The Peanut Gallery Reviews Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
PG Score: 7.25/10
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was released in theaters on 5/6/22
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness obliterates the Marvel mold for better and for worse. It carries a bleak tone throughout that speaks to the horror roots of the man in charge. Sam Raimi (Spider-Man and The Evil Dead) returns to the director's chair for his first feature in nine years and proves that he has not lost a step. While the film lacks the emotional depth and endearing comedy of MCU masterpieces, its spectacular visuals enhance an intriguing departure from the usual formula.
Billed as the MCU's first horror movie, the story picks up directly after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home with Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) facing the reckoning caused by opening the gateway to the multiverse. The sequel to the 2016 original also treats the events of the Disney+ series, WandaVision as canon and features Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) as a major character. Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and newcomer America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) must confront the perplexing new threats that have invaded their reality and protect humanity across all universes.
Audiences are in for a real optical treat as the VFX are among the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Earth-shattering incantations and soul-rending spells ignite viewers’ imagination and keep their attention in a vise grip. The vivid imagery and intense color palette complement the rich, diverse environments wonderfully. As Strange and America contend with various states of decay during their adventure, the dedication from behind the scenes comes into full view. Whether it is a barren, post-apocalyptic nightmare or a bustling, futuristic metropolis, the surroundings are always stunning. The visual effects alone are sufficient reason to experience Multiverse of Madness on the big screen.
The action sequences accentuate the phenomenal SFX and include a surprising amount of variety. Between sword fights, superpowered hand-to-hand battles, creature face-offs, and sorcerer showdowns, there is something for everyone. The combat also shifts in scale as the heroes travel from universe to universe, making for a few up-close-and-personal encounters that really hit home. The film is not necessarily action-packed, but it makes the most of its inventive fight scenes.
Horror Pros and Cons
Another highlight is the substantial dose of terror served up by scream sensei, Sam Raimi. The Army of Darkness helmer is given a long leash in terms of how dark he can go, and he uses every last inch. There are grim themes at play, and he explores the gloomy moral corridors without so much as flickering a light. Multiverse of Madness is quite violent by the typical MCU standard and contains a number of disturbing depictions. It is never truly frightening, but it is without a doubt the closest the franchise has ever come. Raimi makes excellent use of his horror expertise by organically incorporating it into the Marvel blueprint.
The more mature mood does not come without sacrifice, however. Apart from a few funny one-liners, the movie is relatively humorless. While the tonal shift works for the most part, additional comic relief would have made for a complete project. On the other side of the spectrum, the emotional aspect is surprisingly shallow. Not many would go in expecting anything like the hard-hitting dramatic moments from Avengers: Infinity War or Endgame, but there is something to be said for the absence of any real heartstring-tugging. The rushed plot does not help in this regard. The breakneck pacing leaves ample room for excitement, but less space for impactful interactions.
Benedict Cumberbatch reprises his role as the superhuman surgeon and turns in another compelling performance. The acclaimed actor is afforded the opportunity to better show off his range this time around as Stephen now exhibits more vulnerability. It is refreshing to see such a powerful, occasionally egotistical being whittled down to a place of humility. Here is to hoping audiences will be granted even more character growth from the beloved protagonist as phase four continues.
Cumberbatch is joined by multiple returning MCU members including Benedict Wong as Wong, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo, and Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer. Everyone once again brings the same energy and talent to their respective roles. Xochitl Gomez shines as America Chavez and delivers a worthy performance alongside Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange. It is a superb supporting cast that is made even better with several groundbreaking cameos.
A Successful Experiment
Sam Raimi doubles down on the special effects to craft jaw-dropping set pieces that are as unsettling as they are mesmerizing. It is unfortunate that the dialogue and storyline are not as captivating. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is more of a mixed bag than Marvel minions may be hoping for, but rest assured that bag still holds plenty of magic.
PG Score: 7.25/10