Title: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

Director: Sam Raimi

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stühlbarg and Rachel McAdams

Superheros making grand gestures and self-sacrifices for the greater good of the universe has long been a leading dramatic driving force in the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The franchise’s latest entry, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,’ thrives on its ability to not only follow the titular superhero, who’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch, as he makes personal sacrifices for the safety of humanity, but also examine the cost of his own personal happiness for the greater good.

The 28th installment of the MCU was written by Michael Waldron, and directed by Sam Raimi. The new supernatural action-adventure movie, which serves as a sequel to 2016’s ‘Doctor Strange,’ marks the helmer’s return to the superhero genre after he originally directed the 2000s ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy, starring Tobey Maguire. His new film is being released in theaters today by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ follows the titular Stephen Strange as he attends the wedding of his former love, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and begins to move on with his life. But the wedding reception is interrupted when a teenage girl, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), is teleported to Manhattan from another universe, as she’s being pursued by a giant cyclops monster.

With the help of his friend Wong (Benedict Wong), who’s now the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange discovers that the monster is only a messenger. It was sent to capture America, who possesses the singular ability to travel between universes, by Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) alter-ego, Scarlet Witch.

Since the events of ‘WandaVision,’ Wanda has embraced her villainous alter ego, as she possess the ability to steal America’s power. Wanda wants to use that power so that she can travel to a dimension where she really does have the two sons she dreamed up for herself in the limited television series. She’s able to pursue her dream with the help of the spells of unholy magic that are included in the ancient book, the Darkhold.

As Dr. Strange begins working with America, in an effort to protect her and stop Scarlett Witch, they land on another version Earth, whose reality differs from their own. Upon their arrival, they discover that this universe’s Christine is working as a multiverse researcher for the Illuminati. With her help, Dr. Strange and America set out to find the Book of Vishanti, the antithesis to the Darkhold. They hope the other book stop Scarlet Witch from acquiring America’s power and assuming the life she so greatly desires.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is an intriguing case study into several of the MCU‘s most notable superheros. The story continues the humanization of the complex Dr. Strange, who finally realizes that he has to accept responsibility for his past decisions, after he sees the various versions of himself in the Multiverse.

Witnessing his faults in the other universes he and America visit, the protagonist is finally able to overcome the self indulgence he leaned into at times during his romantic relationship with Christine, and realize that he needs to be accept that she’s moving on. The change in his demeanor also allows him to selflessly take on the duty of protecting America against Scarlet Witch and the latter’s plan to take control of the teen’s power.

While Dr. Strange is truly evolving as a character in the series’ films, the MCU’s latest entry is a true testament to Olsen’s stunning acting. She also posses an ability to humanize the powerful, complex nature of her character, which will allow audiences to connect and empathize with the plight of both alter egos.

Both Wanda, and especially Scarlet Witch, have always had very clear, steadfast beliefs. The two versions of the character always remain true to themselves, even when their ideas don’t match the opinions of the other Avengers or heroes in the MCU. Olsen also powerfully showcases how the character is self-aware enough to admit when she makes mistakes, which is clearly evident in the franchise’s latest installment.

The characters’ intriguing development is also highlighted by the extraordinary visual effects envisioned by Raimi. The helmer’s signature spirited visual approach to storytelling, which were highlighted in his both his ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Evil Dead’ trilogies, make a triumphant return in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.’ From Scarlet Witch unleashing the octopus demon to take America’s power, and then following the teen and Dr. Strange to Wong’s home of Kamar-Taj, in order to once again try to secure her skills, the intense fight sequences are truly influenced the director’s superhero and horror backgrounds.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is a powerful tribute to one of the MCU’s major overarching themes that the eponymous superhero realizes they need to overcome their own personal pain to help save the fate of the universe. At the same time, the sequel also takes the series in a thrilling new direction through Raimi’s signature supernatural elements. With the self-sacrifices Cumberbatch infuses into his eponymous character and Olsen humanizing the complex nature of both Wanda and Scarlet Witch, which are supported by the filmmaker’s trademark visual effects, the new MCU movie is proving the franchise’s continuous ability to adapt to any circumstance.

Technical: A

Acting: A-

Story: B

Overall: A-

(L-R): Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios’ ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.’ Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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