Every Friday, Nevada Sports Net's Jared Brosnan, a lover of film and television, will review one movie or show and give you his thoughts heading into the weekend.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Run time: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Where to watch: Theaters
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gómez
Plot in 50 words or less: After sending multiple Spider-Mans and villains back to their universes, Doctor Strange must enter the multiverse to stop the Scarlet Witch from killing a young girl for her powers.
Full review (spoiler warning)
With Marvel fully into the post-End Game era, it's clear they've decided Doctor Strange will be the main hero who revolves around several stories. After being the secondary lead in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" in December, he debuted his second standalone film with "The Multiverse of Madness" last week. The biggest hype going into the film other than the multiverse concept ushering in new cameos and heroes is the return of Sam Raimi to a Marvel movie. After directing the three Tobey McGuire Spider-Man movies in the 2000s, he's been quiet, only directing twice since 2009. With his horror background, fans were excited to finally see some scares in an MCU movie. Even with the movies' several flaws, Raimi delivers the directing style people loved from the Spider-Man trilogy.
The movie tries to tie up loose ends after "WandaVision" and debuting the new multiverse concept revealed in the finale of Loki's first season. It does require some background knowledge of the Disney+ Marvel shows but is still enjoyable for any movie fan. Wanda is now fully embracing the Scarlet Witch persona who is mentally unstable after the events of the WandaVision series. Making a sympathetic Avenger who has gone through the most trauma of nearly anyone in the MCU the last several years into the main villain is a fantastic twist. She's a tragic character who was never fully able to control her growing powers. No matter how much Strange tries to bring Wanda to her senses, she is unable to listen and reason. The Scarlet Witch is where Raimi is truly able to show his directing style. Whether it's crawling through the mirror dimension in homage to The Ring, snapping Professor X's neck or destroying the Illuminati in the span of a few minutes, Raimi shows just how demented Wanda has become.
Being a movie that spends so much time in new universes, new characters are bound to arise. We see that Marvel Studios has no problem with fan service, as John Krasinski makes his MCU debut as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic. There are now three or four people in the MCU considered the smartest in the universe with Professor X, Doctor Strange and Mr. Fantastic all in the same room together at one point. The Illuminati scene was shot a little awkwardly as it's not out of the possibility Strange and the Illuminati actors were never actually in the same room together during filming. For fans of the cameos, they were quickly washed away by the Scarlet Witch who makes them look like droids against a Jedi. The quick dismemberment of the five heroes by Wanda was a good choice by Raimi, maintaining that it's a Wanda/Strange movie, not a cameo-filled fan service.
As with every superhero (whether in movies or comics), they have a backstory with their significant other. Strange and his co-worker and sometimes flirt, Christine (played by McAdams) is one of the low points in the two Doctor Strange movies. There's little romantic chemistry shown in the two films. Strange has more chemistry with the Christine in the Illuminati universe, but at some point Marvel should just give up on trying to make them a thing. The newest hero introduced is America Chavez, who can transport between universes. She serves as the main plot element with Strange protecting her from Wanda throughout the movie. This seems to be the new Iron Man/Spider-Man relationship that Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland had such a strong connection with. We'll likely see their relationship grow in later movies, but for now it's not strong. The end scene of the first Doctor Strange set up former companion Mordo to be the adversary going forward. His MCU universe is nowhere to be seen in this movie, and his Illuminati self is pretty much wasted. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a fantastic actor, and it's interesting why he wasn't given a large role in this sequel.
The biggest question being asked now is how this all connects with other Phase 4 MCU content. This movie wants to set up more than given at the moment. It's an introduction to the new MCU, but no one knows if there is a true endpoint or main villain. It might be several characters within the Multiverse banding together against a retired Avengers team. The creator of the Time-Variant Authority: He Who Remains, revealed in Loki, seems to have everyone on a string. There's a strong chance he is the new Thanos but doesn't seem to have a real goal in himself.
This is a good but not great movie. Everyone loves going to Rotten Tomatoes or Twitter to either laud or pan movies. There's too much hyperbole around MCU movies as being either amazing or terrible. Multiverse of Madness is fun but has some flaws. It would go in the middle of ranking the 28 MCU movies released so far. "Thor: Love and Thunder," set to be released in July, will likely draw bigger box-office numbers with an original Avenger and some of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the film. In the meantime, Disney+ will release the Ms. Marvel miniseries starting in June. Not much is known about it other than a new hero being introduced again in the MCU via a show like Moon Knight. For now, the MCU Earth is now Doctor Strange's planet to protect with endless other universes having the chance to be revealed in movies and shows.
Rating: 3/4 Deadly Cameos
NSN Daily producer Jared Brosnan grew up experiencing and working in the film industry around Los Angeles. He graduated from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, ranked as the fourth-best film school by the Hollywood Reporter in 2021. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jared_brosnan.