Courtesy of Disney
Six years after “Doctor Strange” hit theaters, its sequel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, is now playing. While Marvel Studios has been on a roll producing high quality films to enjoy, this latest entry in the MCU feels like a bump in the road.
Directed by Sam Raimi, the film is filled with many horror movie elements that Raimi is known for. These elements are some of the few things I actually liked about the film. Although horror isn’t something one would necessarily connect to a Marvel movie, it makes sense here. There are some pretty graphic and violent moments that I feel only Raimi can pull off, and as gruesome as these moments are, they really stuck out to me. Simply because of the fact that they made the stakes feel higher than most in any other Marvel movie.
Hero Turned Villain
Benedict Cumberbatch reprises his role as Doctor Stephen Strange, and Elizabeth Olsen makes her return as Wanda Maximoff. Coming off the events that transpired in Westview during “WandaVision”, however, Maximoff has embraced her new title as the Scarlet Witch.
This new identity has taken Wanda down a dark path. One that is understandable, yet ridiculous. Without going too in depth, I found Wanda’s motive for becoming a villain silly to say the least. Seeing her argue that she is not a bad person, only to cause harm and chaos seconds later was hard to make sense of. This issue left a sour taste in my mouth throughout every scene focused on Wanda because her trail of destruction is never justified. The violence is highly entertaining to witness, but from a storytelling perspective, it just falls flat. Olsen is wonderful as Wanda, but she can only carry her so far, no thanks to issues with the script.
Cons Outweigh the Pros
Another issue I have with the film is its runtime. Two hours is normally a pretty decent length in cinema. With this film however, it feels too short. There is a big focus on the multiverse in the movie, but the audience is only given mere glimpses of it. Moreover, there is less than a handful actually shown throughout the film’s entirety. I think the movie would have benefitted greatly if it had been just half an hour longer. For one, there would have been more time for important character development. Also, a longer runtime would have allowed for the depiction of even more universes.
The film’s runtime also causes issues with its introduction of new characters. The decision to include them is a welcome one because it was genuinely surprising to see. However, it felt as though there was only five minutes of screentime shared between these new additions to the story. Sadly, this took away from the significance of the moment. It seemed like simple fan service instead of having any actual meaning to the film’s narrative. These characters should’ve had more time to shine before being swept under the rug moments after their initial appearance.
Beauty in Sound and Screen
As for the visuals, they can be pretty mind-blowing at times. Even though it’s obvious that most of, if not the entirety of the film, is made up of computer-generated imagery, it never ceases to amaze. Ripples of time and space between universes is crazy to see, and one scene in particular that has a focus on music steals the show. For lovers of building destruction, it’s all here. Additionally, for fans of practical effects like myself, there is one act in the film that takes full advantage of this. It is practically the best visual part of the movie.
One of the film’s strengths is its music. That comes as no surprise whenever music composer Danny Elfman joins a project. From calm scenes filled with exposition, to bombastic action sequences, Elfman’s score is literal music to the ears.
One last flaw I have with the film is the addition newcomer America Chavez played by Xochitl Gomez. Frankly, the film failed to make me like her. Despite one expositional scene detailing Chavez’s backstory, I never found myself caring for her. It’s the clichéd character who doesn’t know how to control their powers before magically being able to during the final battle. I just feel like there wasn’t enough time for me to get attached to Chavez, which is another reason why the movie should have been longer. That’s disappointing because of how important her character is to the story. Without her, the entire story falls apart. I had hoped that more time and care would have been applied to such a key character.
When it comes to the MCU, there are no shortcomings of amazing adaptations with some of the greatest superheroes ever created. Being swept up into a world of fantasy and adventure is one of the best strengths the MCU has to offer. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ultimately fails to live up to that standard. Raimi and company have created a film that is still entertaining, but far from the likes of a few of the most recent additions to the MCU. If the multiverse is real, then maybe there is a universe with a good version of this movie. Unfortunately, the one we’re living in is not it.