Reel Reviews | Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Director Sam Raimi returns to his roots as he leads Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Olsen in, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

When the multiverse jumping America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) inadvertently lands in the always prepared arms of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) needing help, she reluctantly agrees despite his failure to help in previous universes.  Realizing that he is a little out of his depths, Strange enlists the assistance of the Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) and Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen) to fight with him against an unknown being of tremendous power that wants to take America’s abilities that even she does not know how to control.  Only when the jumping begins do they find out who the villain is and the threat posed to the whole multiverse.

Written by Michael Waldron (Loki, Rick, and Morty), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stars Cumberbatch, Gomez, Wong, and Olsen with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Bruce Campbell, and a number of others that would be very unfair to list in this review.  The film is directed by Sam Raimi.

We have been deceived.  Because of the commercial success of his work in the Spider-Man trilogy of movies starring Toby Maguire and other recent pieces of work, we have forgotten that Sam Raimi is a horror master.  His work in the Evil Dead series has garnered him a cult following that rivals many of the greats in the indie horror field.  Let’s not forget Darkman, which gave us a butt-kicking Liam Neeson decades before the Taken series and all of their look-a-likes.  In this movie, Raimi returns to his horror roots delivering Marvel’s first darkly themed, supernatural adventure film.  This film creatively (and successfully) crosses genres as well as Captain America: The Winter Soldier became an espionage thriller with superheroes in it.  Like The Dark Knight was a crime drama with a super…uh, Batman.  There are ghosts and zombies, demons and demonic possessions and at the same time an off-beat and looney sense of humor.  All the stuff that Raimi does superbly, it just works so well in this film.

For all those Marvel fans out there, this film is just bursting with delight after delight, surprise after surprise both good and bad.  After all, with an unlimited number of universes to delve into, there are an unlimited number of opportunities to create geekdom.  There are plenty of Easter eggs, two end credit scenes, and a couple of cameos to blow your mind.  It’s no secret that the Illuminati arrive in the film but it is a surprise as to who is in those chairs and what it means for the MCU going forward. Showing the audience who America Chavez is and how important she will be in the upcoming movie The Marvels was certainly a directive from on high but most important was also entrenching Strange in this darker side of the universe, where he belongs, was ultimately necessary as well.

This movie is a rebound film for the MCU.  After the nebulous and seemingly irrelevant tale told in The Eternals, this film will reassure the faith that has been placed in Kevin Feige and company for so many years.  It achieves the telling of a great story and the opening of a whole new direction of tales for the universe that seemed to be lacking a clear vision (pun, intended) for this latest phase.  Raimi dismisses all the conventional styles that have been used previously and goes straight for the action. 

Rated PG-15 for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images, and some language, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a maddening reminder of how deliciously good Sam Raimi is at creating a film.  Be careful with the kiddos because this is a horror film in its essence and there are plenty of scenes that will live with them long past the rise in the theater lights (also a classic element of Raimi horror).  This twenty-eighth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes us to places new yet creepily familiar.  Thanks, Sam, you’re the best!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters on May 6. 

Grade:  A