Movie Review: “Dr. Strange 2” Becomes More Strange, Scary, Messy Entertainment

Once the superhero franchise moves into the multiverse, it’s hard to go back.

No work of art ever needs permission to break the rules or push the boundaries of traditional storytelling, but the multiverse, at least as it is presented in recent Marvel movies, practically requires it. And at the moment that means a lot of episodic opportunities. «Spider-Man: No way homeOpened the door for the concept, to predominantly magical results, but now the master of mystical arts Benedict Cumberbatch is flying through an multidimensional portal with the concept in “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness».

Technically, this film is a sequel to Dr. Strange, which came out six years ago. But so much has happened in Marvel, where Stephen Strange and his goatee are involved – “Infinity War”, “Endgame” and, yes, the latest “Spider-Man” – that is part of a separate film “Doctor Strange”. not at all in essence. You can’t just watch “Doctor Strange” and then “Dr. Strange 2” and expect it to make sense.

Not only that, understanding or at least investing in “Doctor Strange 2” also requires some passing knowledge of “WandaVision,” a nine-part Disney + series that runs for nearly six hours. This is not a surprise or a burden for Marvel fans, but it seems to be quite a lot to ask the average moviegoer (although perhaps at the moment they are the same).

It is therefore particularly interesting that Sam Raimi has agreed to jump into this chaotic corporate multiverse at this point. After all, his films “Spider-Man” are still among the best modern franchises about superheroes. Raimi was able to put his own stamp on this endeavor, including but not limited to Bruce Campbell’s cameo. There are also elements of horror, some so intense that families may think twice before bringing everyone to the multiplex, some interesting visual effects that aren’t exactly different from the urban hygiene “Inception,” and some humor. But Raimi doesn’t take “Doctor Strange” to a whole new tone, like, say, Taika Vaiti with Thor. It basically adheres to the framework set by Scott Derrickson.

The main problem is that this is a little film about a kitchen sink, at the center of which is a completely new and underdeveloped character, America Chavez (Hochitl Gomez), a teenager who has the strength to travel around the multiverse but does not know how to control it. She is being hunted by someone who wants her strength, and Strange decides to help, perhaps because of true altruism and perhaps because it was a good reason to literally jump off the balcony to get out of his old flame early at Christine’s wedding (Rachel Macadams).

Unfortunately, he asks for the help of the wrong Avenger: Wanda Maximoff of Elizabeth Olsen is the one who has the opportunity to jump into the multiverse, and she is involved in some dark arts to make it happen. She is motivated by the idea that she has children in an idyllic suburban multiverse in which she wears yoga pants and loose cotton tops and refills her boys for the night after ice cream and movies. Soon she and Strange collide in the air.

The script is inventive in the way it combines many great science fiction concepts, which makes sense when you consider that screenwriter Michael Waldron is a veteran of “Rick and Morty”. But it also supports when it comes to the structure of the mix and women. Olsen still sells Wanda’s pain as the best of them, although she has been reduced to the stereotype of female hysteria. Christine is here just to make Strange understand something about herself. And America, well, it never earns our emotional investment.

After “Infinity Wars” and “Endgame” “Dr. Strange in Multi-World Madness” feels a bit like a spinning wheel. Cumberbatch is having fun with his character, but his boundless ego seems a bit muffled when he struggles with his own happiness. And this raises additional questions, for example, do we ultimately worry about whether Dr. Strange is happy? Is he? Or could everyone just use some post-blip therapy instead of these episodes of an oversized bottle?

Perhaps the Marvel universe is finally starting to feel like a long series of comics. Or maybe phase 4 just hasn’t started yet.

“Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” released by Disney at the cinema on Thursday, received a PG-13 rating from the American Film Association for “intense sequences of violence and action, scary images and some expressions.” Duration: 126 minutes. Two stars of four.

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