Director Sam Raimi, who helmed the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, returns to the land of Marvel with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a frantic and nutty sequel that has flavors of Raimi’s pre-Spidey horror days in it.
Like Spider-Man: No Way Home (which also featured Strange, played winningly by Benedict Cumberbatch), this film plays with the notion of parallel universes, and different versions of the same character. Madness leans a little more toward the horror genre, but it is rated PG-13, so things never get so bad you can’t bring the kids. This is Marvel/Disney, after all.
There are moments in the film that exude Raimi’s Evil Dead vibe. There are some demonic forces who have that Deadite look to them, and they speak with that same old-lady voice. I half expected them to yell, “I’ll swallow your soul!” It’s definitely fun to see it.
Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) shows up in a way that is surprising, unless you are a fan of her in the comic books, in which case you know about some of her shady history. The film struggles to make Wanda likable and the villain at the same time. (Scarlet Witch is in the house!) There are times when it would suit things better to have her go unapologetically badass. Hey, good guys go bad sometimes. You don’t have to soft-shoe it.
Do you remember that Rachel McAdams is part of this franchise? She was in the original starring as the love interest, Christine Palmer; it seems like that happened a million years ago. She’s back, with her character appearing in multiple versions. Speaking of which: Cumberbatch gets to play a few different Stranges, most notably an evil three-eyed one in the film’s final act.
At times, the film feels a little bit too frantic and crammed, like it’s trying to do a little too much in its running time. Raimi ultimately keeps things on track, but the film feels a little messy for stretches. I happened to see it in 3-D by accident (I didn’t know they were still making 3-D films), and some of the sequences play like a hyperactive videogame.
Doctor Strange has always been one of the nuttier Avengers, so it is suitable that he gets the nuttiest movie. I hope this is just some sort of warmup for Raimi, and he’s ready to go with more big budget blockbusters. Sign him up for a new Tobey Maguire Spidey movie, stat!
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing at theaters across the valley.