‘Doctor Strange 2’ Review: An MCU Horror Film by Sam Raimi

The toughest villain the Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently facing isn’t a group of villains crashing into the door of another movie series, or a race of all-powerful godlike beings who use the Earth as an incubator, or the looming threat of Kang the Conqueror—it’s the lingering creep of sameness, Marvel’s grayscale internal style, and anonymous visual effects that become stale as we near fifteen years of super- hero dominating the box office. The franchise has tried to mitigate this by hiring art directors in recent years: Chloe Zhao had just won her Oscar when Eternals made its debut in theaters, and we all remember the electric zing when Taika Waititi brought his irreverent spirit to the Norse gods of Thor: Ragnarok. Fan excitement when none other than Sam Raimi was announced to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was two-fold: he’s responsible for some of the best superhero movies of all time with his Spider-Man trilogy and, with the evil Deadsand drag me to hell under his belt he is well suited for the horror movie Multiverse of Madness was styled to be. Everyone’s excitement at welcoming Raimi into the superhero fold was worth it.

Doctor Strange is fine. He is fine!! He’s saved the world multiple times, he’s so powerful he doesn’t even need the title of Sorcerer Supreme, and he’s pals with the remaining Avengers who generally keep things pretty peaceful in those regions. It is fine. So what if he lives alone in a huge mansion with only a coarse coat for company and has to watch everyone, including maybe the love of his life, move on without him? Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness features a more introspective Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who doesn’t know how to answer the question “Are you happy?” Well, he can answer it, but he’s not sure he’s telling the truth. In times like these, a teenage girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) possessing the uncontrollable ability to universe jump shows up out of the blue and claims to have encountered another darker version of himself as she was fleeing from a demonic force. welcome distraction.

To help the child, Strange contacts Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who is now recovering from the ordeal depicted in Wanda Vision, which might not be the best idea, especially when the lure of a universe in which Wanda and her family are happily together becomes too much to resist. Strange and America Chavez travel to different worlds of the Multiverse, searching for a way for America to learn to control her powers while uncovering dark truths about Strange’s many selves.

Those of us who have been around this series for a while probably remember when Scott Derrickson strange doctor created and ultimately gave our lizard brains authentic colors and Creation– decorations to engulf. Multiverse of Madness has a similar effect, but from a craftsman’s perspective: Sam Raimi is all over this movie, once you get past the early, conscientious story-building sequences and he leans into B-movie territory d ‘horror. Body parts move in ways they shouldn’t, characters are chased down dark hallways by bloody, dragging threats, and actors scream directly into the camera like Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead 2. In other words, a total delight!! (We should mention that this is the MCU’s version of a horror movie, so parents, don’t worry too much that it’s too scary for the kids.) Not for nothing, the frequent collaborator Raimi’s Danny Elfman even provides the score, which all but takes up a particularly thrilling fight scene.

If you’re the type to keep up with Marvel’s project announcements and schedule reorganization, you can tell where elements of an earlier version of this movie might have fit. Multiverse of Madness was supposed to release before most of the Phase 4 entries we’ve seen before, including Wanda Vision, which, given what the emotional stakes of this movie are trying to accomplish, would have made more sense. As things stand, much of the plot of Multiverse of Madnesswhen not following Strange and Chavez galloping through parallel worlds, is stuck repeating certain rhythms of Wanda Vision which we’ve more or less already seen, and vaguely attempting to tie this in with Strange’s conflicting feelings about sacrificing his own happiness for the greater good. Thus, the emotional journey Multiverse of Madness walks make it look like it’s not as as good as it could have been. Yet whenever things start to slow down, there’s an action scene with outrageously angled camera angles to get your blood flowing again.

What’s great Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is that some real imagination has gone into this beyond the required cameos (and there are a few amusing ones) and storytelling acrobatics that tie this standalone story to the larger film series. The concern following the announcement that Raimi would be at the helm here was that Marvel wouldn’t let him mess with his personal style, but, for the most part, they’ve found the best of both worlds (universe?). A director known for his love and mastery of horror cinema is, oddly enough, the perfect choice for a film that deals with supernatural forces and body horror and incredibly gruesome death threats from alternate dimensions. Marvel’s latest entry is worth checking out just to watch a follower of his craft cast his dark magic.

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