“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong
Where to watch: In Theaters
Magic! Witchcraft! Sorcery! Obeah!
I’m not sure which one (or combination thereof) is at work here, but somebody is certainly hard at it at Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now, some folks have been saying that about “the House that Mickey built” for years and for other reasons. But in this case, it’s because we have a sequel that’s as good as the original (and in some ways an improvement), and that makes a recently-released similar film about magic seem even more disappointing than it was.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is an exuberant production, with at least one surprisingly deep, emotional and strong (for a comic book-based super hero movie) performance.
That’s very much unlike the aforementioned “similar” but “disappointing” “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”, released last month.
Ironically, the original picture in that franchise – “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” – premiered just a couple weeks after the original “Doctor Strange” back in 2016. And while “Doctor Strange” was entertaining and likable, I wrote in my reviews that it wasn’t entirely successful in its apparent aim to be a “Harry Potter for adults”, and that it was “Fantastic Beasts” that almost perfectly fit the bill.
For even more irony, the two franchises are back in the same year, and again just weeks apart. But it’s now the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise that has almost completely lost its way, and in need of having the negative spell that’s hovering over it cast off. Either that, or it should be allowed to be put out of its misery entirely. All while “Multiverse of Madness” – like Stephen Strange when he dons the cape that allows him to fly – is soaring to new heights.
In the new film, Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to the multiverse. However, a threat emerges that may be too big for his team to handle.
Following up on some interesting concepts explored in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) and most recently in last year’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, “Multiverse of Madness” combines mind-bending and thought-provoking notions about alternate and parallel universes with fast-paced, high-energy action and spellbinding visuals.
Oscar-nominee Benedict Cumberbatch is again portraying the title character, and heading a fantastic cast, which now includes Elizabeth Olsen, reprising her role as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch from the Avengers series, and the spinoff Disney+ TV series “WandaVision”.
Olsen is the standout amongst this talented cast, delivering an unusual amount of angst, pain, suffering, warmth and depth – a full gamut of emotions. Even as the supposed “villain” here, one can’t exactly root against her. Olsen’s immense talent helps make this one of the most sympathetic characters ever for this genre.
It’s obvious that those who’ve watched “WandaVision” will find even more to appreciate here, but it’s not essential viewing.
Yes, director Sam Raimi (the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” trilogy) allows quite a few extraneous bits to run on a little too long. But this has almost come to be expected in these sorts of flicks, unfortunately. Thankfully, overall this is a decent way to spend a couple hours. (Don’t forget to stay for the two extra scenes during the credits!)
It would be a shame to not see it in IMAX. It’s also available in 3-D and 4DX. With the latter, beware! The incessant action is not for the faint of heart – literally. And days later, I’m still feeling like I’ve been on a speedboat for a month!
But it’s clear the groundwork is being laid for more great adventures in this series. Plus, it had the biggest opening weekend of the year so far ($185million) in North America, and $450million globally. As of yesterday, it had already passed the $500 million mark worldwide. That opening in the U.S. was even higher than this year’s “The Batman” – so far (and for now) the top grossing release of 2022.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has obviously cast a spell on a whole lot of people!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.