The Movie Guru: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” a soulless mess of a movie
Grade: One and a half stars
The Movie Guru
Marvel has finally started using bots to write their movie scripts.
Proof of that can be found in this weekend’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a confused, soulless, slapped-together mess of a movie that shames everything in it. The cast tries valiantly to make something of the chaos, particularly Elizabeth Olsen and Xochitl Gomez, and director Sam Raimi has added several impressive visual touches. None of this, however, quite manages to cover the fact that the script feels like a dozen different comic books that someone shredded and duct taped in random order.
Any attempt at plot spoilers would be completely incomprehensible, to the point that not even Disney could figure out what was happening in it. The movie’s own official description, the one released by the studio itself, is completely inaccurate and wildly misinterprets every single thing that happens in the movie. Sadly, it suggests a far more coherent plot than the one we get in the movie, so perhaps it was the result of wishful thinking.
I will tell you that the movie expects you to have seen both the first “Doctor Strange,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and the Disney+ series “WandaVision” to have any idea what’s going on. It leans particularly heavy on “WandaVision,” outsourcing the entirety of Wanda Maximoff’s emotional plot to the work previously done by that series. This will be particularly annoying to Wanda fans, since the movie takes much of that development and blows it to kingdom come.
In areas of continuity, however, you might still end up lost even if you have seen those previous works. The emotional connection between Strange and Rachel McAdams’s Christine is a fairly major plot point in the movie, suggesting a bond that has never been shown in any of the MCU’s previous films. Wanda’s powers rise and fall according to the current needs of the plot, and the movie hinges on revelations about her character that have never been hinted at before this. A host of cameos are fun only if you have a detailed knowledge of the MCU, and every single one of them are used as cannon fodder only a few minutes later.
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Throughout all this, the cast is desperately trying to keep their heads above water. Olsen does best as Wanda, bringing a lot of pathos to a poorly-written version of her character. Benedict Cumberbatch actually manages to bring some warmth to Strange in this outing, and his scenes with Benedict Wong are among the movie’s few light moments. Wong himself is a delight, and Gomez brings a ton of charm to a wildly underwritten character. McAdams does what she can with a thankless role, enough that I’m tempted to imagine an MCU where she’s finally allowed to do something interesting.
Raimi isn’t allowed to affect the movie on much more than a visual level, but he does manage some interesting moments. Particularly in the last third, he manages to conjure up some images that feel like they would fit perfectly into a higher-budget version of “Evil Dead.” If you’re a fan of horror, “Multiverse” will leave you with a few indelible images to appreciate.
Sadly, there’s not much else here.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.