Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a conflicted attendee at the wedding of Christine (Rachel McAdams), the love of his life, when his attention is drawn to commotion on the city streets far below the reception.  Stepping over a balcony, Strange becomes involved in saving a young woman from a giant, tentacled eyeball, assisted by the new Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong).  Even stranger, the young woman he saves is the same one who featured in his terrifying dream the night before in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

Laura's Review: B

This is an odd entry in the MCU - a sequel which could almost be a standalone, a welcome bit of director Sam Raimi’s patented comic grand Guignol and a movie that leans a bit too heavily on a Disney+ television series (‘Wandavision’).  There’s even a sequence that appears indebted to Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” with a hefty assist from Danny Elfman’s score.  It’s also another multiverse movie following on the heels of “Everything, Everywhere All At Once,” and, like that film, proves the concept can be exhausting in both its complexity and repetitiveness.  And yet the latter provides two of the film’s best sequences, one in which Strange and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez, TV's 'The Babysitter's Club') blast through an abundance of wildly different realities in a brilliantly edited display of special effects, and the film’s climax, which features Strange inhabiting another version of himself which just happens to be dead.  And rotting.

The film begins by plunking us right into that dream, without, of course, telling us that it is a dream.  Except that, as America will explain, it wasn’t a dream at all, but events happening in another universe, one in which Strange appeared about to sacrifice her life in order to rid the universes of the Darkhold.  Once the magician learns that America has the power to pass through universes, albeit a power she has yet to learn to control, and that she is being chased throughout them by a demon who keeps taking new shapes (like Gargantos, the eyeball that seems to have wandered over from "The Suicide Squad"), he decides there is one person best suited to protect her, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) aka The Scarlet Witch.  He couldn’t be more wrong as Wanda has engaged the Darkhold herself in order to take her own place in a universe where her boys, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne), reside.

After a fierce battle wipes out many brave defenders of Kamar-Taj in the Himalayas, Strange and America will continue to flee through openings created by the teenaged girl (Florida governor Ron DeSantis will likely have a fit when he learns her parents are two women).  In one environmentally friendly place Strange will learn to stop on green and walk on red before getting into a dustup with a street food vendor, one of the film’s many surprising cameos.  They will land in places seen before in entirely different film franchises before landing in a place where Strange is shocked to be welcomed by his former foe Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), but that is before the Doctor learns about the plans of Mordo’s Illuminati, a full panel of surprise cameos, and the scientist who assists them – this universe’s version of Christine.

Cumberbatch and Olsen are both really committed to these characters, raising the stakes and our enjoyment of the film.  But just like Olsen’s conflicted character, so goes the film, fun yet too many universes, great special effects but so much CGI we long for simple reality.  Those who sit through the never ending credits for the requisite dual stingers may groan at what little they offer, but the last one is an amusing homage to Raimi’s own original franchise.

Robin's Review: C+

Disney/Marvel opens “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" in theaters on 5/6/22.