Film Critic Eve Greybanks reviews Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, feeling it fails to live up to the complex potential the concept had
Have you ever dreamt you are being chased by a dinosaur, or are falling down a never-ending hole? Well, within Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, these are not dreams, but are events happening in the lives of your alternate self. Crazy, right? Well, the endless opportunities that this storyline could exhaust sadly does not quite live up to the excitement of its concept. Unfortunately, the film fails to live up to not only the MCU collection, but the hype surrounding this release.
Following on from saving the world from Thanos in Avengers: Endgame and then, arguably, himself in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the audience catches up with Dr Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) as they come to meet the acquaintance of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). After meeting the multiverse-jumping teenager, who is being chased through the cosmos by ‘hench-men’ working for a bigger entity demanding her powers, Strange must find a way to protect America Chavez, his own world, and the infinite multiverse. After requesting the help of his fellow Avenger, Wanda/The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the story expands to other universes, where his own intentions and fixations on the multiverse are called into question, and his path continues to cross with his on-and-off love-interest Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).
The return of director Sam Raimi had been long-awaited by fans, including myself, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After his role in directing Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man Trilogy, he should be regarded as a significant director in the Marvel Comics’ progression and early depiction on the big screen. Unfortunately, his return is a disappointing one. A glance at his filmography shows anyone the dark tone and elements of the horror genre that has increasingly appeared in his films, and has crept into Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Although there are many aspects that keep this film rightly within the Marvel genre – its always perfectly on-the-nose comedy, for instance – the dark tone and vibe created by Raimi, in this instance, is arguably an unwelcome one. Unfortunately, the attempt at a gloomy Marvel film pushes the boundary too far, bleeding into the DC Universe with its angsty, brooding, and serious take on the comic book genre. As a superhero film, something that should be expected from Marvel is its accessibility to the younger generation. However, with numerous jump-scares, gory deaths and overall quite unsettling scenes, it is perhaps unbelievable that the film even classifies as a 12A age-rating. Perhaps if it wasn’t a Marvel film, it could easily have been given a 15 certificate. Ultimately, the dark nature of the film, although it does allow for some exciting new soundtrack experiences by Danny Elfman, is too inaccessible for a younger audience, its future fanbase, and creates unsettling changes to the experience of an MCU film.
Even when looking at the film in its own right, without the weight of the entirety of the MCU, it could be thought that even the story’s concept has some incredibly questionable, pointless and confusing aspects that negatively impact the film. It almost feels like too much is happening within a two-hour sitting; an entire character development arc that had taken numerous films to create, is essentially destroyed and re-done in the space of one film – yet somehow, it still feels like nothing is actually happening on-screen. Avoiding spoilers, it even feels that important developments and plot points of beloved characters are further being ignored and abused within this film.
If not ruining their characters, then Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness even goes as far as to just kill them off, in pointless and ridiculous ways. To add to the disappointment further, it could be perceived that the eventual ending, which had been built up so much throughout the screening, is underwhelming, pointless and confusing. The chances given to writers and producers to create such a perfectly complex film, with endless opportunities of infinite, unexplored, multiverses, were poorly attempted. Ultimately, to say that this film did some of its characters unbelievable injustices could be considered an understatement, and to further imply that its storyline was not fully taken advantage of, to the best of its capabilities, would be an even bigger one.
Fortunately for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, there are still many aspects of the film that are of course interesting, enticing and thoroughly exciting. One thing you can always be sure that Marvel will pull through with is action scenes; done to perfect precision and in great quantity, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is no exception. With the development of skills continuing the story lines and new powers being explored, it is not only thrilling but a satisfying addition to the film.
Furthermore, cast portrayals are continuously well-played. Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal of Wanda/The Scarlet Witch is especially exciting and ingenious; the different tropes she is able to endlessly unlock and add to the character is nothing less than impressive and enticing. It could be suggested that concerns for this film, and the remainder of other new MCU films, were created with the new addition of the TV shows that were introduced on Disney +, such as Wandavision and the What If? series’. Used to bridge gaps between stories and to give Marvel fans those extra moments with their favourite characters, it was a worry that without watching the TV shows too much information would be missed, meaning the average cinema-goer cannot follow along with the bigger stories.
Luckily, these concerns need not have been there. Within Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a few lines here and there is enough to understand what happened within Wandavision and makes it possible to follow along with the story of the Scarlet Witch. Ultimately, although there are obvious faults with this film, as a whole it cannot be denied that it is part of a huge collection of cinematic masterpieces that will go down in cinematography history as an incredibly significant block-buster franchise that knows how to create amazing films.
Overall, as a Marvel fan, and an avid film lover, I cannot help but feel disappointed at the weak attempt given to the endlessly opportunistic story that is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It is undeniable that the blueprint for a perfectly complex film were handed to them on a silver platter, but lacked execution. Although there are great moments and tropes used within the film, the only emotion formed after a viewing is a feeling of being conflicted – there is something about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that makes you want to like it, but there is too much that misses the mark or feels slightly out of place that makes it feel like you just can’t. Maybe in another universe, this is my favourite Marvel film. But in this one, I am sad to say it is not.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out now in cinemas.
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