Joel Hilke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fun, trippy flick that throws it all at the screen, confident that this is gonna work. And I think it does work... though they don't have to sell me on the multiverse so I'm already half way there. This a marvelously strange film... all the puns intended.
This flick requires some legwork... it's a sequel to Doctor Strange sure, but just as much a sequel to the Wandavision tv show. And if you happen to have seen Spider-Man: No Way Home, that helps a bit too. Oh, and the Loki AND the What If show too. And maybe even Into the Spiderverse if we can mix previously unmixed universes. But mainly it's the Doctor Strange/Wanda Power Hour.
In this one, Doctor Strange encounters a teen girl who has the ability to travel the multiverse and someone with a whole lot of space squids wants her. Strange turns to Wanda for help... which might be a mistake if you saw the very end of Wandavision. Soon Strange and the girl are tripping through the multiverse, one step ahead of both the baddies and the heroes of the universes they saunter into.
This is a Sam Raimi film and you can feel it. He brings a certain style to the MCU that we don't see often enough. This feels like his movie, not a committee film (as good as the MCU movies are, they do have some same-ness). This is also very much Raimi in full Evil Dead 2 (and Drag Me to Hell) mode. It's a horror show at times... sure a PG13 horror show, but still that flavor and sensibility. You can see his camera work, use of lenses, and a surprising amount of gleeful gore.
I love that this movie just goes for broke. It's unashamedly a big cosmic comic book phantasmagoria. It chucks aside any semblance of playing it cool, pushes up its nerd glasses, and declares with authority "I love comic books... the tripped out weirder the better". Perhaps even at the risk of losing some of its audience. Or maybe I'm not giving the masses enough credit.
Though I do worry that some of the Wandavision fans will be unhappy. I've heard from a number of people who just aren't as into the MCU flicks that they loved Wandavision. And they love Wanda. I'm worried they won't see this as a natural progression of the character. I think what they do with her is fair even if it made me regret not having the good, kind person she was turning into.
Same with Dr. Strange though... character growth. The film is a trippy slam bang bit of fun but it also takes its time giving us some insights into Strange and allows him to grow as a character.
There are some fun cameos in the film, some of which were spoiled in the trailers. One certainly came as a joyful surprise to my audience and I won't spoil it. Just know that Marvel listens to its fans. I've heard some complaints that these cameos hurt the film because they are just set up for future Marvel movies. I disagree. The use of the multiverse to give us some of these characters works within the context of the film. If there's greater ramifications for future movies, then great. But it didn't feel like setup to me.
I was set to give this a higher score but I guess the ending was a little less interesting than the rest of the flick. Part of the problem is that we get a setup and resolution moment based on arcane rules of magic that may have been a big deal to comic fans but were lost on me. But that's what you get with magic systems in movies... "daddy daddy... which guy waving a magic wand is winning?" "Only the screenwriter knows for sure, son."
This was a very good film that bathes in its comic and cosmic and mystical inspirations. I really enjoyed it for its humor and its big trippy ideas. It may not be as action-packed as some of the MCU, but it makes up for it by being weird, grandiose, and a little bit creepy. I dig this one.
MCU Ranked: letterboxd.com/jhilke/list/mcu-movies-ranked/