Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

PLOT: America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) has the power to travel through the Multiverse, with the catch being that she’s unable to control the power. She’s being hunted by an evil force that wants to harness her ability and goes to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help. However, another version of Strange from throughout the Multiverse has tried and failed to protect her, so what will make this one different?

REVIEW: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness comes hot on the heels of one of the biggest, most popular Marvel movies, Spider-Man: No Way Home. While this means that this Doctor Strange sequel has a good chance of blowing the box office gross of its predecessor out of the water, it also has incredibly high expectations coming from fans. After all, No Way Home gave us not one, not two, but three Spider-Men and introduced the Multiverse. How does Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness stack up?

Truth be told, this isn’t one of the A+ Marvel movies. It’s not meant to be the epic Spider-Man was, with this living up to Kevin Feige’s promise that this would be the Marvel version of a horror movie. In that vein, it succeeds at times, thanks to the inspired choice of Sam Raimi to direct. But, just like a lot of the solo MCU movies, it feels like a bridge before the next huge Marvel movie, and it gets off to a plodding start.

Part of it may be because Doctor Strange, at least in the films, isn’t the most compelling Marvel character. That’s no dig against Benedict Cumberbatch, but would you put him in the upper pantheon with any of The Avengers outside of maybe Hawkeye (who gets dissed by Strange in this – poor Hawkeye)? He’s second-tier, which is perhaps why Elizabeth Olson’s Scarlet Witch has gotten a pumped-up role. She’s basically another lead, although her role in this is intriguing and even surprising to a casual MCU fan such as me. The trailers have done an excellent job not spoiling her role completely, so I’m not going to dig into her part too much. Suffice to say, it plays off the end of WandaVision, and if you’ve yet to see that limited series, you should binge it before giving this a watch. There’s good continuity between the two, and Olsen builds on the promise of that series to make Wanda, or rather Scarlet Witch, a far more memorable character than she ever was when she was one of the Avengers. 

For his part, Cumberbatch seems to be having a good time as Strange and especially seems into some of the more ghoulish twists, such as a third-act surprise that’s pure Sam Raimi. Yet, the character still fares best in a supporting capacity, such as in Avengers: Infinity War or Spider-Man: No Way Home. Rachel McAdams has a nicely beefed-up role as the many versions of Doctor Strange’s true love, Christine, while Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor return as Wong and Karl Mordo, respectively.

As far as Raimi’s contribution goes, I’ve always said that Thor: Ragnarok felt like 70% unleashed Taika Waititi and 30% MCU movie making by committee. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reverses the formula in that it feels like 30% Sam Raimi and 70% Marvel committee. There are times when Raimi’s vibe really comes into its own, such as the great third act or the ace Bruce Campbell cameo. But the film’s first half is very mediocre, with it feeling like generic MCU stuff that’s not much better than what you see on Disney Plus. 

However, the movie seems to exist mainly for the cameos, many of which fans may have already guessed, and should make for a very vocal audience. While the cameos aren’t as mind-blowing as the early reports suggested, there are some excellent ones, although what they mean for the MCU is still up in the air and likely depends on fan reaction. 

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness also benefits from a good score by Danny Elfman, who’s always at his best working with Raimi. He has fun nodding at the Marvel legacy with his jaunty score (which marks his return to the MCU following Avengers: Age of Ultron), which incorporates a few neat Easter eggs. 

While some may be disappointed to learn that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness isn’t the next Winter Soldier or Civil War, they should be happy that its a lot better than Eternals and better than Black Widow too, if a cut below Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings. In the end, my review doesn’t matter too much as you’ll see it anyway (as well you should), but it’s a mid-level Marvel outing. Still, even mid-level Marvel is pretty good.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spider-Man: No Way Home

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.