Title: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Michael Waldron, Stan Lee (character), Steve Ditko (comics)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Patrick Steward
“Are you happy?” It is a question that is often asked in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This latest film is very much a film about what could have been if you just took that other choice. Think back. You know the one. What if you had chosen differently just then? Would things be different?
So am I happy? Having just watched this new installment in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would say that I am happy. This new Doctor Strange film is madly bonkers, visually stunning and often confusing. It was to me, and I did my homework before watching it. I can’t imagine what the film would look like to those who didn’t! But what a ride it was!
So let’s talk about that homework a bit and about spoilers. Because of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, this might be the one that has the biggest build-up in other films and series. I suspect that not even the Avengers films have this amount of references and nods, picking up story threads from elsewhere in the MCU and tying them (not always neatly) together. I’m quite happy, but if we’re going to talk about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we will have to go into spoilers for what came before. So if you read on, I’ll assume that you’ve done your homework and watched most of it.
Let’s see now. To get the most out of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, you’re going to have to watch Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: No Way Home, WandaVision, Loki, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and several of the What If… episodes on Disney+, especially What if… Doctor Strange Lost Hist Heart Instead of His Hands? and What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? And I’m not even counting all the comic books leading up to this place in the Marvel plotline.
It’s a lot. Maybe not too much if you’re a hardcore fan looking for references everywhere, but it might be exhausting for everyone else. But enough about that, let’s take a look at Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The point is that there will be spoilers from now on – not for the film itself, but for what came before.
Wanda (played by Elizabeth Olsen) is angry. Having lost the love of her life, the android Vision, to Thanos in the Infinity War, she tried to build a happy life for herself in the small town of Westview. A loving family with Vision and two kids – it was like a postcard. And equally fake, built by magic and brainwashed puppets. The wheels came off quickly, and all hell broke loose. Literally. She has now found a special – and very evil – spellbook that allows her to send her dreams into other universes to possess versions of herself there and gather power to again find that happy and idyllic postcard kind of life.
Now Doctor Strange (played, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, by Benedict Cumberbatch) is on the case. Attending the wedding of his ex-girlfriend, he hears a commotion outside. A huge Lovecraftian monster is chasing a teenage girl, America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez). It seems she has the power to travel the multiverse – a power that Wanda, aka The Scarlet Witch wants for herself.
This starts a game of cat and mouse across the various universes, with Doctor Strange and Wong (played by the most excellent Benedict Wong) trying to protect the universe-jumping girl against the Scarlet Witch.
Director Sam Raimi, not a stranger to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has created something truly special. It is the most Sam Raimi-est MCU film so far, and even though the references and blasts of special effects and perfect sound can be a bit much at times, there is a method to the madness, which is thanks to the writing skills of Michael Waldron who stitched it all together. Sam Raimi also pulls in style from his older horror films like Evil Dead. There’s even a small cameo by Bruce Campbell involving a hand! Remember to watch the post-credits scene!
But although most MCU films are special, and most, I would say, work on at least some level, Disney has become so experienced with this genre now that you should know what you’re going into. There are variations, of course. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is more violent, gorier and goes more into the horror genre than other MCU films. It never feels routine, but make no mistake: this is still very much a Marvel superhero movie.
But if you’ll like a film like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or not really comes down to whether you like Doctor Strange himself and how Benedict Cumberbatch plays him. Maybe you have a different favorite.
Doctor Strange happens to be mine, so I might be biased. But I’m very happy!