Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff.
What is this, some kind of Multiverse of Madness? I’m already hearing and seeing some “hot take” reactions that just feel hot for the sake of being hot. That being said, I could completely understand an underwhelmed response with this one. I had an excellent discussion with someone who was underwhelmed, and he had some great points. Some criticisms that others are leaning on in their initial reactions may have impacted my enjoyment at times (I share the same issues). The biggest issue here is how often the rushed portions of the script get in the way of this film’s success. The script itself isn’t terrible, and I’m not sure where the confusion is with how certain characters are handled, but it feels as if they left more than a few scenes out of the final cut. Funny enough, this film feels too short at times. The first act rushes through its story to get us to act two, but we get so much information in so little time. There is rarely a moment to breathe at the start, even though we need that time to let everything sink in. The lack of multiverse-heavy madness will be an issue for some, and it sure did not do everything I expected it to do, but part of me tried to keep those expectations in check. Often times we can build something up for ourselves as one thing, so this was my attempt at letting the film take me on its distinct journey.
The journey itself is elevated and amplified by two emotional storylines, interesting characters, spectacular visuals, and Sam Raimi’s unique style. His style feels so (beautifully) cheesy at points, but the crazier it got, the more I felt the Doctor Strange I know and love from the comics. Strange is a trippy character, and his stories often bring about insane visuals. This film takes advantage of that and provides some unique scenes. Everything feels like it is being created by someone who has a distinct vision, and if you know Evil Dead, you understand the style you are getting here. It (surprisingly) leans much more into that tone than what he did with his last superhero trilogy. Spider-Man was obviously a grounded franchise. Doctor Strange gives him the ability to tap into something completely different. This isn’t to say that the “horror” elements are going to shake you to your core, but compared to other Marvel properties that are geared towards families, I am so surprised with what they do here. It occasionally gets gruesome, and the aesthetic leans so heavily into that darkness. From an emotional standpoint, if you can get past the choppiness of the way this film is edited together early, there is a lot to sit with.
Wanda’s story is full of emotion as we deal with the fallout of her series. It is her sequel too. This storyline had me asking a question or two as it progressed, but her performance is top-notch. America Chavez is an interesting character, and her role here is massive. The piece we can’t forget about (obviously) is the lead himself, played masterfully by Cumberbatch. The question of Stephen’s happiness is a reoccurring theme throughout the film, and we finally get to see how everything has taken a toll on him. In that way, it is a beautiful character piece at its core, and the central arcs are well-executed. The story surrounding these highlights will forever remain the question, as it feels inconsistent. It is as if Raimi’s gorgeous camera work, obvious techniques on display, and masterful use of production design overshadowed a few of these issues for me. Without Sam Raimi, I am not sure if they would have been able to pull this off. If you read Doctor Strange comics, and you know how wacky his stories get, this film will be right up your alley. The multiverse aspect is minor compared to my expectations, and some rumors will set people up for disappointment, but I can confidently say that it is distinct from any other film in this universe. Sam Raimi’s footprint is all over Multiverse of Madness, as it exudes his style from start to finish.
🔙All The Old Knives