REVIEW: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” – Marvel just keeps getting stranger


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is playing in theaters

Ben Kaiser, News Editor

Editor’s note: This article may contain spoilers for the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” movie.

Marvel has been crazy. We had movies filled with 40+ superheroes fighting an alien army, Loki never dying and turning into a time-traveling rule enforcer, space giants so big that they could play beach volleyball with our planet, an alcoholic duck in a suit, and an anthropomorphic hippo goddess steering a boat through the Egyptian underworld. In this cinematic connected world, not only do gods and aliens exist but so do zombies and vampires, eventually, whenever “Blade” comes out. Either way, Marvel keeps raising the stakes on what crazy stuff they can bring to their movies. They have to be running out of crazy by now…

Oh my thunder god, it just got crazier!

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, and Strange’s second solo film. It also continues events from “WandaVision,” so if you haven’t seen that show yet on Disney Plus, boy, are you gonna be confused.

“Multiverse of Madness” is directed by Sam Raimi. The first “Doctor Strange” film was directed by Scott Derrickson but left due to creative differences. Raimi is best known for the Tobey McGuire “Spider-Man” trilogy and the “Evil Dead” franchise. He’s also behind TV series like “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

It’s exciting to see Raimi back directing since he hasn’t directed since 2013’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Raimi’s films are often filled with superheroes and horror elements, so a film about a superhero magician with zombies, monsters, and nightmares is a great way for Raimi to return.

“Multiverse of Madness” Stars Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s “Sherlock”) as Dr. Stephen Strange, Xochitl Gomez (Netflix’s “The Babysitters Club”) as America Chavez, Benedict Wong (“Nine Days”) as Wong, and Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”) as Christine Palmer. Elizabeth Olsen returns from “WandaVision” as the former Avenger Scarlet Witch, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”) returns as Karl Mordo, a Sorcerer Supreme variant (alternate version) of “Doctor Strange’s” Mordo, who is also part of the mysterious Illuminati.

To add to the insanity, Cumberbatch, Olsen, and McAdams also play multiple variants of their characters from other universes.

The Madness begins when Dr. Strange saves a young girl from a massive, tentacled monster wrecking a New York street to get to her (which I just assume happens every other week in this city). The girl, America Chavez, is being hunted by monsters for her ability to jump through universes which she struggles to control. Saving Chavez sends Strange and the girl through multiple universes where Strange will confront the Illuminati, a powerful team of that universe’s superheroes who see any version of Dr. Strange as a dangerous threat to the Multiverse. As they decide his fate, a very powerful former ally-turned-enemy is stretching reality to hunt down Chavez for her power, who isn’t afraid to mercilessly kill anyone standing in their way to get what they want.

Rachel McAdams, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Xochitl Gomez

There’s actually a lot I could talk about, but those reveals are massive spoilers. There are enough trolls on the internet already posting spoilers out there. Man, do I want to talk about them, though.

The “Loki” series on Disney Plus introduced audiences to the concept of the Multiverse, a confusing construct of parallel universes. “Loki” showed mostly Earth in different timelines. “Multiverse of Madness” gives us more images of more bizarre universes, including a cartoon universe, another made entirely of paint, one of the dinosaurs fighting, and a completely wasted universe. There were glimpses of many more, but they went by so fast that it was hard to see everything.

Also, did I mention that one was made out of paint? Because it was made out of paint.

Every universe has its own version of heroes and villains, or sometimes, completely different heroes and villains. The cartoon series “What If…?” showed multiple possibilities, such as the Android Ultron winning against the Avengers or Peggy Carter getting the super-soldier serum instead of Captain America.

Benedict Cumberbatch as “Defender” Dr. Strange

These different versions in their separate universes are known as variants. And with the “Multiverse of Madness,” variants are everywhere. Strange himself has three different variants that’ll show up in this film. While all versions are heroic, each seems to be corrupted or jaded in some way. These versions help Strange (our Strange, the main Strange) see his possible flaws, which he can improve on to be the better one.

