Friday, May 6, 2022

Review: "DOCTOR STRANGE" Sequel is Pure Sam Raimi Goodness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 28 of 2022 (No. 1840) by Leroy Douresseaux

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, six minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language
DIRECTOR:  Sam Raimi
WRITER:  Michael Waldron (based on the Marvel Comics)
PRODUCER:  Kevin Feige
EDITORS:  Bob Murawski and Tia Nolan
COMPOSER:  Danny Elfman


Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez; Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne, Sheila Atim; Ako Mitchll, John Krasinski, Anson Mount, Hayley Atwell, Lashana Lynch, Charlize Theron, and Patrick Stewart

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a 2022 superhero, action, and horror-fantasy film directed by Sam Raimi and produced by Marvel Studios.  It is the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and is also a sequel to the 2016 superhero movie, Doctor Strange.  Both films focus on the Marvel Comics character, Doctor Strange, who first appeared in the comic book, Strange Tales #10 (cover dated: July 1963), and who was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee.  In the new film, Doctor Strange battles to protect the Multiverse and a young woman who can travel through it.

As Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is plagued by dreams in which he finds himself involved with a mysterious young woman.  But life goes on.  Wong (Benedict Wong), Strange's friend and mentor, is now Earth's Sorcerer Supreme.  Also, Stephen's former lover, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), is getting married, and he is attending the wedding.

During the wedding, an octopus demon wreaks havoc in the neighborhood, and Stephen meets the young woman again.  Her name is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), and she can travel through the Multiverse by punching doorways through dimensions.  Demonic forces are tracking her, and Strange believes that only the Book of Vishanti can stop these demons.  Dr. Strange turns to an expert for help, the former Avenger, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).  However, the mastermind behind the attacks on America is quite powerful, and the identity of this attacker is quite surprising.

And things only get worse.  Dr. Strange must face his old adversary, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) … something called “the Illuminati” … and multiple versions of himself.

I have come across complaints that Marvel Studios' films are formulaic and complaints that the studios' films are not “director-driven” (whatever that means).  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not like other Marvel films, and at least to me, it seems “director-driven.”

The director of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Sam Raimi, who is best known for directing Sony/Columbia Picture's first trilogy of Spider-Man films (2002-07).  Before then, Raimi's best known work was the “Evil Dead” trilogy, comprised of Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1993).  And Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems like a superhero film built on the aesthetic or, at least, the sensibilities of the “Evil Dead” trilogy.  In fact, this Doctor Strange film is like an Evil Dead movie with the budget of a … well, Marvel Studios movie.  Even more than his Spider-Man films, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the truest Sam Raimi superhero movie to date.

I don't want to spoil much more than I already have, but I can say that the VFX in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not only superb, but also inventive and imaginative.  Of course, the productions values are quite good; once again, I must say that everything looks like it would in a Raimi Evil Dead movie with mega-event, tent-pole film's budget.  Also, Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen give superb performances, especially Olsen.

In spite of what Marvel Studios and Disney may say, however, I am not sure what the impact of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness actually is.  I really like this movie because it really IS a Sam Raimi movie, and I love his movies.  But, is this Doctor Strange film as consequential to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider-Man: No Way Home seems to be...?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems most important because of what it promises – new tomorrows, new worlds, new heroes, new movies … and hopefully more Sam Raimi Marvel movies.  I am thankful that Marvel Studios allowed him to make this movie.  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is better than the original film, and it is Marvel's weirdest movie to date – a thrill ride of delightful and inspired wackiness.  Plus, it gives some of us what we hoped that the original would – a true dark fantasy/horror Doctor Strange movie.

[Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has one mid-credit scene and one end-credit scene.]

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, May 6, 2022

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