There is a lot of excitement going into the theater to watch the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022), after coming off of the massive success of Spider-Man No Way Home (2021). Sam Raimi returns to the director’s chair of a comic book franchise – and, quite surprisingly – Marvel let him make a Sam Raimi film. His signature style is all over this film…but something is just off, keeping this new Doctor Strange film from reaching the heights of the MCU, and seeing it plummet to the lower ranks.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is feeling pretty good about his role in all of the events that have happened on Earth, but he is also feeling pretty low at the wedding of the woman he loves, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Fortunately, a monster arrives in the city – forcing Strange to leave the wedding, where he encounters America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and learns of her plight. Now Strange must confront a new enemy who threatens the multiverse in order to save the world and America.
I enjoy Cumberbatch as Strange, and I was into America Chavez both as a character and for the bulk of the performance by Gomez. Plus, anytime the MCU can use Benedict Wong, I am on board. However, so much of this film felt disconnected and overwrought. There are big, bombastic moments, and tons of Sam Raimi elements throughout. Getting past one’s own taste in whether or not they enjoy Raimi’s take on the comic book genre can be a challenge in itself, but the film truly suffers from the flow of the story, the lack of stakes, and some very poorly written (or badly delivered) dialogue. I am quite happy to see the MCU letting the filmmaker’s voice shine – but I wish the words that were coming out of that voice were more impactful than they are here.
It’s not a pacing problem really, as the movie moves quite quickly from one thing to another…it’s more in the “why” we move from one thing after another that ultimately feels undercooked. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) is shown in the trailers – and I’ll refrain from going too deep into her role in this film – but the character often is a source of the problem. They establish her powers, and yet moments go by that feel make little to no sense given what we just witnessed her do. This is a common comic-book problem when you make a character too powerful, which winds up making things they do feel like plot choices rather than character-driven ones.
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness isn’t bad, but it definitely isn’t the peak of the MCU – and that was disappointing. The hype going into this film made it seem like the next pivotal point in the journey. While there are tons of references and easter eggs, they are simply there as set dressings that do very little to offer insight into what the future of the MCU will be. Ultimately, I was disappointed in the film and it wavers between a Decent Watch and Not a Total Waste of Time.