wed 10/08/2022

Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness – not strange, not mad | reviews, news & interviews

Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness – not strange, not mad

Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness – not strange, not mad

Freakery falls flat as Marvel mislays its heart

It must be magic: America (Xochitl Gomez), Wong (Benedict Wong) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is at its most radical and corporate here; maybe decadent is the word. We start with surgeon turned sorcerer Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) threatened then slaughtered in a cosmic chase sequence. It’s just a dream, then it isn’t, and so is/isn’t pretty much everything that follows.

For a film due to be a huge mainstream hit, Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness is narratively anarchic, and dependent on degree-level knowledge of MCU arcana, clearly feeling, as this franchise invincibly warps and morphs, that we’ll take anything now.

When the Doc wakes up from his weird nightmare, there’s a brief pause for mundane breath as he suits up – magically knotting his tie just so – for the wedding of Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), the love you may dimly recall him tragically abandoning in Doctor Strange, six years ago. Panicked cries from the Manhattan streets let him gratefully escape this awkwardness, the touch of director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Evil Dead) discernible in the superheroic sweep of his skyscraper descent into action, and the giant eyeball gorily plucked from the creature below.

The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of MadnessThis ex-bug-eyed monster was menacing America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who blips through the Multiverse’s many parallel dimensions when stressed. She is therefore being hunted by Wanda Romanoff, aka the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, pictured above), the ex-Avenger who in the wake of the WandaVision TV series’ catastrophic conclusion has become a grief-crazed villain, bent on hijacking another version of the kids she lost in her conjured suburban paradise. A Disney + sub therefore becomes a must to watch this - corporate intersectionality disguised as a multi-faceted saga. Think watching the previous 27 MCU films was enough? Disney want so much more.

Anyway, America, Strange and new Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) are soon bouncing through universes in another extended, bizarro chase sequence. This is where …The Multiverse Of Madness’s title should be realised, as our heroes smash through a dimension made of paint, and later climb Escher-esque staircases rising from flooded floors. But these CGI constructs look grimly concrete, over-realised and under-imagined. “This isn’t my first weird trip, kid,” Strange promises. But the comics’ hippie-beloved acid vibes, whether in creator Steve Ditko’s rubbery expressionism or Gene Colan’s swirling shadow-worlds, aren’t matched by these cold realms.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor StrangeGomez is very good as a chaotically powerful, overwhelmed kid, and Wong exploits his character’s promotion from Oriental sidekick. Such casting makes geek trolls hyperventilate, believing Marvel Comics – created by Jewish geniuses Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who responded to Civil Rights tumult with numerous black characters, led by the Black Panther – is a woke-corrupted, pristine white citadel. Marvel Films’ further ethnic and gender broadening is actually this film’s warmest aspect, thanks to these actors (alongside Olsen’s potently wicked Witch; Cumberbatch isn’t stretched).

This is Sam Raimi’s first feature in nearly a decade, and only his second since frustratedly leaving the original Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man 2 (2004) may still be the best Marvel film, using the director’s adolescent understanding of the character’s teenage underdog romance to show how rich superheroes could be. The MCU era was founded through this brilliant fan’s love. But Raimi has returned to a franchise groaning with sub-contracted, substandard extensions, adding cosmetic horror touches, but finding little room left for real vision.

Buying up talent like cinema’s Man City, Marvel usually ensure human feeling survives beneath the spandex. This is the superhero film disappearing down the rabbit hole; pop cinema eating itself.

Our heroes smash through a dimension made of paint, and later climb Escher-esque staircases

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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