Taryll Baker’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sam Raimi directed the shit outta this.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is both a creative spectacle and an underwhelming disappointment. Following on from WandaVision, the film throws you straight into the madness as a variant Strange and new hero America Chavez hop across universes and land themselves in the same universe as our Stephen Strange. An epic battle ensues within a tangible New York City, with some special and visual effects collaborating to provide an enjoyable feast for the eyes. Talk is correct; the first 20 minutes are harshly fast, but this ended up being one of two of my favourite sequences in the film.
The second is spoiler territory, so I’ll zip it. But let’s just say, Raimi’s juices were flowing and I was absolutely here for it. Beyond the two sequences, the film is bland, poorly written (can we lose Michael Waldron now, please?) and overall an all-out battle for a singular, true vision. Wherever Raimi got his moment to create tension and push the horror tone, he definitely pushes it. Visually, this is a very exciting film, especially for the MCU. The camerawork is so slick.
Danny Elfman sadly did what I expected, by removing Giacchino’s theme for Strange, and in doing so, removing all of the musical texture that was so brilliantly intertwined with Derrickson’s film. His score is functional, there’s no denying. But, the inconsistency in the music (specifically thematic material) for the MCU has always bugged me, and Elfman didn’t even come up with a new theme. And if he did and I’m mistaken, it wasn’t good enough for me to notice.
Wanda is in a huge role here—in some ways pushing Strange aside in his own film—and Olsen is pretty good, but ultimately I felt a disconnect with her arc, which is unfortunate given WandaVision is my favourite of the Disney+ shows. Cumberbatch is brilliant, even with his confused accent. There are some surprises in here that felt very cheap, too. Totally seemed tacked on for quick thrills.
Yet for all its shortcomings (especially its handling of the multiverse), the moments that I enjoyed will have me coming back for more. Raimi’s vision may not be clear, but it’s there, and he nailed it in a few places between the two bigger sequences I mentioned. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is both a hit and a miss.
Edit: Elfman did in fact use Giacchino’s theme, albeit only once.