This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
BonfireAtNight’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
When Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was first announced I was thrilled, and the more so when Sam Raimi took the director's chair. WandaVision was fantastic and when Spider-Man's world was turned upside down by the intrusion of other realities—it was the potential high point of the MCU.
As was to be expected, the almost all-powerful Scarlet Witch turns out to be the villain here, which again is awesome (at least in theory). The idea of a multiverse doesn't cease to fascinate me and it even features an incarnation of the Illuminati. After years there they suddenly are, Mister Fantastic and Professor X arrive in the MCU without much fanfare. To garnish what was already a pretty great setup, we have badass-looking Ultron in what must be mass-production.
With Raimi came his characteristic brand of comedic horror. The eventual resurrection of Stephen's alter ego lead to some amusing moments and is design appeared as if right out of Ash vs. Evil Dead. It had the potential to shake up some familiar aesthetical and narrational keystones of MCU storytelling and bring some fresh wind.
As should be clear from the rather subjunctive mood of the previous paragraphs, the movie as a whole fails to realize its potential. Apparently, writer Michael Waldron couldn't think of anything to do with Wanda, so he recycled the main motivation for WandaVision's overall arc. I think in one key instance they even took exactly the same scene, didn't they?
It was incredible how little they did with what could have been the MCU's best and most developed villain. She attacks Kamar-Taj, then goes on to some temple (via instant travel), then basically just stays there motionless until it's convenient to reanimate her. The fact that most of the plot revolves around the book of dark arts (or whatever it was called), a MacGuffin if ever there was one, made this even worse.
Actually, to my mind this is the first example of when I was seriously annoyed by Marvel's attempts to replace genuine storytelling with comic references. Many elements intended to please the audience ended up being lazy fan service. Sure, it's cool to see Reed Richards and (even more so) Charles Xavier, but they weren't used in any interesting way. As with Spider-Man they put on the tunes of the 90s animated TV show when the latter enters the stage, but not even the (admittedly awesome) melody could excite me when it's lacking so severely in substance. The namedropping of "Earth-616" and "Earth-838" and the reveal that there is some actual multiverse research going on falls into the same category.
Peggy Carter as Captain America only reminded me of the underwhelming What if...? show and there is absolutely no emotional impact to see some otherworldly variants being killed off. The Inhumans I don't even know, though Blackagar Boltagon's scream was among the more intense moments. Damn, I wanted this to be good.
I think what I want to say, it's incredibly disappointing that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness doesn't actually tell a story in which the various potentially exciting elements would play an actual role. Because of that, it felt longer than it actually was and left you with a very uninspired climax. It's not terrible, but the sad fact is that the one entry I wanted to be inventive and forward-thinking ended up being thoroughly run-of-the-mill.