There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and The Marvel Cinematic Universe. Phase Four of the biggest movie franchise in the world had a mixed start, with the enjoyable Shang-Chi counterbalanced by the dreary Eternals, and Black Widow sitting somewhere in between.
It came roaring back thanks to Spider-men past and present in No Way Home, the biggest hit since the pandemic began. With cinemas clearing their schedules to make way for the new instalment, can Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness continue that momentum?
Reviewing this film is tricky, but here’s the most spoiler-free synopsis possible. Having opened the multiverse in his previous appearance, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) attempts to carry on with his life, questioning whether the choices he made were right. This conundrum is interrupted by America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a gifted youngster who arrives from another universe being chased by a dark force, which Strange must travel through the multiverse to defeat.
With the newly christened Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) also in the mix, things get a little out of hand. Sam Raimi returns to Marvel for the first time since 2007’s much-derided Spider-Man 3, and it’s great to see his style reintroduced into this universe. The Danny Elfman score, extreme camera angles, and enjoyable silliness of his Spidey films are all present in this movie’s DNA.
He’s allowed to throw everything at the screen, creating essentially a two-hour action scene, the cast barely having time to think as Strange and Chavez hurtle through CGI dreamscapes. It’s impressive and over-the-top, even if some scenes raise an unintentional chuckle. It’s a Raimi film, after all, and even Disney can’t fully restrain him.
Strange may be the title character, but in many ways the film is stolen by his co-stars. Anyone who’s seen the trailer will not be surprised to learn Scarlet Witch gets a little dark, and Olsen is absolutely glorious in a role that brings to mind Thor Ragnarok’s Hela mixed with a little bit of Agatha Harkness.
It’s gloriously operatic, with Olsen becoming the greatest of all blockbuster characters: a villain with a point.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is expected to land on Disney+ in the future