds of what is to come. I completely enjoyed it. And I think you all will too.
‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’ opens in the UK on May 5th, and in the United States on May 6th. Book your tickets now!
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Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!