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Doctor Strange 2 review: spoiler
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness brings back Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange and tries to sell him as a lead character, but he’s mostly a support system for America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), Wong (Benedict Wong), WandaVision’s Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and many other cross-universe characters. In theaters May 6.
FILED UNDER: REVIEWS
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: our spoiler-free review
Sam Raimi tries to find the hero inside a particularly difficult MCU protagonist
By Susana [email protected] May 3, 2022, 9:01am EDT
Image: Marvel Studios
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the hallowed halls of Marvel Comics, Dr. Stephen Strange is a much more consistent visitor in other heroes’ stories than a star in his own. His immense power and his remove from the ordinary world of heroing make him something of an abstraction in the Marvel universe — mostly useful when other heroes run afoul of his marvelous, perilous world of magic, and drop in on him for help and explanations.
And the good doctor’s usefulness as a secondary character has translated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, too. Since his obligatory origin film in 2016, Strange (as played by Benedict Cumberbatch) has found more memorable cinematic life in supporting roles as a magical expert with wise words for the beleaguered protagonists of Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. For his return to top billing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, director Sam Raimi (director of the Spider-Man trilogy and the Evil Dead trilogy) and screenwriter Michael Waldron (Rick and Morty, Loki) have found a way to lean into this.
That means packing the story full of as many other characters as possible, as early as possible in the story. Setting a movie in the full breadth of the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse sets up the opportunity to bring in a lot of characters — and a lot of references designed to thrill comics fans and MCU obsessives alike. But no matter how many universes Multiverse of Madness leaps through, it can’t escape the fact that its hero is Stephen Strange. And his strong supporting cast only underscores the weakness of his own personal evolution.
Image: Marvel Studios
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness barrels adroitly through its opening, assembling its cast and launching them all on quests for various personally important MacGuffins. The most talkative and sympathetic of those MacGuffins is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a new-to-the-MCU character facing a powerful magical enemy. Naturally, her escape runs her right into the path of Stephen Strange, who seeks help from old allies like Benedict Wong’s Wong, and new ones like Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch.
Olsen definitely gives the film’s most arresting performance, and after the Disney Plus TV series WandaVision, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Gomez is charming as America — her central role and overall storyline seem destined to set up a solo Disney Plus series of her own, and this movie makes that prospect particularly appealing.
Just like in his first film and in the comics, the star of a Doctor Strange story isn’t Stephen himself. He remains egotistical, pompous, and condescending. It’s clear that he’s unlikable in all universes, to greater or lesser degrees. The real hero in Multiverse of Madness isn’t a person; it’s the visuals — particularly the way Raimi and his team depict mind-rending magical abilities, ones that obey no wands or Harry Potter-like pig-Latin incantations. Director Scott Derrickson leaned on shifting kaleidoscope worlds and Inception-esque landscapes for the original Doctor Strange. But once a single sequence nodding at that film’s fractal magic visuals is out of the way, Multiverse of Madness completes a full transformation into Sam Raimi’s House of Magical Spooks and Monsters.
In this movie, tentacles roil, specters scream, skeletons taunt, and eldritch hands seek, grasp, and pull. Goofy body-horror deaths — a tasting menu’s worth — play to delighted gasps. There are at least two moments where characters look straight out of the screen and make eye contact with the audience. The camera swoops across scenes, delivers POV shots from the oddest of entities, and transitions from sequence to sequence via occasionally dreamlike leaps. Particularly memorable is an entire magical duel accomplished through animated musical notes, underscored (ho ho) by the work of composer Danny Elfman.
Multiverse of Madness joins a young but swiftly growing realm of modern action cinema based around the comic book idea of an endless system of parallel worlds. In the DC and Marvel settings, the multiverse springs from the simultaneously capitalistic and nostalgic desire to preserve all versions of the characters that fans love, holding them fast against the ravages of time, editorial mandate, plot hole, and paradox. But in film, the multiverse has been put to different purposes.
