The funny thing about movies made by Marvel Studios, they all hinge on each other. The sequels of the stand-alone films don’t begin where the other one began. For instance, if you’ve only seen the 2016 Doctor Strange movie and now Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, you’d be completely lost. The new movie features plot points from the movies Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home and the Disney+ TV miniseries, WandaVision. I say all of that because though I’ve seen all of the above, it is the plot points from the first Doctor Strange movie that I couldn’t remember while watching Multiverse of Madness. I was able to get caught up to speed pretty quickly, but six years is a long stretch of time in between movies.
We first saw the multiverse in Spider-Man: No Way Home when Peter Parker asked Dr. Stephen Strange to conduct a spell that goes awry. We get thrown back there right from the beginning in this new film, the 28th in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a teen girl are in space running from a monster and running toward the Book of Vishanti. The girl, a new character, is America Chavez (Xochiti Gomez) who has the power to create star-shaped portals from universe to universe. It’s a great gift, but she has no control over it.
Later, Stephen attends the wedding of Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), his ex-fiancé and though he says that he’s happy and he’s happy for her, we know that he’s not. Suddenly, the happy event is interrupted by a huge monster chasing a teen girl down the street outside. And guess what? It’s the same girl. Somebody has some explaining to do.
Realizing that this monster is actually a demon, Stephen decides to pay a visit to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) to see what she knows about the multiverse and asks for her help. It’s not good timing as she is still grieving the death of her beau, Vision and her “children”, the twin boys that she created while living in Westview in the TV series WandaVision.
From there, the movie becomes a worldwind of adventure with our heroes jumping from universe to universe where they meet other versions of Doctor Strange, all who had complicated relationships with their Christines in search of a way to defeat the enemy who is after America’s life.
This is a crazy movie. You know how the last 30 minutes of just about every Marvel movie is utter chaos? This whole 2-hour movie is like that all the way through. Despite the mayhem, it seems to have plenty of time to share way too much exposition along the journey. It is also a very odd, violent and even a demonic movie thanks in part to the direction of Sam Raimi.
Though Raimi directed the first three original Spider-Man movies for Sony and even Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, some people are not aware that he has also directed a number of horror movies over the years including the Evil Dead series and Drag Me to Hell. Some of those sensibilities are celebrated here in Marvel’s darkest superhero movie yet making Multiverse of Madness inappropriate for many young fans. It is also squirm-inducing for some adults too.
Still, even with its flaws, this Doctor Strange movie is beautiful visually. It is also a movie that tells a good story and actually tackles some difficult subject matter such as grief and missed opportunities. It plays with the idea of what one could do if they could jump into another universe and live a better life there. Among the chaos, there are some fun cameos and surprises too along with the promise that Doctor Strange will return for more adventures.
Main image: Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), America (Xochiti) and Christine (Rachel McAdams) (Marvel Studios)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.