It’s been a long time in the MCU for the buzz surrounding a film’s director to outweigh the property itself – but that was exactly the case when Sam Raimi was announced to helm Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness.
Firstly, because he basically started Hollywood and the world’s obsession with comic book adaptations, having developed the original Tobey Maguire-lead trilogy of Spider-Man films back in 2002. Secondly, because this Strange-sequel was supposedly Marvel’s first attempt at pure horror, the genre Raimi is synonymous with, having developed cult classics like The Evil Dead series, and more recently Drag Me To Hell.
Thankfully the hype is justified. The same way Tim Burton’s style suited gothic Batman, and Taika Waititi amplified the campy fantasy of Thor, Raimi uses horror tropes to breathe new life into the MCU.
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Multiverse Of Madness genuinely feels like a B-grade horror film’s storyboard that has been stolen and developed with a Disney budget – in the very best way. What’s surprising is just how flat-out scary this outing is.
It’s worth mentioning from the top that this is not kid-friendly; there’s incredibly graphic exploding heads, decapitated bodies, detached eyeballs and reanimated dead corpses. While this isn’t good for little ones, it is good for those who with a penchant for gore.
The film follows on from several other properties, namely Spider-Man: No Way Home, Wandavision & the underrated animated series, What If…?
The film begins in another universe, with an alternate version of Doctor Strange and fresh-faced hero America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) trying to escape a demon. As a result, Chavez gets transported to our universe, only to encournter the Strange we know, along with Benedict Wong’s ever-likeable sidekick, Wong. To keep Chavez safe, they enlist the help of Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda, who has been living in isolation since losing her family in Wandavision – and that’s about when things start to unravel, in terms of space, time & our characters’ sanity.
While the mystical elements enables Raimi to do what he does best, it’s also the biggest problem with the film’s pacing. By relying on wizards and witches to drive the plot, the writing team seem to pick and choose when to use magic, and to what effect. One minute they’re teleporting and controlling minds, and the next they’re slowly limping around or scaling mountains by hand, and basically just shooting colourful lasers at one another.
Raimi re-enlisted the legendary composer Danny Elfman for the score, who also worked on Spider-Man 1 and 2, which brings a real sense of nostalgia – especially in one key moment when he incorporates a very familiar theme from the ‘90s. Unfortunately, some of the musical cues become overused and downright cheesy coming toward the final act.
As expected, there are some huge surprises; some from casting rumours that surprisingly rang true, other speculations that were clearly manufactured for hype.
What will be interesting from here is to see how far Marvel can continue to push the envelope. After Infinity War and Endgame, producer Kevin Feige made the smart decision to immediately scale back for the city-based adventures of Ant-Man and Spider-Man. However, with a trio of The Eternals, No Way Home and now Multiverse of Madness, they will literally struggle to bring us back down to earth.
‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’ is now showing in cinemas, including Village Cinemas Geelong and Waurn Ponds Readings Cinema.