*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness*
Doctor Strange has had a long journey since his introduction 6 years ago. Strange quickly rose to popularity due to his roles in films such as Avengers Infinity War and Spider-Man: No Way Home and fans have been clamoring for his next solo film ever since. When it was announced that Wanda Maximoff would also be joining Strange in his sequel, fans got even more excited. Wanda has also been enjoying her own burst in popularity mainly due to the extremely successful Disney+ series, WandaVision. In addition, after Scott Derrickson, director of the original Doctor Strange, dropped out and was replaced by Sam Raimi, director of the original Spider-Man trilogy, fans were extremely excited for the sequel, and rightfully so. With a title like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness who wouldn’t be excited? Overall, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness mostly succeeds at everything it set out to do.
The film begins right in the middle of the action, seeing newcomer America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, and one of many Doctor Strange variants being chased by a multiversal monster. This terrifying monster is chasing after Chavez’s powers and she just barely escapes but with a cost, the loss of her Doctor Strange. After arriving in the main MCU universe, Chavez is quickly chased by a giant octopus monster named Gargantos. It is up to the main Doctor Strange and Wong to defeat this monster and save Chavez, who had been in Strange’s dream the night before. From these initial scenes, two main parts of the film are introduced. Multiverse of Madness is a fast paced movie with barely any filler in its 2 hour runtime. Some fans were worried that this runtime would be a detriment to what appeared to be a jam-packed film, however it never feels like a problem when the pace is a sprint the entire way. In addition, the film is not afraid of being scary. Sam Raimi is a horror director at heart, and he was not afraid to infuse that into the MCU formula. Scenes can be tense, monsters can be gross and terrifying, and even jumpscares are present throughout the film. It feels like a breath of fresh air and fits the backdrop of both Doctor Strange and the Multiverse itself perfectly.
After saving Chavez, Strange suggests that they need to find another magic user to help them and here enters Wanda. Wanda is easily the highlight of the film, mostly due to a spectacular performance by Elizabeth Olsen. After raising the bar in WandaVision, Olsen raises this bar even higher with her perfomance here. In her grief over losing her children Billy and Tommy, Wanda has become corrupted by the Darkhold. This is the first time a hero in the MCU has truly turned into a villain and its done perfectly. Wanda has always been a morally ambiguous character in the comics, however this is the first time she has truly felt evil in the MCU. She is the perfect counterpart for Strange. Strange’s actions made him the hero, Wanda’s made her the villain and she wonders why that is fair.
Another first for a MCU film is its blatant connections to a Disney+ series. Having seen WandaVision does help you out in understanding Multiverse of Madness a bit more. The beginnings of Wanda’s descent into darkness, the introduction of the Darkhold, and Billy and Tommy’s debut are all present in WandaVision and feel like they naturally lead into Multiverse of Madness, however it would feel a little more rewarding if there were more connections. Sure, Westview is mentioned but it does feel like the Disney+ show is mostly forgotten in the film. It is a tight rope to walk and I don’t blame Marvel Studios for handling it the way that they did. However, when the Multiverse is broken in Loki, which directly leads to the events of this film, and it is not mentioned or referenced once, it feels a little deflating. This could be fixed in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania or even Loki season two, but as of now it feels like most of the Disney+ entries could be skipped and much of the films can still be comprehended and enjoyed.
After being pursued by Wanda at Kamar-Taj, Doctor Strange and America Chavez travel through the Multiverse in order to escape her wrath. During this, one of the coolest sequences in any Marvel movie is shown as Strange and Chavez travel through many different universes ending up in a futuristic New York City. This sequence is mind-bending, however it is a little disappointing that this is the only real taste the film gives of so many realities. For a film titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, most of the runtime is spent in three universes, with one of those being the main MCU universe, finally officially named Universe 616. However, in this new reality is where the most anticipated part of the film for many is finally shown: The Illuminati.
In the end, instead of being a Multiversal Illuminati, all of the members are from one singular universe. The members include Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Eijofor), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart), and yes, Reed Richards played by John Krasinski. These members end up being the only cameos of the film (besides the post credits scene) and steal the show. Take away all fan expectations for a minute and think about this; The X-Men, Fantastic 4, and Inhumans are now officially apart of the MCU canon. This is absolutely monumental for the future of the franchise and is perfect fanservice. They don’t overstay their welcome and each have their own moment to shine. Hayley Atwell is much better as Captain Cater than she is in What If? and her showdown with Wanda as well as Lashana Lynch’s are clear highlights. Anson Mount looks perfect in a comic accurate Black Bolt suit and Patrick Stewart looks phenomenal in his yellow floating chair from the animated series (and is even introduced with a great musical backing of the intro). And finally, after years of fancasts, John Krasinski downs a Fantastic 4 suit and is Reed Richards. It would be amiss to not see him return as Reed and after this cameo, anything is possible. The Illuminati appear, move the plot forward, and then get murdered by Wanda. This sequence is easily the most violent the MCU has ever been. Watching Black Bolt’s head implode, Reed Richard’s body turn to spaghetti, and Professor X’s neck snapped is horrifying and feels extremely Raimi-like.
However, at the end of the day this is a Doctor Strange movie through and through. After escaping the Illuminati with America Chavez and a Christine Palmer variant, Wanda strands Strange and Palmer in an another universe. This is where Strange finally meets another (living) version of himself, an evil Strange who possesses the Darkhold. The scene that follows is a great examination of Strange’s character and where his current mindset is at. Raimi is able to fit these great character moments into the film, however they do not feel overly lengthy or tedious. He also does a great job of following these moments with amazing action, such as the musical battle between the Stranges. Danny Elfman’s score is fantastic throughout, but this is definitely the highlight. After defeating his variant, Palmer helps Strange posses his variant’s dead body using the Darkhold and fight Wanda in the main MCU universe. This final battle is epic, scary, and emotional and gives great moments for all of the characters with Wanda and America Chavez being highlights. Strange and Palmer also are able to have one last goodbye before the film ends. This is easily Benedict Cumberbatch’s best performance as Doctor Strange to date and he is able to show incredible emotion as the character.
After defeating Wanda, Strange and Wong are seen with a training America Chavez at Kamar-Taj. Following this, the film seems to end with a cliffhanger; Strange is walking down the streets of New York City when suddenly he collapses to the ground after growing a third eye, an effect of using the Darkhold’s powers. This would be a great cliffhanger to the film, however it is quickly overshadowed by the post credits scene where Clea, played by Charlize Theron, recruits Strange in an attempt to solve the incursions in the Multiverse that he has caused. This is a fine post credit scene, introducing a new and exciting character and setting up Doctor Strange’s future adventures. However it feels a little weird after the film just ended on a cliffhanger. Either the end of the film should have been added to the post credit scene, or the post credit scene should have just been apart of the regular film.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness should be a lesson in fan expectations. If you go into the film expecting 25 cameos including Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, and Robert Pattinson as Batman, you will be disappointed. However, if you go into the film expecting a surprisingly smaller scaled film about Doctor Strange and Wanda Maximoff, you will be extremely satisfied. Sam Raimi does a brilliant job directing and his style is present throughout. Whether it be the transitions between scenes or the perfect amount of campiness, it truly does feel Raimi. Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen give the best performances of their characters so far, and Xochitl Gomez perfectly encapsulates America Chavez. Doctor Strange has been setup as one of the new faces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Multiverse of Madness does wonders to further cement that idea.