Cumberbatch really shows off his acting range by playing multiple versions of his Dr. Strange. Outside of the “normal” Strange, one was heroic but too concerned with “the greater good.” One was corrupt and evil. Another was “reanimated” (fancy word for zombie), so Cumberbatch had to act like his joints were stiff with rigor mortis.

Olsen plays her Wanda/Scarlet Witch character with the same feeling of loss she exhibited from “WandaVision.” Instead of Vision, she’s focused on her loss of her twin children, with the potential of them alive in other universes tempting her down a treacherous path.

As I mentioned, a lot of what goes on in this film stems from “WandaVision.” This might be annoying for fans that don’t have a Disney Plus subscription. The film doesn’t even recap the events from the show. Just, hey, Wanda has a new outfit and a creepy book now. Also, she had kids that never existed, and the people of Westview will never watch sitcoms ever again. Why? “WandaVision.”

This is an old comic book gimmick that Marvel uses a lot. Say you’re reading a “The Amazing Spider-Man” issue, and it gets to the end on a cliffhanger. You’d see a caption, “See what happens next in the next issue of ‘Daredevil.’” If you don’t get that issue of “Daredevil,” you’d never see what happened, and that next issue of “Spider-Man” will be something else. Even main event series, like “Civil War,” will branch out to separate mini-stories. You have to collect them all to know the whole story, or you’ll miss big or small details, depending on the content.

Bruce Campbell

Raimi fans will be thrilled to know that there is a cameo from legendary cult film actor Bruce Campbell. In most of his films, Raimi likes to sneak the “Evil Dead” actor somewhere; they’re almost as good as Stan Lee cameos, almost. In fact, Campbell reenacts a bit of “Evil Dead” when he’s put under a spell to punch himself repeatedly, much like his character had to do in “Evil Dead II” when his hand becomes possessed.

Like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” it has fan-service casting and surprise cameos. Obviously, I can’t say who or what. What I can say is I can never trust an actor who says “I’m not in this Marvel movie” ever again. They are tricky deceivers.

Even before “Multiverse of Madness” came out, it was already banned in several countries. Saudi Arabia banned the sequel in their theaters weeks before the premiere due to Chavez being a gay character. Pretty pointless since her sexuality wasn’t even stated in the film. Saudi Arabia also wanted Marvel Studios to cut 12 seconds of the film where Chavez remembers her two mothers. Later, Egypt banned the theatrical release for similar reasons.

It’s especially ironic for Egypt since Marvel Studios just finished its “Moon Knight” series on Disney Plus. Moon Knight is an Egyptian-themed superhero and features an Egyptian-born superhero Scarlet Scarab. Keep it up, Egypt and Marvel will just have Moon Knight live in London or New York and fight bad guys there.

China has also banned the movie. While people believe that China banned the movie for the same reasons as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it seems that the country claims it banned “Doctor Strange” for showing “The Epoch Times,” a publication that opposes the Chinese Communist Party, in a scene.

So while China is denying Marvel Studios millions of theater views, the film made approximately $36 million Thursday night in the U.S. alone. I think they’ll be fine without giving in to China’s or other countries’ petty demands for censorship. Just saying.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a mad (mad, mad, mad) world of craziness. And if you got that reference, congrats, you’re older than me. It takes the ante of the Multiverse and gives another step into what Marvel is planning for future films. So far, it only feels like they’ve skimmed the surface, but then again, we only knew Marvel was planning The Infinity Saga after the first Avengers film. So Marvel Studios is again taking slow steps to building a big storyline. They did announce plans all the way to 2032.

But as long as they keep it up with hits like Spider-Man and this film, I’m down. I’ll gladly shell out my hard-earned cash as long as it’s that entertaining. Who needs paid-off bills anyways?

The Marvel film has a mid- and end-credit scene; I know, shocker. The mid-credit scene is an introduction to a classic Dr. Strange character and a new sequel crisis. The end-credit scene is a joke related to an earlier scene from the movie, still worth sitting through the credits.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is currently playing in theaters.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch