There Are Other Worlds Than These: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)



There is a moment, about halfway through this film, where you can pinpoint the exact second where the Disney suits said, "Alright Sam Raimi, you can do whatever you want now that we have all of our contractually obligated by-the-books exposition out of the way!" and off Raimi goes like a demon unleashed from Hell. They essentially let him make half of a horror movie with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), and that horror film is really creative and fun, but unfortunately one has to trudge through a boring and formulaic first act to get to it.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) gets mixed up in multiverse affairs when he saves a young girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who has the ability to travel between the various universes in the multiverse. America doesn't have full control over her abilities, but she has attracted the attention of a powerful enemy who wants to steal the power for their own desire. Strange then finds himself appealing to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for assistance, who is still emotionally reeling from the events in the town of Westview and also harboring an immense and ominous power.



A common criticism of the MCU is that they tend to have a "house style" and no matter who they hire to direct the films they feel formulaic. Multiverse of Madness feels similar to Thor: Ragnarok (2017) in that they only let the director put his personal touches on part of the film which makes it feel disjointed and unfocused. The first act feels rushed and chaotic, but once it finds its footing, it's a blast. Raimi trademarks like whip cuts, fascination with time/clocks/watches, demonic possession, and dutch angles pop up often. Fans of Darkman (1990) or Evil Dead (1981) will find a lot to love here.

Visually, there is a lot going on, more in the second half of the film when they start exploring the multiverse. There are some truly breathtaking surreal sequences, but there are other sections with terrible flat green screen composition. It's baffling how the CGI is such a mixed-bag with all the money thrown at these films. The score by Danny Elfman is fantastic, however, and fits the darker atmosphere perfectly.



Raimi has always been great at translating comics to screen, and he continues that tradition here as well, with snappy and kinetic camerawork and splash page worthy set-pieces. Outside of Wanda and Strange the characters feel pretty thin though--I would have liked to see more from America's character arc as she is pushed a bit into the background. Elizabeth Olsen is given a lot to work with and she digs deep into the grief and pain that Wanda has been trying to get over with little success.

Even with the clunky first act, Multiverse of Madness has a lot to offer and the hard lean into the macabre is an intriguing and welcome choice.

--Michelle Kisner