It would be ironic that horror director Scott Derrickson did not return for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness if his replacement wasn’t such a spectacular one. Sam Raimi, after a nine year hiatus since Oz the Great and Powerful, returns to Marvel — 15 years after Spider-Man 3 — to bring us the most Marvel of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Raimi has crafted a living, breathing comic book into film.
For anyone who’s ever actually read a comic, MoM is a dream come true. For everyone else, this is what it feels like to read a run of Marvel comics. It still may feel trite in the grand scheme of Phase 4, but Raimi serves up something for everyone, while putting his own stamp on every scene.
After the events of No Way Home, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is having nightmares involving a teen girl (America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez), and another version of himself, on a quest for the Book of the Vishanti. America just wants to learn to control her powers, but being multiversally chased by the likes of creatures such as Gargantos has led her to Earth 616.
Here, she enlists the aid of Doctor Strange, who ventures for help from the MCU’s resident witch, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen). But things take a turn, casting Strange, Wanda, and Wong (Benedict Wong) on a race across the multiverse to save America and put a stop to Wanda’s growing madness.
As much as there may be going on through MoM, screenwriter Michael Waldron (Loki, Rick and Morty) actually keeps things pretty simple. Waldron and Raimi also drop us right into the middle of the action and there’s almost no filler to speak of. Considering the original runtime was rumored to be 148 minutes, it clocks in at just 126. The pace flies by, yet never feels like it’s skipping through the motions.
Leave it to Raimi to work the audience like the maestro he is, jumping from scares to superheroics at the drop of a hat. He also manages to squeeze some heart into the proceedings, along with some amazing cameos such as our favorite Oldsmobile Delta 88, but to say anything more would ruin the fun. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever thought, “OMG, did I just see that,” so many times in a Marvel film.
The cast all perform as per usual, with Cumberbatch and Wong making for an amazing odd couple. Olsen continues to exhibit her traumatic heartbreak, while Gomez cements herself as a fantastic new addition to the MCU circus. There’s no stopping the MCU machine, and there’s no signs of it slowing down.
If there’s one nitpick, it’s with a particular character arc, but it would be a huge spoiler, so we won’t talk about it here. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness feels like a buffet, but we may wind up having to wait for dessert. Just remember to stick through the credits, a mid-credit stinger sets up more to come, and the after-credit is completely worth the wait. You’ll also want to make sure to avoid the internet to save yourself the biggest surprises.