The second solo film with Doctor Strange takes the mighty magician towards bizarroland. Director Sam Raimi finds a fine balance between dizzying superhero action and dark nightmares, where much after all feels safe and familiar to the MCU audience.
First, a giant one-eyed octopus attacking Manhattan. Then, an evil magic book that can only be fought with a good magic book. A bitter witch with destructive habits collides with a wizard who can travel between worlds, and the fate of the universe is at stake. Again.
Anyone who would step blindly into Marvel’s universe after fifty-one movies would probably not take a hit. We who have hung out over the years are hardened, and if not always on the track with everything that happens on the screen, then at least get used to expecting the unexpected.
Because here you screw up the bizarre a little extra when Doctor Strange throws himself through parallel universes to stop Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen), the Avengers polar who has gone over to the dark side and become Scarlet Witch (a direct continuation of the events on TV). series “WandaVision”). The plot kicks off when a hunted young superhero, America Chavez, asks for Strange’s help defending her. The magic and mystique take up even more space than in the first “Doctor Strange“, while Marvel’s familiar spell – magnificent special effects and a large dose of humor – of course delivers as it should.
Thank goodness for director Sam Raimi, known for “Evil Dead” and the original “Spider-Man” trilogy, who knows a thing or two about grotesque demons and superheroes. With one foot in the colorful pages of comic books and the other in a grotesque, gothic nightmare, he creates a popcorn adventure as playful as it is ruffled (without jerking the child-friendly PG-13 stamp, of course). Together with Benedict Cumberbatch, who has now become an important pillar in this mega-building spelled MCU, they lead their audience through some rather bizarre scenes. The favorite must be a duel with musical notes (!) That make the whole cinema vibrate to the tunes of Beethoven and Bach.
Other scenes offer nice nerd gas when (spoiler) meets (spoiler) and you can never imagine that (spoiler) is played (spoiler)! If “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has taught us anything, it is that parallel worlds open up exciting cinematic possibilities … and that Marvel is good at keeping a secret. Are there any hints about the future of the film series we see, or mostly a fun feature? Just to start speculating.
On a more down-to-earth level, Raimi manages to portray Scarlet and Strange as two sides of the same coin. Both the hero and the villain are tragic characters who hold up a facade as an attempt to deal with the grief of a lost love. In his case, it’s about ex Christine, who got married to someone else. In her case about the home life with two sons who was conjured up in a notable series at Disney +. The good Wanda still seems to remain deep in there, while Stephen Strange himself feels capable of, shall we say morally dubious decisions – this is proven not least by his doubles from other worlds.
But there is no time for some more complex psychological analyzes, when we are thrown between action-packed hunts and dizzying battles. There are two fast-paced hours waiting, though nothing directly eye-catching in this massive franchise so at least energetic entertainment according to a familiar recipe.
Some Marvel movies deepen and develop the mythology, others are just a pastime and a way to sell more lunch boxes and plastic figures. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” falls into the latter category. On the other hand, I wrote “safe and sound” in my review of the first “Doctor Strange” six years ago, and so much has not changed.