Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes this character and its plot to stranger (no pun intended) and more mind-blowing directions than its predecessor, although the experience isn’t quite as satisfying. Director Sam Raimi of the original Spider-Man trilogy helms this full-throttle extravaganza that’s one part superhero fantasy, one part horror movie and a whole lot of happy confusion.
Benedict Cumberbatch is back as the mystical superhero now dealing with the repercussions of his actions from Spider-Man: No Way Home. He begins to question his reality when a girl named American Chavez, (Xochitl Gomez) arrives in his universe. Strange has a dream about America despite never meeting her, and she explains she’s from another universe. (Sadly, it is not the same one from Everything Everywhere All at Once.)
She asks for Strange’s help to fend off a batch of wicked demons that are coming after her because she has the ability to travel through many multiverses.
Strange takes on the task, but he can’t do it alone. He summons the help of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) a.k.a. Scarlett Witch to assist him. Wanda believes that if she can control America’s powers, she’ll be able to reunite with her children.
As before, the movie is oftentimes a sensational spectacle. Computerized special effects create some beautifully bizarre creatures such as a demonic octopus that comes after America. This sequence alone stacks up as one of the most fun and skillfull in the entire MCU.
Cumberbatch’s performance is still mostly deadpan and matter-of-fact even as he encounters these otherworldly beings, but in other scenes, he gets well-deserved screen time with Gomez when she explains how her powers work. A lot of their dialogue might just come off as expository to push the plot forward, but the moments do work and they are very effective.
Raimi directs this sequel with a great deal of panache and the Multiverse of Madness is consistently fascinating as a visual experience. This sequel sometimes eclipses the original in terms of sheer inventiveness and audacity in its special effects sequences. Seek it out in IMAX in order to get fully immersed.
However, the Multiverse of Madness does have an Achilles heel. Its pacing is stretched out during its inevitable overkill climax, and the plot can be a little murky at times to follow.
It doesn’t quite reach the near-perfect level of the original, but there are more than a few welcoming surprises that are guaranteed to generate big applauses in theaters.
This sequel will provide enough of a wallop to satisfy hardcore fans until the third movie.