Adding to the already cluttered MCU line of films that are more concerned with delivering a spectacle than a story, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is all style with little substance. This gigantic blockbuster-to-be from director Sam Raimi is passable, but the plot is lacking, the storytelling is a complete mess, and it’s doesn’t even rank in the top half of Hollywood superhero movies.
Following the events of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Loki,” and “WandaVision,” the film puts Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) back in the spotlight with his own cinematic vehicle. While attending the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams), Doctor Strange leaps into action to save mutiverse-jumping teen America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from the clutches of a giant octopus monster. Something supernatural may be hunting her, and the man calls on loyal friend Wong (Benedict Wong) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for help. After opening a portal to the multiverse, Strange encounters alternate versions of himself, as well as a powerful threat to humanity that is stronger than all of them combined.
While far from a total disaster, this confusing, jumbled film manages to suck most of the fun right out of one of the MCU’s most interesting characters. It gets bogged down in weepy sentimentality too, as Wanda does horrible things that are weird and off-putting, which don’t seem like valid motivators for her character. Even worse are the standard cameos that try to tie the universe together, most of which fall with a thud and feel more forced than usual.
It’s not all bad, however. The CGI effects are outstanding, and the acting is at a higher level than most superhero flicks. Olsen in particular turns in a stellar performance, especially when she gets to go all-out evil as her alter-ego, The Scarlet Witch. She’s the real star of the film, and her performance is electrifying. This will easily cement her as one of the stronger characters (acting-wise) in the MCU. It does help if you revisit the Disney+ show “WandaVision” before diving in, but it’s not necessary.
Raimi’s direction fits the story well, especially with his background in horror. The film embraces darker themes and scenarios, including a pretty terrifying end battle where Strange is helped by an army of demons. It’s scary and exciting, even if the stakes aren’t that high.
In the end, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a movie I don’t ever want to revisit, even though the titular character is one of my favorite Marvel heroes — and that warrants a mild rotten rating from me.