Review: Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness

Dr. strange

Rating: 2.5/5

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is wildy chaotic.

There are so many characters, countless CGI battle sequences and storylines that serve not only as the sequel to some previous MCU installments but also acts as a predecessor for the upcoming MCU projects. Clearly, the Marvel playground has never been this busy.

However, simply having more stuff does not translate into being good. This is why Dr. Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness feels tedious, even though it seems exhilarating on the surface. 

I will be giving light spoilers. So don’t worry.

Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is at the wedding of his former love, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), when he is forced into superhero action by an alien octopus, wreaking havoc outside on the roads. The octopus seems to have fallen out of an interdimensional portal along with a girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). Wong (Benedict Wong) and Strange duel with the octopus and later on, they discover that it was sent by someone to chase after Chavez. You see, Chavez possesses this highly interesting and tempting super power of traveling between different universes. She cannot control it herself and it seems to trigger only when she is highly scared. Strange realizes that if Chavez’s powers fall into the wrong hands, it could be a dangerous threat to the whole multiverse itself.

Suspecting witchcraft involved, Strange seeks out Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) help, who has withdrawn into seclusion from the rest of the world, after the Westview incident from WandaVision (2021). However, it turns out that Wanda has been using Darkhold, a dark sinister book of spells, and wants Chavez’s powers for herself. She wants to travel to a different universe, where she can reunite with her lost children. Her grief from WandaVision hasn’t gone away.

From here, the plot races through head-tripping CGI adventures, battle sequences, and a couple of special character appearances along the way, before it reaches a somewhat dull and unsatisfying conclusion.

Micheal Waldron, the screenwriter for Dr. Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, has written a script that bubbles with admirable creativity, when it comes to the plot and world building. After all, he is no stranger to the multiverse concept, since he served as the head writer for Marvel’s Loki (2021) earlier.  However, while he managed to provide an endearing character depth to the God of Mischief in that series, here Waldron seems far too occupied with the multiverse shenanigans to focus on his characters. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the Marvel films are not meant to be serious cinema. But when you are showing a story to an audience, the least you can do is have interesting characters and compelling dynamics between them.

Here, both Wanda Maximoff and America Chavez are some of the major players, and yet, they exhibit excruitiginaly shallow personality traits that leads both of their emotional arcs to a laughably bad and annoyingly predictable end. Wanda’s grief  has lost all of the emotional weight that she had in WandaVision and Chavez’s character just serves as a tool to propel the plot forward, with no meaningful struggle.

Stephen Strange himself seems to have been reduced to a caricature of himself, acting as a superhero who is just flying from one CGI sequence to another. His relationship with Christine feels incredibly hollow to the point that Strange’s “I love you” to Palmer in the end, evokes no emotional response. It’s just a line meant to be said. A moral obligation to be fulfilled, now that we have to close the movie. Even his relationship with America Chavez carries no emotional depth and at one point, you wonder why he cares so much about this girl. But hey, the plot requires him to do it, so here he is.

This is the reason why, even though Benedict Cumberbatch has given an exemplary performance, he feels ridiculously limited in the playground he has been given to play in. This is also the case for Elisabeth Olsen. The actress was incredibly adept at conveying Wanda’s inner turmoil in WandaVision and to a certain extent, here in Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness as well. But weak writing has plummeted Olsen’s performance to a level where, even with her best performance, her character does not seem convincing enough.

Elisabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. (Credits: Marvel Studios)

The overarching issue with Dr. Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is that it is too concerned with being a franchise product, rather than being a movie with a distinct personality. It references so many previous MCU projects (There’s Spiderman: No Way Home, WandaVision and Avengers:Endgame), and at the same time, it is also so busy setting up the playing field for future films and series to establish their own footing, that the movie forgets it has to stand out on its own.

It does come alive in gasping bursts in a few places, most notably due to Sam Raimi’s stylistic flair, Danny Elfman’s energizing score and the creative CGI sequences. Rami has lent his trademark horror elements to heighten the dramatic quotient of a few scenes and the background makes it even more incredible. The CGI spectacle is unquestionably fun, considering how it has been used in an awe-inspiring creative manner. There’s a battle sequence where two Dr. Stranges battle it out with actual musical notes, plucked straight out of instruments. Then there’s a sequence where Strange and Chavez are thrown from one universe to another, each one with their own distinctive style.

However, in the end, none of these entertaining CGI battle sequences, Elfman’s score and great acting performances are enough to save this movie from being an overwhelming mess.

Go for a one time watch, but my bet is that once you return back home, you would have forgotten all about it.

Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is now playing in theatres near you.

Watch the trailer here.

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