So, now that most of us have seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it’s time to gather our thoughts. Overall, the film was a fun time at the movies that works mostly because of the A+ talent involved, even if it doesn’t quite reach the high bar of Marvel’s better offerings. Still, Doctor Strange 2 is appropriately odd, satisfyingly violent, and generally succeeds as a piece of dark, popcorn entertainment — especially when Elizabeth Olsen is on the screen.
With an obligatory spoiler warning for anyone that has yet to see the film, let’s go ahead and talk about what this sequel emphatically did right:
Doctor Strange may stand atop the Multiverse of Madness, but Elizabeth Olsen is its brightest star. The actress graces and menaces the screen as Wanda/Scarlet Witch to such a degree you wish the plot remained with her character throughout its 2+ hour runtime. Indeed, her violent, blood-soaked journey to reunite with her children (which, I think, runs in contrast to the ending of WandaVision — but who cares at this point) serves as the emotional crux of the film and sets up all the best action sequences. In terms of Marvel Cinematic Universe performances, Olsen deserves mention at the top of the pack.
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Sam Raimi Influence
My excitement for Doctor Strange 2 peaked when I found out legendary director Sam Raimi was set to direct — and yes, the payoff was definitely worth it. The horror maestro brings his usual bag of tricks to the proceedings, elevating what is essentially a rather rudimentary script to occasional eye-popping heights. And while even his creative genius can’t effectively push the Marvel machine in any new directions, he at least dashes Strange 2 with a flavor sadly lacking from many of the MCU’s efforts. At this point, the studio would be wise to bring in stronger outside voices to steer the ship into exciting, uncharted territory.
John Krasinski as Reed Richards
Cameos are all the rage in the MCU and Doctor Strange 2 certainly delivers some surprises in this category. The best of which was John Krasinski’s random appearance as Reed Richards, aka Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic 4. Long ago, the man was competing with Chris Evans for the part of Captain America, which never felt right to me. Yet, seeing him adorned in that black and blue suit changed my mind — this guy absolutely fits the bill as a superhero. I hope he returns for future films and gets to do a lot more in the MCU at large.
One of the big surprises of Strange 2 was how much Rachel McAdams featured in the story. The actress wasn’t featured much in any of the ads leading me to believe her appearance during that brief wedding sequence early in the film would be her last in the MCU — a sort of half-hearted way to end that particular Strange plot point. Instead, McAdams’s Christine pops up in another universe as a completely different iteration of herself and happily figures mightily into the last act of the film. You can never have enough Rachel McAdams.
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Scope and Scale
Some of the action in Doctor Strange 2 is rather clunky early on, but Raimi continues to escalate the madness so that it reaches epic proportions by the final act. I’m not sure if anything here can compete with the interdimensional, Inception-like set pieces of Scott Derrickson’s original film in terms of scale, but the sequel certainly delivers enough high-octane action to satisfy MCU fans.
Bonus: Avatar Trailer
Personally, the thrill of my late Thursday night screening was catching a glimpse of James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water teaser. That film looks absolutely glorious, and I’m fully expecting it to blow my mind this December. In Cameron I trust.