I make a point not to watch trailers, specifically with Marvel films. The few times I betrayed that rule was with Spider-Man No Way Home, which still managed to blow me away. That and Loki, but now I’m starting to wish I’d betray that no trailer rule more often to properly set my expectations. The multiverse is filled with infinite possibilities, one of them including a serviceable film. There is nothing remarkable or terrible about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The insanity one would find in a film that contains “madness” in its title is characteristically tame for Disney. Dullness is something I wouldn’t expect in a Sam Rami picture, yet here we are. I theorize Mr. Raimi’s bonkers style is restrained to fit Disney’s canon. If one of their movies looks dramatically different from their usual material it won’t visually match, causing a rift inside the MCU canon.
The Spider-Man films from the Rami-verse have a bright color scheme within the celluloid’s gamma separation you’ll never find with today’s digital sensors. The lighting and the angles during a typical conversation are framed around a partial blue/green set, and the technology of the digital age is beginning to show its rapidly declining age. Doctor Strange 2 mixes practical with C.G., but the C.G. looks artificial contrasted with some gorgeous miniatures. Sporadically the effects impress but not how the first Dr. Strange’s mind-bending sequences did.
Doctor Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) character arc is explored with far more dimensionality and affection in an episode of What If. Anyone who has seen Wandavison will fully know Wanda Maximoff’s motivations. If uninitiated with the show, DS2 provides the same plot relating to her character, down to what she must learn in the end. With the addition of television’s seamless integration with the MCU, the themes/ideas that could be fleshed out throughout movies are already covered in the shows. After investing so much time with these characters on the small screen, need we see more of the same familiar tales?
I think the audience, in general, would be familiar with the concept of the Multiverse. However, Loki screenwriter Michael Waldron decides to re-explain anything he already told in his series once more. Imagine watching Avengers Infinity War, where the characters tell their backstory already established in previous films. That’s how the first act feels.
Thankfully, things kick into high gear by the second act. In this portion of the film, Sam Rami gets to make the type of film he’s good at making. Slowly, Disney is letting go of its squeaky clean image. The beginning crack of Disney’s acceptance of an R rated reality is their inclusion of the Netlfix Marvel shows streaming on Disney Plus. Wanda’s rage fills her face with blood stepping the picture into zany horror territory.
Of course most people are seeing the movie for the cameos. When the surprise guests arrived, I almost gave a nostalgia-fueled applause break. Some reveals are astonishing. Others were too deep a cut for an inexperienced comic book reader like myself to understand. In order to avoid spoilers, it’s best to look up showtimes for the film without involving Google. Fandango, sponsor me! Sadly, Doctor Strange’s guest spots lack that special something Spider-Man’s appearances had.
I AM ABOUT TO SPOIL SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
Peter Parker is haunted by his failure to save Aunt May. The only person who can bring him the comfort and knowledge he needs is himself. Not only because Peter 1 and Peter 3 have been there but because we have seen the character succeed and fail in front of us. We’re not only rooting for Peter Parker. We’re also cheering for Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. The cameos in Doctor Strange 2 don’t carry Spidey’s type of weight, nor is it blatant fan service but somewhere in between. The feeling it leaves is underwhelmeing.
The cameos in Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness may possible blow up YouTube with reactions and breakdowns, but I’m greedy. I want more payoff. With “the multiverse of madness,” I expected Sam Rami to throw a blender of crazy cameos at me while keeping the film centered on Doctor Strange. If this is hyped up holy s**t hear we go second wave of the Multiverse, then I’m not impressed. That’s disheartening because Sam Rami needs a win. If not with the MCU, maybe for a Spider-Man 4? A man can dream.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters only this Friday May 6 Nationwide.