Before Sam Raimi revitalised the superhero genre with the Tobey Maguire-starrer Spider-Man series, the filmmaker was known best for the Evil Dead franchise, considered a milestone in the horror genre. So when the filmmaker enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, he combines the superhero action with mind-numbing horror. And he does that beautifully in a film that combines the thrill of the superhero genre with the chills of horror, but still manages to focus on the most important aspect of storytelling–making sure it is human at its heart. Also read: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness first reactions are in: Critics praise ‘magical moments to remember forever’
In a nutshell, the Multiverse of Madness takes off from where Spider-Man: No Way Home ended and sees Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) try to contain the fallout of his multiverse-fracturing spell. It also borrows elements and plot points from three Marvel web series–WandaVision, What If…?, and Loki. The Pandora’s Box that Stephen Strange opened in No Way Home continues to haunt him. He must now save the Multiverse before something (or someone) catastrophic comes through. And helping him in this endeavour is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager with the ability to travel between universes.
The first Doctor Strange was a visual delight, as was WandaVision. Of course, when you have a big-budget project on sorcerers and witches, it should look great. And that is the USP of Doctor Strange 2. It is one of the best-looking MCU films ever. A recent clip had caused some concern among fans about ‘bad CGI’ but the film lays all such fears to rest.
But it’s not all about CGI and action. The Multiverse of Madness succeeds because at its heart, it’s a story of human emotions and it delves into them deftly. There is Strange dealing with the question: ‘Am I happy?’ or Wanda, wondering ‘how far is too far to get what you want’. And America, trying to balance her fear and guilt. The writing has brought these emotions to the surface, enabling the razzmatazz of the CGI to embellish it, not mask it.
But the film’s USP is it’s horror element. There are hardly any jump scares but the background score and the tenor perfectly bring out the terror of being chased by a ‘monster’. Let’s face it, in a superhero movie, when the hero is saving the kid from the pursuing villain, it is almost like being chased by a monster in a creature feature. And that is what The Multiverse of Madness does very well. There are scenes that draw audible gasps in the auditorium and heighten the tension, making you feel for your protagonists’ safety.
The performances from the principal cast are the icing on a delicious cake. Benedict Cumberbatch is effortless as Strange–as all the Stranges, I should rather say. The Oscar-nominated actor shows in this film why he is so highly-regarded. Reports say that he is to be the centrepiece of MCU going forward and it shows in this film. Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez is a good addition to the franchise and she does really well, surrounded by accomplished actors. But it’s Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda/Scarlet Witch, who is easily the scene-stealer. If you thought her performance in WandaVision was applause-worthy, wait till you see her elevate it further. She combines the torment of a mother and the menace of a deranged magical being quite seamlessly. Watch this movie for her and you won’t be disappointed.
Doctor Strange 2 deals with the concept of variants and multiverse and hence, there were reports of several actors making cameos either as variants of existing characters or returning to play fan favourite roles from other franchises. Many of these–like Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier and Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter–had been teased in the trailers, while others remained a mystery. There is no way to criticise or comment on it without letting some things slip. Therefore, we will be avoiding it in this review. Also read: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness earns ₹ 20 crore in advance booking in India, eyes huge opening
To sum it up, if Doctor Strange 2 is to give MCU a new direction, it stars off quite well. It opens up a multiverse of possibilities for our heroes and villains, and in the process, giving us new characters to root for. It would be interesting to see where exactly this film fits in the giant jigsaw of the MCU in the decade to come. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is part of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4. Also starring Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, it released in theatres globally on May 6, 2022.