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  • Andrew Lynch


We now live in a post-No Way Home world, where the appearance of legacy characters is plausible and almost expected, especially from in the behemouth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When your movie includes the word 'multiverse' in the title and trailers tease returning characters, it is no wonder that fans are going to run rampant with speculation about who will appear. Rumour mill starts churning again after a couple months off from Spider-Man, Marvel president Kevin Fiege stokes the fire and the result is ludicrous fan expectations. And it is absolutely to the film's detriment.

Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness sees Dr Strange pulled into a universe hoping adventure by America Chavez, who has the abilitiy to travel through the multiverse and is being pursued by someone who wants her power. Strange must find a way back to his world and protect America, with, as always, the entire universe on the line.

Multiverse of Madness sees the return of Sam Raimi to the superhero genre since Spider-Man 3. Raimi's unique visual style is on display here as much as is possible in a Marvel movie. So expect a Bruce Campbell cameo, POV shots, dutch angles and his intense dolly zoom shot. This is not Spider-Man Sam Raimi but horror icon and Evil Dead trilogy director Sam Raimi. It is easily the scariest and most graphic Marvel movie, with moments like Dr Strange and friends pursued down dark corridors by the villain drenched in blood, hobbling after them like Jake Torrence in The Shining.

While Madness may not deliver the plethora of cameos and surprises fans have attempted to will into existence, that is for the better as there is solid story that focuses in on its titular character and plays on themes Sam Raimi has touched upon before. Post-Endgame, Strange is confronted with questions over whether his choice to give Thanos his Time Stone and successfully wipe out half of existence was the right choice. He stands by it, but there is doubt about it. Strange is challenged throughout the movie over whether he is happy with his life and if he could change things, would he. When witnessing other versions of himself, the thematic question becomes, can Strange ever be happy as Dr. Strange. It is very reminiscent of Spider-Man 2, where the hero is torn between being a hero or living a happy life. This story ties in with the villain's story, which is not officially confirmed so will remain anonymous, but makes for a compelling dynamic between them and Strange.

In protecting America, Strange turns to fellow magic-weilder Wanda Maximoff, the newly dubbed Scarlet Witch. Fresh off accidently holding a town hostage as she processes her grief, the Scarlet Witch demonstrates here how she is definetively the strongest hero in the Marvel universe. Elizabeth Olsen steals the movie to the point that it very easily could (and maybe should) be her solo movie. It is nice to see Olsen play more than the stoic girl with vague powers in these movies for once.

Speaking of powers, Raimi and crew finally get creative with the magic in the MCU. Instead of the sparklers and kicks-and-flips seen in Doctor Strange, we see Strange and fellow sorcerers pull out new tricks in their bag which is refreshing to see. One highlight, and easily the best scene of the movie, sees Strange engaged in a musical duel with music notation lifted off the page and launched across the room. It also highlight's Danny Elfman's skill and working relation with Raimi to compose and create such a chaotic but musically detailed scene.

Tonally however, this film is jarring as it struggles between Sam Raimi's horror influences and the traditional, Marvel quip-tastic and breezey feeling. One scene sees Strange mocking characters for their silly costume and names, before said characters are brutally murdered. Later, the film has an emotional closure to the villains story but prior to it a zombie flew around with a cloak made of demon souls. It's goofy and undercuts the emotion because you are still left responding to the amazing/stupid things on screen, depending on your feeling to demon-propelled zombies.

It is also a non-sensical plot that ends in a predictable manner. Character's are presented as intelligent before making silly mistakes or are presented with a new reality and make the same presumption as last time which did not end well. Also character arcs are cliched by now; believe in yourself and all that. Thankfully, it is a short runtime in comparison to current blockbuster movies, coming in at just over 2 hours.

Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness is elevated by Sam Raimi's horror background and commitment to some over the top, comic book elements. There is a strong story for Strange in exploring his potential for happiness, and the villain is one of the more menacing and enjoyable ones in the MCU. Unfortunately, the movie lacks many surprises, besides the much speculated cameos, and is another case of a director's unique style clashing with the Marvel formula.

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