Dr. Strange occupies probably the craziest corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s a sorcerer who flies thanks to a magic cloak and on the side does battle with interdimensional beings. All of that makes getting powers from being bitten by a radioactive spider seem plausible.
But Benedict Cumberbatch has played Strange with such a winning, arrogant charm throughout his own stand-alone film and a handful of appearances in other Marvel movies to make us happily buy in to all of the bizzaro, sorcery mumbo-jumbo.
Strange is back as the headliner in the new “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” where the good doctor leads us on a trippy adventure across parallel dimensions.
The proceedings kick off when Dr. Strange meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young woman with the power to travel between dimensions. America is being pursued across the multiverse by sinister forces who want to steal her power.
Dr. Strange enlists the help of his good buddy Wong (Benedict Wong) and former Avenger Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for advice and aid on all things mystical, but when things go sideways, Dr. Strange and America find themselves skipping across dimensions that are filled with many – mostly unpleasant – surprises.
As is the case with all Marvel movies, “Multiverse of Madness” is on one level just another cog in the machine, tasked with moving the ball forward for future movies while laboring under the weight of all that has come before it.
But Marvel smartly hands the keys to creative directors and gives them just enough room to make the movie distinctly their own. “Multiverse of Madness” boasts the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of smash-and-grab director Sam Raimi who puts his fingerprints all over this sucker.
Raimi is definitely no stranger to superhero movies as he directed all three Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” movies, but here he drifts back into his gonzo-horror roots and delivers the darkest, most blood-soaked Marvel movie to date.
He even puts in the work of giving the movie some emotional resonance as Dr. Strange looks for closure with his one-time love-interest Christie Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and even more impressively delivers an actual payoff to the Disney+ Marvel series “WandaVision.”
But in the end, “Multiverse of Madness” is still a Marvel movie, meaning it’s more fun than anything else and winds up being a special treat for those who like to take a walk on the weird side.
“Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language.