Thomas 🤟🏼’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Darkhold exacts a heavy toll.
Much like The Darkhold, the script exacted a heavy toll on Sam Raimi’s film. His unmistakable style is a sight for sore eyes, but it’s unfortunately restrained by the unrelenting agenda of the MCU. Multiverse of Madness is too grand to simply be a Doctor Strange sequel, and yet not grand enough to be one of the franchise’s coveted crossover events like Endgame or No Way Home. In the end, it’s a fine entry to the ever expanding universe, but the film promised more and it didn’t quite deliver.
In terms of structure, the most glaring issue is the film’s pacing. Revealing The Scarlet Witch as our main villain so early on, presenting her motives and even featuring a third act worthy showdown between her and our protagonists, left the remaining runtime feeling like nothing more than delay of plot. Our heroes simply traipse across the multiverse, spewing heaping mounds of exposition, to impede the film’s inevitable conclusion. The emotional beats for Strange and Chavez don’t feel earned, and while the cameos were definitely crowd pleasers, they were pretty insignificant to the film as a whole. Additionally, while the scenes featuring elements of horror were well done, courtesy of Raimi, it’s mostly just bittersweet given that the powers at be wouldn’t allow for MoM to be a full on horror film.
Oddly, 2016’s Doctor Strange became one of the few films of the franchise that left several loose ends for the MCU to begrudgingly try to resolve for its fans. Shang-Chi gave us a glimpse of what Abomination has been up to, WandaVision remembered that Darcy is a character, and soon Love and Thunder will reunite us with Jane Foster. MoM was meant to answer the question: “What ever happened to Mordo?”, but the Mordo we get is from a different universe, so it’s likely that question won’t ever be answered. Even the Christine we follow for most of the film is of a different universe and the script doesn’t allow for much chemistry between Cumberbatch and McAdams anyway. In terms of character, this sequel to Strange’s origin film is really quite thin. But in the grand calculus of the Marvel-verse, it’s a necessary sacrifice since the real goal is to set up several future projects.
Despite her character feeling underdeveloped, Xochitl Gomez did a fine job with what she was given. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Strange seems to be on autopilot, though that is more so due to the quality of the content being written for him. It’s clear the MCU wants Strange to fill the hole that Iron Man left, and while Cumberbatch is more than capable it still feels a bit forced. The film’s saving grace is the phenomenal Elizabeth Olsen. Her arc as the Scarlet Witch is the only real depth this film takes on and Olsen handles it with ease. She is equal parts charming and terrifying and she steals every scene she’s in. Maybe this should have been a Scarlet Witch movie.
If you’re lucky enough to still be able to turn your brain off during a theater visit, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this film. Despite these criticisms, it is still a very fun and enjoyable film, and far from the worst thing Marvel Studios has produced and will produce in the future. Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to expectations. Here’s to hoping Love and Thunder is much more promising.