Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen’s Spells Not Strong Enough

With the onset of Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4, Marvel Studios has been trying to explore unchartered territory. Not only have they been trying their hand at new characters but they are also putting some old ones in the forefront. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Doctor Strange 2) is one such interesting example.

The sequel to the 2016 film marks the return of Benedict Cumberbatch as the cloaked superhero while Wanda Maximoff appears in a brand new avatar — the Scarlett Witch. Embracing her witchy alter-ego, Wanda has the Darkhold at the tip of her fingers and clearly, her motives are disapproved by Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong) and others. While they not only have Wanda to deal with, Strange also goes from tackling one ‘kid’ in Spider-Man: No Way Home — Tom Holland’s Peter Parker — to another America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez).

America is the portal to the multiverse. While she’s still unsure of how powerful she is, Strange has to protect her from those trying to steal her powers. In an attempt to protect her, they go through the numerous universes, meeting different kinds of Stranges and battling their share of mystic drama.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness successfully opens several new portals for Marvel Studios but fails to hold the demon together for long. The first half-hour successfully sets up the movie — attempting to build up an epic battle — however, Doctor Strange 2 starts to lose itself in its own multiverse after it lands in new universes. The subplot of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) felt a tad forced.

The scenes begin to drag, making you want to hit the skip button. But Sam Raimi, which he kicks into his element, collects the pieces and charges towards the climax. The director, best known for his horror films such as Evil Dead and Drag Me to Hell, delivers three memorable scenes with Wanda, Strange and America in the middle of it. The director bends the rules of Marvel movies, showing two of our beloved superheroes in the scariest way possible and I was all for it.

During the subplots of Zombie Strange and Sinister Strange, Sam unleashes his style and pushes Benedict out of his comfort zone, even as Strange. Benedict has already made Stephen Strange his own in Dr. Strange in 2016. However, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Benedict has sealed the deal that regardless of the Strange version, there is no one who could play Strange as better as him. The scenes between Dr. Strange and Sinister Strange stand out. On the other hand, Elizabeth gave Benedict a tough competition on-screen as the Scarlett Witch.

In several scenes with Benedict, Elizabeth forces you to keep your attention on her with her subtle yet powerful performance. She takes you into Wanda and Scarlett’s internal battle one scene at a time with absolute ease while you also find yourself questioning if she truly deserves a chance to love.

Meanwhile, Xochitl Gomez complemented Benedict but she was easily foreshadowed when Benedict teams up with Rachel McAdams in scenes.

Technically, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on a non-IMAX screen fails to move you visually. Although there are a couple of scenes that manage to leave you gasping, I felt the movie still had a lot more potential, especially when it came to Wanda. I feel MCU has been giving its female superheroes the platform to own their spots but is not giving them a challenge. Both Black Widow and Scarlett Witch have shown that they are capable of bringing the world down if they want to but Marvel, for strange reasons, has not been giving them more to chew on. I hope this changes as we go deeper into MCU Phase 4.

Bottom line: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not your quintessential Marvel movie. While it would come as a treat for fans who were waiting for Sam Raimi to return and try his hand in the new world of MCU, it might not be as appealing for those who are fans of the old MCU style. Elizabeth and Benedict surrender to Sam Raimi’s vision and shine. They are the reasons the movie makes it worth a watch.

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