Words By Gerry Otim
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, through the creativity and artistic style of director Sam Raimi is Marvel’s biggest foray into the multiverse and the possibilities of an ever-evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe. The multiverse has been teased and somewhat explored in previous MCU properties, but this is their biggest plunge into multiple possibilities of the multiverse yet. Raimi is a well renowned flag-waving supporter of horror, dating back to his early days as an indie director, and he masterfully uses the genre to tell the story of characters that are on the path towards a journey of self-discovery.
The returning cast from the prequel of the film includes Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Rachel McAdams plays Strange’s love interest Christina Palmer, Chiwitel Ejofor as Bardo Modor and Benedict Wong as the current Sorcerer Supreme Wong. They are accompanied by Elizabeth Olsen, who undoubtedly steals the show through her fierce and yet emotive performance as both Wanda Maximoff and the Scarlett Witch. If you thought her performance in the Disney+ series Wandavision was great, she takes it up ten notches in this film. Utterly mesmerising throughout, to the point, you wonder if this is a Doctor Strange sequel or a continuation of the Disney+ series “Wandavision”. Arguably, it’s both which is somewhat of an issue. As great as Olsen is, this film isn’t a showcase for Stephen Strange.
The film is ferociously action packed from the offset, where we are introduced to the charming Xochitl Gomez, who takes up the role of MCU newcomer America Chavez. Gomez seamlessly slots in with her fellow cast members. We learn she possesses the ability to travel between dimensions of the Multiverse. Yet, it quickly becomes apparent that her life and universe are faced with a monumental threat. Strange tasks himself with protecting Chavez with the help of comrade Wong.
With the multiverse now in full effect in the MCU, the complexities of the stories from the films and television series continue to intertwine and unravel. The film is certainly great. Especially for fans of comic books and the ever-evolving MCU. However, for those who haven’t seen “Wandavison,” and possibly some of the other Disney+ series’ it might be a difficult story to grasp and fully embrace. Despite there being times when the film provides moments of shock for the viewers, I couldn’t help but feel that the film only dipped its toes into the multiverse aspects of the film rather than a full-on deep dive. Furthermore, the marketing of the film through the trailers gave away too much. If they’re going to make such a move, Marvel should have ensured that the film contains moments of higher shock value than what had been revealed in the trailers.
One of the most enjoyable aspects to this film was that although it did feel like a Marvel film that had been brushed by the colourful and bright lights, we have come to expect from a Disney product, it also didn’t feel like a typical MCU film. The horror genre that Raimi so patently adores brilliantly coincides with the darker aspects of magic and power that this story is attempting to tell. His uses of props, lighting, colour pallets, camera angles and camera movement are refreshing. It is fun and colourful, yet dark and gory. It is about as horror as you will get from an MCU product, and the film benefits from this shift in tone as well as aesthetics.
Raimi, in a recent interview with Fandom, explained how his experience from working on films such as “The Evil Dead” franchise and 1990s “Darkman” helped shape the approach taken by Marvel Studios for their first true plunge into the horror genre: “It was really nice to have the experience of having made those horror films because I could take my knowledge of building suspense and delivering scares, and when it got spooky in Multiverse of Madness, I could apply those techniques.”
Beyond the exciting fight scenes, of which there are many, the vast usage of CGI, the magical aspects explored and of course the fan service moments, the cornerstone of this film is a story of love that the characters hold dearest to their hearts. It’s more than just a comic book film. It’s a tale of soul-searching and having to endure traumatic moments to come out of the other side a better person than the one you were before. More importantly, it’s a Sam Raimi film and his distinctive approach to filmmaking, alongside the brilliance of Olsen and Cumberbatch, is what makes this film a compelling viewing.