When it comes to recent Marvel movies there were a couple I was particularly looking forward to. The first was Spider-Man: No Way Home which it took me too long to catch and the other, and possibly even more eagerly anticipated, was Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness.
There are a few reasons for that, first is that I’ve generally got back into the vibe of Marvel’s cinematic output recently, second is that Doctor Strange has long been a character I’ve been of a fan of and third is that this sees Sam Raimi back in the directors chair for Marvel for the first time since Spider-Man 3 (which wasn’t really a Marvel movie in the same way anyway).
Dropping us right in to a ponytailed Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, now firmly established in the role since his first outing a few years ago) fighting a demon alongside a mysterious youngster (America Chavez played by Xochitl Gomez) while trying to get their hands on a glowing book before it all seems to go a bit wrong and the girl is drawn into a star shaped portal and Strange wakes up in bed with a start from a nightmare.
After that the first act, while it featured some nice looking monster based action, felt somewhat uneven and I wasn’t sure what the film wanted to be, but, once Strange pays a visit to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) things settle down and really get rolling, and rarely let up for the remainder of the film.
From there we get a visually spectacular run through multiple dimensions, all with their own foibles and differences leading to some highlight moments ranging from cameos to fun plays on tropes of the MCU which has all but become its own genre by this point.
Within all of the usual Marvel stuff we’ve come to expect Raimi finds enough room to really stamp his mark on the film, which I was very happy about, so we get shots that hark back the Evil Dead series (in some cases almost direct copies), a good dose of horror styling and, of course, a cameo for Bruce Campbell which plays on the reputation of the relationship between director and actor for those who know excellently.
Along with the visuals Danny Elfman is on scoring duty and his trademark style also shines through matching Raimi’s brilliantly while also fitting the general Marvel style.
While the film is definitely a Doctor Strange film, Wanda really stands up as a second lead, continuing where WandaVision left off and really adding to both the film itself and the overriding lore of the series, while Benedict Wong is back and is a joy as usual as Wong.
Xochitl Gomez is also terrific as the mysterious youngster with apparent dimension hopping capabilities and they do a great job of introducing the new character without over doing the ‘here’s a new superhero’ thing, though she clearly is and I assume will become a feature of the MCU going forward.
As Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness neared its end, with a nice play on the usual Marvel big CGI action sequence, it felt like it had flown by with a coherent story in its own right but plenty of hints of things to come as the MCU continues to move on.
Along with plenty of call backs to things past, this became, on first viewing at least, one of the superior entries in the Marvel canon, though I’ll admit it probably wouldn’t stand up without knowledge of at least a few prior instalments, and I hope we get more from both Strange and Raimi in this kind of context sooner rather than later.