Few things in cinema bring out my inner Sci-fi nerd more than the concept of a multiverse. This approach to timeline events opens up infinite worlds of creative possibilities as seen in the smash hit Disney+ Marvel shows What If…? and Loki. And, following the momentum of our three favorite Spider-men sharing the big screen in last year’s explosive Spider-Man: No Way Home, Marvel now takes a deeper dive into the MCU multiverse with Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness. While not perfect, this is the type of horror infused Marvel flick we needed to wash away the horrible taste of The New Mutants (2020) box office bomb.
Opening with a visually bizarre chase scene in an alien universe, we’re given our first MCU introduction to America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). While evading death at the hands of a demon, America makes a rushing grab for a mystical book that holds the secrets of saving the multiverse. With the book just out of reach, danger increases for the young girl who possesses a power she hasn’t learned to control. It could mean the end of everything if that power falls into the wrong hands. Comic book fanboys know what sort of superhuman ability has such power, but to avoid significant spoilers, I’ll just say this: it’s big.
Setting the tone with standard MCU adrenaline fueled action, America ends up in the MCU universe we know and joins forces with none other than Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). In an effort to keep his young new friend safe, Strange pays a visit to Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) seeking to put the tarnished Avenger’s reality warping powers to use. However, Wanda’s abilities have grown since we last saw her in an ominous post-credit scene of the Disney+ miniseries WandaVision. She is now the Scarlet Witch. And she has a mission of her own.
Upon first discovering Sam Raimi would be helming Multiverse of Madness from the director’s seat, I was unsure of what to expect. For the most part, the filmmaker did fantastic work with the Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, but MCU films have since evolved to a new standard.
However, it isn’t long into the film’s two-hour runtime before Raimi’s comedic horror style begins to show through, gradually evaporating any skepticism that I previously held. I was pleased to see strong, obvious influence from iconic horror comedy flicks such as Evil Dead II (1987) starring Bruce Campbell and Drag Me to Hell (2009) starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long.
Traditional comic fans need not worry. Although the comedy and horror are prevalent, Multiverse of Madness isn’t quite as off-the-wall with humor as the aforementioned films. The horror element is an undertone, and with the MCU look and feel intact, this installment feels well balanced. Since witchcraft, the multiverse, and dark forces from unearthly realms play a huge role in this MCU addition, I can’t think of anyone better to direct such an undertaking.
In addition to Raimi’s obvious touch, this comedic horror MCU blend features mostly great CGI special effects … with the exception of a very minor eye sore or two. Performances are also top-notch including several well-placed crowd-pleasing cameos audiences will absolutely love. And Gomez deserves special recognition for her incredible work bringing to life a new, lesser known Marvel addition to the MCU.
Although praiseworthy, this Doctor Strange sequel is not without some minor shortcomings. Some of the writing, penned by Loki miniseries writer Michael Waldron, could have used a little improvement and America’s connection to the plot development and other existing characters could have been stronger with a personal touch. Last but not least, I would have liked to see some strong significant revelation connecting this film to the ongoing MCU plot continuation. So, perfection isn’t quite reached with Multiverse of Madness. But it certainly is a fun, dark ride for MCU and horror fans alike.
Speaking of the Disney+ MCU shows that’re growing in popularity, movie-goers would be wise to check out Loki, What If…?, and most importantly WandaVision to get the most out of their Multiverse of Madness viewing experience. As I began to suspect, Disney seems to be connecting the MCU miniseries to the MCU feature films, so much so that it’s becoming necessary to keep up with both worlds in order to fully grasp what’s happening with our on-screen adapted heroes.