Critic Reviews for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Read what all the top critics had to say about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at Metacritic.com
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES | RELEASE DATE: MAY 6, 2022 CRITIC SCORE DISTRIBUTION
Mixed or average reviews
based on 65 Critic Reviews
POSITIVE: 39 MIXED: 22 NEGATIVE: 4 Watch Now Stream On
CRITIC SCOREPUBLICATIONBY DATE
Nicholas BarberMay 5, 2022
Some people will dismiss the film as nonsense, and they could have a point. But Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a huge amount of fun. Read full review
Liz Shannon MillerMay 3, 2022
Multiverse of Madness isn’t wildly unconventional in its story choices, but the fun it has exploring the possibilities of this narrative makes it a treat. Read full review
David FearMay 3, 2022
What Raimi has done with his contribution, however, is construct not another roller coaster but one hell of a haunted house, one fueled by an abundance of eccentric creativity, imagination, and finely honed chops. The methods he employs to his Madness are what makes this movie stick out, in this or any other universe. Read full review
Jake ColeMay 3, 2022
At its finest, this psychedelic, horror-strewn romp’s artistry perfectly reflects the intensity of Strange navigating endless alternate realms. Read full review
Richard TrenholmMay 3, 2022
In the hands of director Sam Raimi, Multiverse of Madness is a marvellously assured balancing act of bizarre weirdness and affecting human drama. Read full review
80 Alan NgMay 7, 2022
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a wild rollercoaster ride and reminds me of the days when I actively collected comic books. Read full review
Christopher MachellMay 7, 2022
Is Raimi’s latest effort as rich as Spider-Man 2, as revolutionary as The Evil Dead or as fun as Drag Me to Hell? No. But within the self-imposed confines of the studio machine, Multiverse of Madness is about as entertaining as it’s possible to be. Read full review
Hanna FlintMay 4, 2022
Sure, Raimi’s latest Marvel entry is a theme-park ride, lighter on character development and heavier on gnarly sh*t that may signal a shift into a darker, more deranged phase of superhero storytelling. But it’s one hell of a ride. Read full review
Justin ChangMay 3, 2022
Raimi’s sheer passion for his material can sometimes overwhelm the coherence of his storytelling, and his unfashionable sincerity doesn’t always mesh with the breezy quip-a-minute tone that is the Marvel enterprise’s preferred comic idiom. I mean those both as compliments. Read full review
Dan JolinMay 3, 2022
Marvel's most deranged and energetic movie yet, as much of a winning comeback for director Sam Raimi as it is a mega-budget exercise in universal stakes-raising. Read full review
Trace SauveurMay 4, 2022
There’s an interesting tension at play within Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the strongest MCU outing since Black Panther, that’s nevertheless as much Marvel Machine as it is Raimi enjoying his return to the big screen after almost 10 years away, deploying every trick he keeps up his sleeve. Read full review
Peter TraversMay 6, 2022
The return of Benedict Cumberbatch to the world of Strange may seem chaotic madness to the uninitiated, but it’s thrilling to see livewire director Sam Raimi breathe hilarity and juicy horror into the Marvel formula that so needed a shakeup. This is it. Read full review
Scott GreenstoneMay 4, 2022
Leaning into the sideshow kitsch of a superhero movie about a flying magician in an anthropomorphic cape, Raimi — in a marvelous act of movie prestidigitation — has pulled a cute rabbit from the old Disney hat. Read full review
Richard LawsonMay 4, 2022
The film somehow gets more interesting as it goes, swirling up into a climax that is mordant and corny and monster-movie fantastical. Read full review
Mick LaSalleMay 3, 2022
Still, despite Olsen and the appealing breeziness of Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is what it is, a superhero extravaganza with too many fight scenes. But director Sam Raimi doesn’t overplay them, and the creative visuals keep them from becoming monotonous. Read full review
Richard RoeperMay 3, 2022
With the deadpan-great Benedict Cumberbatch effortlessly sliding back into the role of the brilliant and immensely powerful but sometimes shortsighted and narcissistic Doctor Stephen Strange and a bizarro plot that serves up philosophical, ethical and spiritual mind games in between the sometimes repetitive but slick and exhilarating action sequences, this is one of the weirder Marvel movies yet. Read full review
David SimsMay 3, 2022
What surprised me about Multiverse of Madness was how much fun Raimi was allowed to have in the middle of it, turning every action sequence into something quite inventive and even delivering some cheeky scares throughout. This many years into the Marvel experiment, I’m heartened to see space for a real genre auteur amid all the multiversal machinations. Read full review
Mike RyanMay 3, 2022
Honestly, it’s kind of remarkable what Marvel let Raimi get away with, but all that doesn’t really kick in until maybe an hour into the movie, and it becomes a much better movie once that happens. Read full review
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Release date & plot details
On May 6, the reality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is will shatter into a million tiny pieces with the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Following closely on the reality-bending heels of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange is expected to make Tom Holland’s third Spider-Man film look tame by comparison.
