Movie review: 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' dives into darker dimensions

Fred Hawson

Posted at May 04 2022 08:01 PM

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Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) rescued a teenage girl being chased down the streets of New York by a one-eyed giant octopus. She was America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who was being pursued because of her unique ability to travel through alternate universes, collectively called the Multiverse. 

When he noted that the monster was a product of witchcraft, Strange sought the help of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who was then still mourning the loss of her two sons, Billy and Tommy. However, this friendly visit revealed a bigger, darker plot that would send them hurtling across different dimensions in time and space. 

That was just a "tip-of-the-iceberg" introduction to this 126-minute exhilarating roller-coaster ride through a spectacular CGI extravaganza of a movie (especially in 3D IMAX). Like other Marvel films, there were a lot of frenetic action scenes, some heavy drama, and occasional slapstick comedy. This one added horror to the mix, with some gruesome kills and startling jump scares, and shocking scenes which made the audience gasp out loud. 

As we have already seen in the Avengers and his own stand-alone film, Benedict Cumberbatch really fit the character of Doctor Strange like a glove. In this sequel, Cumberbatch took on more versions of this character as they existed in other earths within the multiverse -- flawed, sinister, or zombiefied. His relationship with his ex-lover Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) was likewise revisited. 

We already saw her range of talent in the Avengers films and especially in her "Wandavision" TV series, but Elizabeth Olsen really went through a wringer of emotions for the story arc of Wanda/Scarlet Witch in her heart-wrenching quest for motherhood in this sequel. We get to see the full extent of Scarlet Witch's superpowers here and they can be quite scary, and even gory (certainly not for small kids, despite the generous PG rating). 

Director Sam Raimi returns from a 9-year break from film directing since "Oz the Great and Powerful" (2013) and he comes back strong. He told a complex fantasy story bringing characters into different universes with different versions of themselves in a way that engaged the audience and made sense. His expertise in the horror genre, from films like "The Evil Dead" (1981) and "Drag Me to Hell" (2009), fit right into the dark story. 

It would be best if you watch this film after you've seen two 2021 Disney+ series "Wandavision" and "What If," but I think you can still get the general flow of the story even if you did not. There were rampant rumors of cameos and some were teased in the last trailer. It is really best if you watch without any idea of who these guest stars would be. These scenes were met with loud cheers during our screening, and most probably in yours, too. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, “Fred Said.”