Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review: What it lacks in substance, it makes up for in horrific style

You know how fanboys are when they hear the word "multiverse". In an era of pop culture where everything has to be connected, everything has to be a reference, the idea that there's a bigger world inside the movie you sat down to watch has become du jour in 2022.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness tries its best to make the idea of infinite realities sound bigger than it actually is, but the movie barely scratches the potential its buzzword carries, perfectly content with fanservice cameos and forum fodder for fan theorists. At one point, characters travel through a universe where everything is paint, which sounds way more interesting than what the movie offers.

Newcomer Xochitl Gomez's character America Chavez is the only person who knows how big and interesting the multiverse really is, seeing as she's the only one with the power to travel between parallel universes. Unfortunately for her, a certain Scarlet Witch has plans to use that power to find her "children"...and she doesn't need Ms. America alive for it.

Coming to save the day of course is Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Stephen Strange, packing a power boost after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Sure, he's no longer Sorcerer Supreme, but he's also no longer just conjuring up mandalas in lieu of more interesting spells. Here, Doctor Strange lets loose with a full arsenal of cool looking spells and incantations straight out of the comics, truly embodying his Master of the Mystic Arts moniker.

And where the dark arts and the mystical thrive, its bedfellow horror often follows....which makes director Sam Raimi's hiring an inspired choice. When the Evil Dead creator took over the franchise reins from Scott Derrickson, it's safe to say none of us were prepared to see how utterly unhinged he was willing to go. Multiverse of Madness is Marvel's first true horror movie, and it's got Raimi's fingerprints all over it. From the zany cinematography to the unnerving body horror, Sam Raimi's auteur stylings is a breath of fresh air that turns this movie into more than just the latest addition to the Wiki.

The horror aspect helped in a lot of ways, most especially with regards to Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch.  She becomes truly terrifying under Raimi's direction, an unstoppable force of death that leaves twitching corpses and souls stripped bare in her wake. Olsen's performance is so good, you'd forget she was a superhero a few movies ago.

If all of that sounds like bang for your buck, it is. The movie packs so much into its two-hour runtime that the plot flies by so fast. Cumberbatch tries his best to keep you interested, but even he feels like a passenger in his own movie, going from universe to plot point without nary a pause. It's all so fun to watch though, as the movie has arguably the best visuals out of any Marvel movie released so far.

Like a nightmare you don't want to wake up from, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has enough style to make it one of the more interesting additions to Marvel's cinematic universe, even if the substance feels forgettable.

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