- Release Date: 06/05/2022
- Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong
- Director: Sam Raimi
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of those rare films in which I would completely skip discussing the plot as if I even write a single word about the plot it will amount to spoiling some element or the other of the film for the ones who would be watching it over the next few weeks. I would hate to rob these audiences of the “wow” moments that I enjoyed immensely as I was able to experience them firsthand in a theater. I was able to enjoy these moments more because I stayed away from the social media chatter surrounding the film and shut myself up from any discussion about the film before I could actually watch it. I advise all my readers to do the same if possible.
Just be informed that this is a film that is a follow up to both Spider-man: No way Home and the Disney+Hotstar series WandaVision featuring the characters of Wanda and Vision and their adventures in a little know town called West View. From here on, I will dwell on the elements of the film that impressed me and what I believe will be its biggest pull for the audiences.
One of the most colorful and imaginative visual presentations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Cinematic Universe has a history of dishing out flat and bland visual representations of stories and characters that were quirky, colorful, and somewhat bizarre in their comic book representations. Director Sam Raimi, in this new iteration of Doctor Strange, is able to hit the sweet spot between remaining rooted in a realistic rendition of what is an acceptable representation of the weird world of Doctor Strange and at the same time infusing his visuals with popping colors, imaginative rendering of out of the world aspects of the world and a perfectly organic gelling of these elements to amount to a seamless rendition of the world that feels believable, lived in and at the same time is uproariously fun and unpredictable. I enjoyed the manner in which the characters travel between the different Multiverses, the unique defining aspects of the different Multiverses, and how it impacts the characters that travel to them.
For once the 3D is used effectively and the visual style of the film suits the 3-Dimensional representation of it. I dare say that the 3D adds to the fun of some of the scenes and gives us the exact feel of the imposing worlds that the characters are in.
Breathtaking and meaningful action sequences propelled by genuine human emotions and mounting stakes
The action of the film is imaginative and on your face. While the physicality of it remains intact, I loved the action for the fact that every bit of it is inspired and backed by genuine human emotions, roaring conflicts, and surging tempers propelled by dramatic overtures that are a result of genuine and thought-provoking conversations between characters. The fact also remains that these dialogues between the characters never get too melodramatic or over the top and hence exude enough realism and drama to have the desired impact. I loved the elaborate action set pieces and how every element of it can be easily deciphered and enjoyed optimally. Again, the visual palette and the plush colors and feel of these set pieces add to the charm of it and make it not only devastating to look at but equally beautiful and enamoring to the eye. There is also an inherent shock value associated with these sequences as we see major characters killed unceremoniously and in some of the most brutal manners possible.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda
The internet is already piling ravishing praise on Elizabeth Olsen for her dramatic and sometimes shocking rendition of Wanda aka The Scarlet Witch and every word of that praise is well earned and even better placed. I was in awe of her rendition of the character and loved the nuanced differences that she was able to portray through the different versions of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that she was able to use her longing as a mother to weaponize and propel her powers to a whole new level and use it to obliterate anything that came between her and her goal. The fact that she kept a straight face while she did it all made her character that much more intriguing. The few scenes that are there that show her interacting with her children adds the necessary emotional weight and motivation that justifies her doing what she is shown doing. Olsen is one of my favorite Hollywood actors of recent times and with this act, she has cemented her place as my favorite for years to come.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Cumberbatch brings forth the conflicts of Doctor Strange with utmost sincerity and humility. One version of the character makes his way through the different Multiverses learning about the exploits of the other iterations of the same characters and gets wiser in the process. He is also bogged down by the realizations of the many evils that he has committed when he comes face to face with the people who were at the receiving end of those choices. The development of the relationship between Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams playing Dr. Christine Palmer is wholesome and speaks a lot of the man that Strange becomes as we proceed through the narrative of the film. I loved how emotionally charged some of these scenes were and how increasingly frustrating it got for Strange to realize that in every Multiverse, he is in love with the same woman but almost always loses her owing to his own actions and choices. Cumberbatch is successful in bringing out the nuances of the conflict that his character is going through and uses this aspect of his character to endear his rendition with the audience and also trigger bigger stakes that contribute to making the finale and some of the other confrontations of the film thrilling.
Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez
While I wouldn’t want to write a single word about this character so as to not spoil the fun of it, it would be a blasphemy to not credit Xochitl Gomez playing America Chavez for being one of the most effective aspects of the film. She exudes the kind of innocence and wide-eyed wonder that was necessary to sell the most defining aspects of her character and she does so with clinical ease and charm. Her character grows with the film and by the end of it she completes her arch and is ready to embark on a new adventure. It will be interesting to see which way her character goes in future Marvel films.
Sam Raimi’s distinct style and deft direction
While the film tries to be similar in feel and presentation to its predecessor, it becomes an out-and-out Sam Raimi film in the second half. Certain aspects of the film reminded me of past Raimi horror films and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that numerous horror elements in it were so distinctive of Raimi’s style and forte that it was impossible to ignore the commonality of his presence in the helm as a director. This I say with the utmost respect to Raimi and his craft and I feel that his style and inputs into the film made it a much more wholesome entertainer than its predecessor was. The fact that the film has so many different elements packed into a runtime of just about 2 hours and 6 minutes also ensured that there was not a single dull moment in the entire narrative. Add to that the visual flair of Raimi and the humanity that he is able to infuse into the story and the characters and you have a film that is bolstered by his presence as a director.
The few issues with the film
In a film of this nature, there were bound to be elements that were questionable and Multiverse of Madness is no exception. Conducive coincidences happen a lot that push the narrative forward. The ending of it felt rushed and the change of heart of Wanda could have been dealt with in a better manner. The reason and logic in many aspects of it go for a toss but then what is the point of raising questions of realism in a film that has a wizard for a protagonist and a witch for an antagonist.
The shoving of diversity politics down our throat continues and the same can be witnessed here too but fortunately, it is not as pronounced and annoying as in some of the other Marvel films and series. Lashana Lynch is so annoying that I felt like fast-forwarding through her portions. The condescending looks that she gives and the tone of her voice made me hate her character immensely. There were some other elements too that were questionable but in the bigger scheme of things they can be ignored.
Please note that this is a film that is deeply rooted in the ethos and story elements previously established in WandaVision and Spider-man: No Way Home. Hence to comprehend the film and be on the same page emotionally with the characters and understand their motivations, one must have seen the previous series and film. I had a great time with this film and I believe that that will be the case with most of the Marvel and Raimi fans. It is a departure from the assembly line products that Marvel has been churning out of late and that makes it special and unmissable.