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Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Coming off the exhilarating Spider-Man: No Way Home and the first batch of MCU TV shows, most notably Wandavision.  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had a ton of hype behind it and it mostly lives up to it, although it does show that some of the cogs in the MCU machine are still not fully connecting across the different platforms.

Picking up after Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) while battling a giant monster on the day of Dr. Christine Palmer’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding.  Strange learns that America has the power to jump between universes in the Multiverse but someone or something is after her to steal her powers.  Believing powerful magic is behind things, Strange goes to consult Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) but is shocked to find that she is the one behind the attacks, having become obsessed with reclaiming her twin boys that she conjured while holding Westview hostage and becoming corrupted by the evil spell book known as the Darkhold.  Strange and America escape into another universe but Wanda is willing to do anything to get what she wants.  Based on other reviews, it seems like your opinion on Multiverse of Madness will hinge on how big a fan of Wandavision you were and how much you are invested in Wanda.  I can definitely understand the feeling of Multiverse of Madness “doing Wanda dirty” after the arc she had of seemingly accepting grief but I bought into her heel turn enough to enjoy Multiverse of Madness and Elizabeth Olsen delivers a completely fantastic and chilling villain performance, especially in disturbing sequences like when she possesses one of her alternate universe variants.  I was definitely a bit disappointed that the events of Loki didn’t factor in at all to the events of MoM, which is doubly strange considering one of the main guys behind the scenes, Michael Waldron, wrote the script for MoM.  Everything we learned about the Multiverse in Loki doesn’t seem to cross over to MoM and they establish their own rules regarding “incursions” between universes and other things that don’t quite gel everything between the TV and movie sides still.  It’s definitely better than the loose and sometimes hilariously terrible crossovers before everything switched to Disney+, like Agents of Shield’s Infinity War tie-in, but it’s not the fully cohesive vision that some fans might be expecting or wanting.

Sam Raimi makes his welcome return to superhero filmmaking and brings lots of his trademark visual flair and creative shots to the MCU.  It definitely leans into Raimi’s horror stylings with some of the most gruesome imagery in the MCU and disturbing sequences, like the aforementioned possessing of another Wanda by 616 Wanda or a zombie Strange.  There’s also the extremely creative and visually inventive imagery we’ve come to expect from anything related to Doctor Strange, with the initial jump through the Multiverse being a standout and a brilliant sequence where Strange battles an alternate universe version of himself with the power of music, which utilizes classical pieces as well as the new score from Danny Elfman.  There’s also plenty of fanservice, most notably in the universe where the Illuminati exists, and who is on that council should delight fans of past Marvel films and TV shows as well as tease what we might be seeing in the future.

Multiverse of Madness is overall a fun ride but it’s definitely a bit messier than Spider-Man: No Way Home’s multiversal shenanigans.  Fans of the various MCU TV shows may be disappointed that certain arcs seem to have been reset or wiped out or other shows don’t really factor in in a meaningful way, showing that despite huge improvements in the cohesiveness of the universe, it’s still hard to get all these creative teams to exactly fit the pieces together.  There’s lots of great stuff, including the introduction of America Chavez, who is another great potential Young Avenger, and maybe if stuff like Loki Season 2 addresses some of the fallout from MoM, it will work more smoothly in the overall MCU.

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