Sam Raimi, take over! After the creator of “Dance of the Devils” and “Spider-Man” director replaced horror expert Scott Derickson, the question is how much horror is actually in the new Marvel film DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS plugged. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (USA 2022)
Doctor Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is repeatedly plagued by dark nightmares. One day, when he meets the young universe jumper America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), he learns that his visions are not dreams at all, but insights into other universes. And in these, an enemy rages with a dangerous plan up his sleeve, against which the unlikely pair must defend themselves and jump through the multiverse themselves. He asks his Avengers comrade Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen) for help, but she has her own way of doing things…
It wasn’t that long ago that we were using the term “multiverse” at this point. A week ago, the new film from “Swiss Army Man” makers The Daniels: “Everything Everywhere all at Once” opened in USA cinemas. And in this crazy genre foray, a magnificent Michelle Yeoh not only rushes through her entire career, but also from universe to universe in order to get “the big picture” back on track. It’s a bit like Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Except that of course it had a lot more budget available for its creation and on top of that it has a multi-billion dollar franchise behind it – and therefore automatically puts a lot more pressure on it. It should be clear which film grosses more. Which film will be better received by audiences will only become clear over time in a head-to-head race between Marvel lovers and fans of the more outlandish, commonly referred to as “creative” cinema. But this much can be revealed at this point: Albeit director Sam Raimi (“Dance of the Devil”) Due to the preservation of certain basic structures of the Marvel universe, “Doctor Strange 2” is not allowed to spin as freely as the Daniels were allowed to, “Doctor Strange 2”, similar to recent MCU releases à la “The Eternals”, is another comic film adaptation that stands out extravagantly from the crowd , which is particularly impressive because Doctor Strange has already been established in the MCU – and didn’t necessarily stand out through his creative capers in the first part. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” therefore involves a certain amount of risk, which is both impressive and irritating.
Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.
Even more than The Eternals was a Chloe Zhao film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a Sam Raimi film. This is reflected above all on the visual level, which can then be used to directly answer the question of whether the fantasy actioner is actually the one that was previously conjured up “First horror film in the MCU” is. Short and sweet: no! In any case, it all depends on what you prefer to have your horror flair presented about. And since Sam Raimi never focused on it in his previous genre works to placed a lot of emphasis on creepy tension or jump scares, but rather preferred the abstract, surrealistic motifs and, above all, the visible fun of body horror (especially his penchant for eye games à la “Drag me to Hell” can be found here) to these typical horror film ingredients “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is clearly a horror film that explores the limits of the PG13 rating or the FSK-12 rating as much as possible. In keeping with the franchise, he replaces the non-conformist dirt of a “Dance of the Devils” with CGI-heavy glossy images, so that an almost absurd comparison is offered to illustrate this change in style: the horror in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is similar to Ramis previous genre style like the body horror segments of David Cronenberg (“Parasite Killer” or “The Fly”) to those of his son Brandon (“Possessor” or “Antiviral”) – only without the most blatant excesses in the violent peaks. And this much is clear: both have their charm. And some will prefer this, others that.
“The horror in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is to Rami’s previous genre style as the body horror segments of David Cronenberg are to those of his son Brandon.”
Whenever Raimi fully exploits his aesthetic vision, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an absolutely insane trip. Maybe not as consistently as crazy as that in “Everything Everywhere all at Once” (although both films have a completely different style, the comparison is still thematically obvious), but similarly concentrated in small doses. One would have liked to see even more of the many possibilities of a multiverse. One sequence in particular remains in the memory in which Doctor Strange and his companion America Chavez rush through various abstract realities in slow motion, which are sometimes reminiscent of elements from “Inside Out” or “Spider-Man: A New Universe”. wake up. However, the fact that an essential part of the plot takes place in one of those realities that is not so dissimilar to “normal” is wasted potential. Nevertheless, there are also various beautiful observations in this futuristic world. For example, when America mentions in an aside that food costs money in hardly any other universe. Details such as a reversed traffic light – when it’s red you can walk, when it’s green you have to stop – seem arbitrary and embedded in the action because of the fast-moving gag. At least there is enough time to build believable chemistry between Steven Strange and America Chavez; We hope to see a lot more of the latter in particular in the future and, above all, to find out more about their background. Not only her character, but also that of Strange falls behind in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”. Instead, the adventure and overcoming the conflict are at the center of the plot.
There is also a reunion with Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in “Doctor Strange 2”.
For reasons of spoilers, it cannot be revealed who exactly the two will face as the final boss. Even the trailer barely gave any clues in this regard, so the structure and course of the fight “Strange and Chavez against X” might surprise some people. Nevertheless, the opponent is one whose motives for pushing through his own agenda, sometimes very brutally, are very intimate. Once again, an adversary without absurd fantasies of world destruction proves to be particularly forceful and also far less replaceable. The intense portrayal of the villain also contributes to the fact that an unexpected, moral ambivalence emerges in the best moments of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” in order to fully grasp the pre-intention of a Disney+ series (which we think… will be revealed to all those curious at the end of this review) but is essential. Probably the biggest point of criticism of the film is how clearly knowledge of this – and the associated subscription to the streaming service – are a prerequisite in order to understand “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” in all its emotionality. That the 28th part of a successive franchise requires knowledge of a few thingsfilms required is justifiable – including the series offerings from the MCU here is, on the other hand, an almost unfair deal with the audience; even if this was announced by the company in advance. In contrast, there is the observation that “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” works less through its emotional moments and more through the fantasy adventure aspect. And at least knowledge of the series events is no longer so important.
“It is justifiable that the 26th part of a franchise that builds on one another requires knowledge of some of the previous films – but to now also include the series from the MCU here is an almost unfair deal with the audience.”
There is a lot to discover in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” especially for comic nerds among Marvel film fans. In particular, the (guest) appearances of numerous heroine characters that were previously kept under wraps make the hearts of those in the know beat faster. Even if their appearance is sometimes only very brief. This is where the possibilities that you have when you are allowed to explore a multiverse in which anything and nothing can happen are revealed. And the screenwriter Michael Waldron, who has already been unmistakably involved in series like “Rick & Morty” and “Community”, does “his thing” so consistently that he undermines the expectations of his audience again in the next moment.
Conclusion: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is clearly a Sam Raimi film that explores the FSK 12 rating in a brilliant way and enriches the MCU with a new (at least visual) facet. Nevertheless, the film falls short of its potential visually and, above all, emotionally. And the fact that such an entertaining, good-looking and sometimes immensely creative screen adventure requires knowledge of a streaming series leaves an aftertaste.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” can be seen in USA cinemas from May 4, 2022 – also in 3D!
*SPOILER*: The series is “WandaVision”.