Everything you need to know before Sam Raimi breaks reality with 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'
APRIL 28, 2022, 10:59 AM ET
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE SAM RAIMI BREAKS REALITY WITH 'DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS'
The possibilities will drive you quite mad when the film hits the big screen Friday, May 6.
By Josh Weiss
Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios
On May 6, the reality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is will shatter into a million tiny pieces with the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Following closely on the reality-bending heels of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange is expected to make Tom Holland’s third Spider-Man film look tame by comparison. The possibilities are truly endless — limited only by our imaginations and the Hollywood influence of Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.
Head below for our guide on everything you need to know about the film before it portals onto the big screen.
WHEN IS IT OUT?
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters everywhere Friday, May 6. The project — which was first announced at San Diego Comic-Con back in the summer of 2019 — originally had a theatrical release date of May 7, 2021. That date was, of course, ultimately scrapped when the COVID-19 pandemic began to wreak havoc on Hollywood productions a little over two years ago.
Multiverse of Madness was initially pushed to Nov. 5, 2021 and then to March 25, 2022 before Disney settled on early May of this year.
Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home comprised the complete MCU lineup for last year. In addition to the Doctor Strange sequel, 2022 will also see the release of Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And that's just the big screen titles. A number of Disney+ shows and specials — from Ms. Marvel, to She-Hulk, to a Halloween-focused project directed by Michael Giacchino — are also on the docket for 2022.
HOW CAN YOU WATCH IT?
Multiverse of Madness will only be available to watch in theaters. Tickets are currently on sale. Within the first 24 hours, Fandango reported record sales for the year so far, with fan excitement superseding that of The Batman. More showtimes were added as a response. It was also the vendor's biggest day of sales since No Way Home tickets became available in late November of 2021.
“The epic first day of pre-sales for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness proves fans are beyond excited to experience all the thrills, chills and blockbuster surprises Marvel Studios is known to deliver,” Fandango Managing Editor Erik Davis said in a statement.
"Given the massive 'fan-ticipation' for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — and the strong tailwind provided by Spider-Man: No Way Home — the latest Marvel film will kick off what may feel like a normal summer after two sidelined years of the industry's most important corridor in theaters due to the pandemic," Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "As one of the coolest and most interesting characters in the multiverse, Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange has an appeal that goes beyond the traditional fan base and the creative freedom that the mind-bending, time-shifting, magic-conjuring powers this character can afford the filmmakers makes it a must-see epic for anyone looking for a massively entertaining couple of hours at the multiplex."
Strange's sophomore outing could be the second film to break $1 billion at the global box office since the pandemic first began. "Doctor Strange will most certainly cast an enormous box office spell that is not to be underestimated and a weekend debut well over $100 million will usher in a summer movie season that will finally see its fortunes turn for the better after a dismal 2021 that generated less than half the usual $4 billion plus domestic haul," Dergarabedian concludes.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios 2022
When Marvel Studios first announced the sequel at SDCC 2019, Doctor Strange's Scott Derrickson was slated to return as director. Screenwriting greenhorn Jade Bartlett had been tapped to handle the script, though it was later revealed that Derrickson did write a draft with his usual cinematic collaborator, C. Robert Cargill.
Despite early assertions that Multiverse of Madness would be the MCU's first out-and-out horror movie, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige clarified the studio's intentions in late 2019, stating: