Can you believe that it took six years for Doctor Strange to get his own sequel movie? It feels like we’ve seen him in every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie, but finally, “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” is the not-so direct sequel to the 2016’s “Doctor Strange”. It feels more like a sequel to “Avengers: Endgame”, maybe a little bit of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, but definitely continuing straight from the Disney+ exclusive “WandaVision” storyline, which, in a way, worked to serve the overall MCU story but unfortunately failed to stand on its own.
“Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” takes place after the big Thanos snap in “Avengers: Endgame” where our titular superhero Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) attends his ex-lover Christine Palmer’s wedding played by Rachel McAdams. As we watch Stephen still struggling to let go of her, the wedding was interrupted by a big-eyed monster (apparently NOT Shuma-Gorath) that is in pursuit of a young girl America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who has the ability to jump through dimensions but couldn’t control her powers just yet. Thinking this could be dark magic, Stephen seeks Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)’s help only to find it was her who is in pursuit of America Chavez’s power to use to jump in other dimensions where she could live happily with her kids.
If you are confused as to how or when Wanda has kids without Vision in sight nor even a mention in this movie, you probably missed out on “WandaVision”, didn’t you? Because “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” heavily relies on your MCU knowledge including the TV series that is very integral to the plot of this movie, which is kinda self-destructive on its own. It greatly affects one character’s motives that, for fresh eyes, would not make any sense how, when, or why she goes so far to get what she wants when there is no explanation to it in this movie. Oh wait, you have to watch a 9-episode TV series first to truly sympathise for her.
“Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness”’s reliance of previous MCU entries was also what held director Sam Raimi back from really expressing his creativity. Raimi is a master of the horror genre and while there were certain scary-ish moments which adds a new jolt of energy to the movie; something we haven’t seen in the MCU, I just couldn’t stop thinking that this movie would be a whole lot different if he wasn’t tied to a certain formula which he has to also link to other MCU stories both from the past and upcoming future projects.
Despite it being a Doctor Strange movie, Benedict Cumberbatch who portrayed him was fine. His chemistry with Rachel McAdams is still non-existent (seriously, you expect your audience to care after not seeing her at all in six years?) and the inclusion of America Chavez, the latest superhero to join the MCU roster, was dismissible. It really should’ve been Wanda’s movie since Elizabeth Olsen was the one carrying the weight of it alone. Her performance, just like in “WandaVision”, was exceptional as she goes through the grief of losing her children and the desperation of getting them back. Most of the coolest scenes involved her anyway, particularly one involving mirrors which I think was nicely done. Again, if they would just let Raimi play with that scene a little more…
Honestly, the MCU should dial down from connecting everything together and let their standalone movies be its own thing. Similarly to what Taika Waititi did in “Thor: Ragnarok”, the MCU should let these directors play in this sandbox of a story and let them come up with interesting ideas to service the overarching fictional universe, not the other way around. If this is just one big marketing plan to get people to watch other MCU properties, then I foresee superhero movie fatigue will happen much sooner.