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Doctor Strange: A spellbinding experience

As a studio, Marvel finds them in a strange position at the moment. They should be celebrating in the afterglow of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, which became one of the highest-grossing and best-received Marvel movies of all time. But since then they have released the poorly received ‘Morbius’ while their latest streaming series ‘Moon Knight’ seems to have left audiences saying, “It’s a bit dark.”

By David Griffiths

Saturday 7 May 2022, 11:00AM

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). Image: IMDb

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). Image: IMDb

Now comes their latest cinema release Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which to be honest probably isn’t the most ideal film for Marvel to be releasing off the back of their last two releases. Firstly because the first Doctor Strange movie seemed to polarise fans – they either loved it or hated it – and secondly if people think Moon Knight is dark, well wait until they realise that director Sam Raimi’s (Drag Me to Hell) influence on this film has seen it released it most markets with a ‘horror’ tag on it.

Plot-wise it begins with a nightmare experienced by Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek: Into Darkness) in which he is willing to kill a teenager named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez – The Baby-Sitters Club) in order to save himself.

The next day while attending the wedding of the woman he loves, Dr Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams – The Notebook), the city is suddenly attacked by a creature from the multiverse. While fighting off the creature Strange realises that it is there after America Chavez, whom he immediately recognises. She then tells him that his nightmare wasn’t a dream but actually happened in another dimension and that the Strange from that dimension is now dead.

Keen for answers Strange turns to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen – Wind River) for answers but soon himself and Wong (Benedict Wong – The Martian) find themselves in danger as they try to protect Chavez. Soon Strange and Chavez find themselves going into the multiverse and fighting for their lives.

One of the biggest issues that the Marvel universe has had with the character of Doctor Strange over the years is that he is a hard-to-like character. They may try to deny it but let’s be honest, you see fans warming to Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and Iron-Man, but you don’t exactly see people rushing out for Doctor Strange merchandise or to dress up like him unless they are a hardcore fan. 

Some of that stigma was eroded though in Spider-Man: No Way Home, where the studio allowed Benedict Cumberbatch to play a more likable Strange. There we saw a Strange that cracked jokes and had a caring attitude. It is that Strange that we find here in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and that instantly gets more fans onside.

To the credit of the team behind this film – director Sam Raimi and screenwriter Michael Waldron (Loki) – they also overcome that mystical-means-boring vibe that also hung over the original Doctor Strange film by mixing up the genres and giving a more human touch to the feel with characters such as Chavez. Genre-wise, you are in for a real treat – other than the obvious sci-fi fantasy that you were always going to get with this film, Raimi allows the film to touch on some horror elements with a sprinkling of comedy and heart along the way as well.

What really wins you over with this film though are the surprises. First there is a major surprise with Wanda, which we can’t tell you because it is a spoiler, and then there are some truly amazing and creative cameos throughout this film that are guaranteed to have true Marvel fans gasping. At this point though we should warn you that you will get a lot more out of this film if you have watched all previous Marvel films and the Marvel series What If…  and Wandavision.

Acting-wise, the film also produces some strong performances. Cumberbatch and Olsen carry much of this film and they do a wonderful job as their characters go through some pretty dramatic character journeys. Xochitl Gomez does a passable job as America Chavez, but believe us it is the cameo performances that you are going to enjoy the most from this film.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a lot better than the original Doctor Strange movie, but if you are expecting epic battle sequences and the magic feeling of some of the other Marvel movies, you aren’t going to find it here. This is one for the hardcore Marvel fans.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘13’.

3/5 Stars

David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus 

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