REVIEW: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ takes you to a darker side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
(NOTE: This review contains no specific spoilers for the movie)
SALT LAKE CITY — Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sam Raimi. The director who helmed the first three Spider-Man movies for Sony back in the early 2000’s, and who made his name in the 1980’s and 1990’s with the Evil Dead horror trilogy, combines the two genres in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Interestingly enough, Raimi only joined the project after the departure of original director Scott Derrickson. Yet his own indelible style is evident throughout the movie.
The last we saw of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), he was fixing the problem his memory-erasing spell caused in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which inadvertently allowed people from other universes to come to this one.
He is still not the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, a title he once held but which now belongs to Wong (Benedict Wong, reprising his role from the previous Marvel movies).
So, when a girl (Xochitl Gomez) with the ability to travel between universes shows up on Earth with powerful beings chasing after her, Strange turns to Wong and former Avengers member Wanda Maximoff for help. Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has been living in self-isolation since the events of the Disney Plus TV series “WandaVision”.
To avoid spoilers, however, this is as far as I can go story-wise for those who want to watch the movie. I can say that multiple universes are visited, characters meet different versions of themselves and others, and each character must examine just how far they are willing to go, and what they are willing to do, in order to achieve their desires.
I can also say that if you think you know what is going to happen in this movie just from watching the trailers, you’re probably wrong.
THINGS I LIKED
First and foremost (and probably not surprisingly), the visual effects for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness were as gorgeous and impressive as anything else Marvel has done so far. Mountaintop battles in the Himalayas, a giant, one-eyed creature that tears through New York City, and a sequence where Strange blasts through multiple universes in short order are among the things your mind will try and process over the course of two hours, especially if you see it in IMAX (which is worth it).
It took a little time, but after a fairly standard-issue Marvel-style first quarter of the film, it eventually morphed into something different. Sam Raimi showed an impressive ability to manufacture the tension of a horror movie, but not move too far into darkness.
Throughout of all of this, frequent Raimi collaborator Danny Elfman‘s wonderful musical score punctuates nearly every scene, matching the film’s visuals and also featuring one of the most unique “battle of the bands” you’ll ever see.
As a long-time comic book fan and movie fan, I appreciated the story not going in directions I expected it to. Even as certain scenes played out, they took some daring turns that I will be interested to see how other Marvel fans receive them. And on that subject, without spoiling anything, the film was so full of Easter Eggs that it probably should have come out last month. And yet, they were very enjoyable little tidbits.
The biggest warning after seeing this movie was just how dark a tone it has. It is not a family-friendly kind of film the way Spider-Man: No Way Home was and I want to make sure parents know that before they take their younger kids, especially since we last saw this character in a more all-ages-appropriate kind of film.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language.
There are specific sequences that could be disturbing to viewers under 10 or 11 years old. Some scenes feature people being endlessly chased by a fearsome, relentless and seemingly unstoppable foe, an evil darkness permeating some characters, scenes from nightmares come to life, zombies, evil spirits, and more than a few gruesome deaths (though nearly all of them bloodless–this being a Marvel movie after all).
Content-sensitive parents should consider seeing the movie before showing it to their younger kids.
The run time is 2 hours 4 minutes but it felt a little longer than that. There are two post-credit scenes, one of which teases more story, the other that’s more just for humor.
There was a lot to take in on the first viewing, both in plot and imagery. Certainly it will help if viewers have watched “WandaVision“, “What If…?” and even the “Loki” series from Marvel on Disney Plus as there is some crossover with this story. But even if you haven’t, the movie will fill you in on most of what you need to know. Marvel fans, especially teens and adults, will certainly enjoy what Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has to offer.
I’m a bit disappointed that certain scenes are a little too intense for the 9-year-old Marvel fan in my family, and as a result I’ll probably wait to let him watch it until we can see it at home during the afternoon in a well-lit room.
Andy’s final rating: THREE out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is playing only in theaters. As a bonus for those who do see it in theaters, the trailer for this December’s Avatar: The Way of Water will be playing exclusively with it.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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