Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong
This second solo outing for Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, and the third feature-length sojourn into the Marvel multiverse following the superior Spidey outings, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ and ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, is alas, a muddled disappointment.
It begins in New York where we find Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) in civvies attending the wedding of his lost love Christine Palmer (McAdams). The festivities are interrupted by a nearby raging one-eyed giant monster that is in pursuit of young woman, America Chavez (Gomez). It is revealed that Chavez has the ability to move freely through alternate universes and that the force pursuing her wishes to steal her powers in order to create havoc across the multiverse.
Looking for help, Strange tracks down powerful telekinetic telepath, Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlet Witch, who is now living in rural seclusion with her two imaginary sons, who will be familiar to views of Disney’s ‘WandaVision’ series.
Cue a lengthy and confusing multiverse-traversing chase for a dark spell book, in which Strange encounters various intellectual properties that Disney has recently acquired.
There’s been much talk, not least from the director himself, of the degree of freedom awarded to Raimi this time around, but while this outing sees him leaning into his trademark horror and comedy stylings, the end result is not at all scary and not particularly funny, and all too often the screenplay groans under the weight of franchise imperatives.
Cumberbatch is typically committed but looks weary of the more expositionary dialogue, while the female cast, particularly Olsen and McAdams, are poorly served with reductive and sketchy characters. The plotting feels excessively baroque and fussy, while the pitching of a multiverse where everything can and does happen means it rarely feels that there is that much at stake. The lurid visuals are as cluttered as the narrative.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out 5th May
Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm