Film review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Sam Raimi’s return to the Marvel fold is crazily convoluted, but it’s bursting with so much energy it’s a joy to get dragged along, writes Alistair Harkness

From left, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Stephen Strange in a scene from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness PIC: Marvel Studios via AP

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (12A) ****

Directed by: Sam Raimi

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Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Xochitl Gomez

Doctor Strange has already pulled Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the last outing for Spider-Man. Now he’s gone one better by pulling Maguire’s Spider-Man director Sam Raimi back into the fray, 20 years on from helping show what a modern superhero movie could be. It’s certainly a great choice on Marvel’s part. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness largely lives up to the promise of its title thanks to the wildly inventive, entertainingly chaotic visual style that Raimi honed on his Evil Dead slapstick horror trilogy (flying eyeballs do feature). Indeed, those films provide an amusing reference point for what is, in effect, Marvel’s first horror film.

Doctor Strange’s inter-dimensional cosmic shenanigans notwithstanding (he’s played once again by Benedict Cumberbatch, deploying his full arsenal of abracadabra hand gestures), the film gets entertainingly gruesome by pitting him against Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda as she embraces her Scarlett Witch alter-ego and wreaks havoc on the world in her bid to travel through the multiverse to find an alternate reality in which she can be a mother to the two boys she dreams about every night. At the centre of this plot is a teenage girl called America Chavez (nicely played by newcomer Xochitl Gomez) who has the power to travel through the multiverse, but hasn’t yet figured out how to control this power.

That’s about as much as can be divulged without this review getting as crazily convoluted as the film, but the frame is bursting with so much energy it’s a joy to get dragged along. As with Spider-Man: No Way Home, the concept allows characters from other Marvel films to make surprise appearances, but it’s where Raimi takes the film in its final stages that makes it such a blast. Who else but Raimi would think to have the big hero speech in a Marvel movie delivered by a zombie with half a face?

On general release