We’re deep in the thick of the multiverse now Marvel fans. Back in the early days of this Doctor Strange sequel announcement, there were rumours of it being the first horror film in the MCU. In all honesty, I was more anticipated by the direction rather than revisiting a character that made a good impact in the MCU. With Sam Raimi returning to a Marvel product and knowing Raimi loves to inject just the teeniest amount of horror elements into his works, I’m sure many others like myself were excited to see him take on another Marvel character that seemed right up his street. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is certainly a step in a darker direction, and it sustains all the impressive visual imagery it’s known for, but as I say with most MCU films today, once it steps into more conventional material, that’s when the film falters.
Now when I say horror, this is still a film that the whole family can enjoy, to an extent. Because even for a horror fanatic like myself, I was surprised to see how willing this film is to push the boundaries between family fun and straight-up dark drama. This is typical of Sam Raimi, who just can’t seem to let go of the genre, and loves to play around with how much he can get away with. I was reminded of how after the first two films, the Harry Potter franchise took the mature road in Prisoner of Azkaban, there is a familiarity when watching this film and I think it has come at the right time considering most children who began in 2006 with Iron man are probably adults by now.
Amazingly though, Doctor Strange isn’t the star of the show for me. That title goes to an incredibly fleshed out Wanda/Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Now as someone who hasn’t seen but knows what happened in the series WandaVision, I think this character has come a long way from her debut in Age of Ultron. Elizabeth Olsen does a terrific job showing us Wanda as a grieving mother who just wants to be with the children she created, it’s pretty clear that the actions she takes as the film’s main antagonist (that’s right, antagonist) are motivated by the pain of losing her idealistic life. Somewhere underneath the superpowers is a very tragic person and she joins the pantheon of understanding MCU villains, alongside Thanos, Killmonger and Wenwu.
Now this is a bit of a shot in the dark but I began to notice a surprising amount of detail that went into the filmmaking side of Doctor Strange, things that you wouldn’t notice until a second viewing, but I noticed it. As the title suggests, we explore a lot more of the multiverse, exploring different worlds with different functionality. Most we explore for a second, but the ones we spend a lot of time in are the ones where the filmmaking techniques really come into effect. For instance, I swear that for different universes, the film uses different frames per second. You have the standard 24fps speed, but for scenes taking place in alternate universes, the frame is a lot sharper, so movement looks smoother with no blur. This would make sense from a perspective standpoint as maybe higher framerates are the norm in other universes. It’s a neat, subtle attention to detail that creates a more convincing multiverse concept.
Whether you believe that MCU films are stagnating or just getting started, the moving forward momentum hasn’t stopped, but it is slowing down. In Multiverse of Madness, the familiar taste of the superhero genre that Marvel has set, despite the crowds that still flock to cinemas, is starting to run past its use-by date. I don’t fully agree with people who say all MCU films are the same, but I totally understand where they come from. The thrill of seeing new characters is indescribably pleasing to your inner fan, but then what else can do that? That is something I feel MCU films need to find again and it isn’t present in this film.
I feel like Sam Raimi is trying to open his Pandora’s box of subtle horror, but with this being an MCU film, they have plans for the future, so the creative freedom is somewhat restricted, but at least what we got is visually satisfying enough to our visual palette. This isn’t like Spiderman where he could create his own Peter Parker, this is an already established Doctor Strange, so he has to stick within those character guidelines. I feel Sam Raimi is a director who enjoys overcoming challenges in the pursuit of great characters, but here the characters are already on ink so anything new is tough to explore, with the exception of one addition to Strange that I felt opened a wide door into the character.
In fairness, I believe the film was still running on the after-hype of Spiderman: No Way Home. The promise of new characters propelled this film to the same heights of buzz. But I would ask people to manage expectations because while Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an impressive film, fans who think they will see something as fan satisfying as Spiderman: No Way Home will leave underwhelmed. Strange works best when the film is being, well, strange. The little inserts of a darker feel by Sam Raimi is an example of a director understanding that fans who’ve stayed with the MCU from day 1 are adults now. It also left me wondering what other universes are we going to explore and asking a lot of questions which I’m sure will soon be answered.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Everything Everywhere All at Once