Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ★★★

"Every night I dream the same dream. And then, the nightmare begins."

I have two big issues with this movie, and it's ironic to me that they're literally in the title: 1. Doctor Strange. I've never been particularly compelled by this character and don't find him to be able to carry any sort of solo project. He's got cool powers, and a cool cape, which makes room for some cool VFX. Cool. Cool. Cool. My problem is that I don't care, and any opportunity to make me care about our Strange, or any iteration of him for that matter is squandered by this bland sense of indifference when it comes to his character, which leads me onto my second issue: the handling of the multiverse. I've seen far better, infinitely more creative, and digestible multiversal films made on lesser budgets (this year's first instant masterpiece: Everything Everywhere All at Once), and while I understand this film had a lot on its shoulders, essentially being the first real journey through the MCUs multiverse, I couldn't help but notice how much potential was wasted with this concept. I just don't think Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had enough chaotic fun with its own premise to the point where I shut my brain off halfway through and went with whatever was thrown at me: an endless array of gorgeously-rendered eye candy (some of the best the MCU has offered), but not much at the center beside a mess of a story. Amazing, mind-bending worlds and ideas are implied, but never explored to the fullest extent, and most of the universes that were traveled to are honestly underwhelming and plain when they should have been wondrous.

However, even with all of my gripes, I'm still leaning positive with this one, and I'll tell you why. I've seen a lot of debate about this movie, particularly on if Raimi was given enough freedom to exhibit his own personal style, and honestly, when Raimi is allowed to experiment and get weird, this film is fucking awesome. Seriously, it becomes apparent, especially towards a mostly strong second half that Raimi was gradually allowed more control, and it shows with every kill, jumpscare, and even in the grounded, conversational, emotional scenes reminiscent of Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. Do I wish he was given more artistic liberty, yes, but I loved what fragments of Sam Raimi were scattered around the film, even if it wasn't always a lot. I adored Danny Elfman's score, literally utilized as a weapon at one point in this highly inventive action sequence (you'll know it when you see it), and again, some terrific visual effects used to make highly intriguing shots, but the best aspect for me was easily Elizabeth Olsen, giving yet another fabulous performance as Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlett Witch. Every time she was on screen, the film got significantly more interesting, and the subplot about finding her two missing children while coming to terms with her own grief was the most genuinely moving part of the film. Besides her, the rest of the cast was fine; I liked the addition of Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, even if her character was half-baked, Cumberbatch was decent, and the cameos were entertaining and surprisingly handled. As you can see, I'm pretty mixed on this latest MCU adventure. When it's great, IT'S GREAT, but even the best sections of the film were far too inconsistent for me to give a higher score.


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