Marvel’s strange ride

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

Movie review by Matthew Pearce

While it doesn’t quite live up to the hype, Marvel’s latest film is a wild ride that’s undeniably strange.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Stephen Strange, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness explores the concept of the “multiverse” – essentially, infinite parallel universes that can be glimpsed in dreams.

(That dream where you went to work without any clothes on? Going by Marvel logic, that actually occurred in a parallel universe.)

During the course of the film, Strange finds himself protecting America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a girl with the ability to travel between universes, from his former ally Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), aka, the Scarlet Witch, who wants to use her abilities for her own purposes.

Marvel has produced an incredible 28 films, as well as a growing number of TV series, since kicking off what’s called the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ with 2008’s Iron Man and they’re showing no signs of slowing down, with another Thor sequel coming out in a few months.

The franchise remains incredibly popular, but it’s undeniable that some of the films do get a bit repetitive after a while.

Despite the differences in powers, the first Doctor Strange film wasn’t that different to the first Iron Man film for example, with both starring an arrogant, snarky lead who learns humility and becomes a superhero.

Fortunately Multiverse of Madness escapes being “just another Marvel film” thanks to the efforts of legendary director Sam Raimi, who delivers some of the same campy horror tone that he brought to the Evil Dead series.

Some moments in the film are pretty dark – darker than your typical Marvel film anyway – but like the Evil Dead series, there’s plenty of humour as well. (Let’s just say that the fight early in the film with the tentacled octopus demon is very Raimi-esque.)

Following the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which featured all three actors to have played Spider-Man, Multiverse of Madness was hyped to the hilt, with many anticipating guest appearances from past Marvel stars as part of the “multiverse”.

Without giving too much away, yes, there are cameos that Marvel fans will enjoy, but they’re not on the level of the “three Spideys”. The film is actually a fairly contained story about Strange, America and Wanda, with the multiverse not quite as “mad” as people were expecting.

Despite a running time of just over two hours Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a bit too fast paced for its own good, with reports of scenes being cut in the editing room and the script being rewritten at the last minute.

Still, while it may not be a perfect film it’s definitely worth a watch for Marvel fans and fans of Raimi as well.

And come on, we all know we’ll be back for Thor: Love and Thunder in July.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is screening now at Gladstone Cinemas.

Verdict: Three and a half stars (out of five)