A spoiler-free review of ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

Nathan Turoff, Features Editor

After dipping their toes into the idea of a multiverse in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the full unrestrained chaos of the theory of infinite realities was put on full display in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Or was it?

Despite a thrilling premise, offering infinite possibilities and scenarios, the film felt unusually restrained, particularly suffering from a dull screenplay. However, the direction, action, and actors almost completely make up for it.

The screenplay is hands-down the only significantly problematic aspect of this film. The plot felt repetitive and the pacing of the movie was incredibly inconsistent. Much of the movie was just spent with characters running from point A to point B, a fight here and there, and the cycle would repeat. Now granted, seeing how this is a movie exploring the insanity and unlimited possibilities of the multiverse, perhaps the inconsistent pacing was intentional on the screenwriter’s part to sell that chaos. Still, I don’t think it worked in the movie’s favor.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

There are many interesting ideas the story explores. A recurring theme in post-Endgame releases like Shang-Chi and the second two Spider-Man movies is exploring the effects of half the world getting dusted and then randomly restored five years later. Endgame didn’t get the opportunity to fully explore the effects of such a radical population shift in quick succession; it’s still only one movie. Many of the movies and shows released after Endgame fully revealed the ramifications of this, and this movie is no exception. 

The aftermath of the Blip on Strange himself is explored very well here. Strange faces a lot of scrutiny and repercussions for his choices in that movie, with many characters, including Strange himself, questioning if the right actions were made. 

Another recurring theme throughout the movie is happiness and accepting whether or not we truly are happy. Strange finds himself doubling back on this many times, which resonated with me particularly well. Benedict Cumberbatch is still incredible in this role.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Spider-Man: No Way Home previously stated how Wong became the new Sorcerer Supreme based on a technicality. It was mostly used for a one-off joke in that movie, but the unusual relationship between these friends is further displayed in this movie. From their first fight together, there is clearly some tension with Strange being his normal arrogant self about losing the title, with Wong conversely being a bit too on-the-nose about the new power dynamic. I loved how the movie explores and develops this relationship. Being the fifth movie featuring Wong-Strange and their banter, I feared this movie would shaft Wong from its narrative, but he isn’t ignored. There is still a lot of great chemistry between Benedict Wong and Cumberbatch.

The one major new character in the film is America Chavez. The character was very quirky and charming. No Way Home previously laid the groundwork of showing a more parental side of Strange, albeit briefly, with Peter Parker. This is furthered in this movie, as he becomes a father figure to Chavez and grows to care a great deal for her. However, because of the screenplay and its pacing, they rarely interact in a scene that isn’t them fighting or running away. When they do significantly interact, the chemistry between her and Strange was very fun to watch. I just wish there was more of it. The actress really does the best she can given the screenplay, which could be said of all of the other actors too.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

As mentioned previously, many post-Endgame releases have handled showing the aftermath of Thanos, and one of those was Wandavision. By combining a case study of handling grief with a love letter to classic television throughout the past century and its tropes, Wandavision, while not perfect, is arguably the best Disney+ Marvel show so far.

Wandavision was a limited series, with all intent of having it lead into this movie, and it picks up with Wanda Maximoff right where we left her. Like Chavez, Wanda is handled very oddly in this movie. On one hand, the screenplay feels like Wanda learned nothing from Wandavision and undid her character growth. Strange states how this is because of external influences in effect, but it just feels like the screenwriters were too lazy to justify the radical character shift. On the other hand, Wanda is generally terrifying. Elizabeth Olsen nails every scene she’s in, even if half the time it’s just her meditating. 

Courtesy of Marvel Studios.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Speaking of terrifying, I have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which is the directing. This film was directed by Sam Raimi, whose work, in particular the Evil Dead and original Spider-Man movies, I am a big fan of. He is truly an auteur with a mastery of both the horror and superhero genre. In this movie, he is able to make both at the same time, and I genuinely think nobody could walk that line better than him, especially given the screenplay.

The original plan was for this movie to be rated R and I can see why. Many moments of this film are genuinely scary and somewhat grotesque. I am genuinely impressed with the number of traditional horror elements and graphic nature the film was able to get away with a PG-13 rating. Most of the more gruesome elements are just off-camera, and while it does get repetitive at times, it’s easily the best they could do with the rating. I personally hope that there is an unrated cut out there somewhere with the gore depicted. It still is incredibly graphic compared to anything else in the MCU thus far, so if you are thinking about seeing it and are expecting nothing to be disgusting, you will be in for quite the surprise.

I can’t go super specific into the direction and story without obviously crossing into heavy spoilers, but I can say without a doubt that Raimi’s directing style is easily the best part of the film, making it that much more entertaining to watch with the lackluster screenplay.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a very interesting film to watch. The violent nature of certain elements, coupled with Raimi’s direction, easily sell the “madness” of this film, despite the restrictive screenplay. For the MCU’s first foray into the field of horror, it works. The actors really put in their best effort, and it all creates a package that is worth watching regardless. 

4 spinnaker sails

Spinnaker rates this movie 4 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails. 


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