Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer
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As the Marvel Cinematic (and small screen) Universe gets weirder and, yes, Strang-er, now is the perfect time to bring in director Sam Raimi. Not only did he deliver Tobey Maguire’s epic Spider-Man trilogy, he’s also behind the schlocky horror delights of the Evil Dead franchise. Much, indeed, has been made of how Doctor Strange 2 is Marvel’s first horror. There are certainly some effective jump scares, gory deaths and reanimated corpses but is is still (perhaps somewhat disappointingly) resolutely family-friendly. Formatted and filmed for IMAX screens, the constantly dazzling action scenes and panoramic peeks into a multitude of new universes are a joy on the biggest screens in the UK, but I would add the caveat that the 3-D modifications are not worth seeing the film in this format. Stick with the standard epic IMAX experience and enjoy the ride. Furthermore, while this is an MCU movie that can be seen without most of the other 27 (and counting), it is very heavily tied to the Disney + show Wandavision.
Elizabeth Olsen’s troubled Wanda Maximoff drives the entire plot, which follows on from her small screen psychotic attempt to create a new reality where Vision still lives and they have two sons together.
This time around, reality is being bent even further as the multiverse of layered realities crashes into our own – designated Earth-616 by an old returning fan favourite, but more of her later.
Strange has been dreaming of different versions of himself and soon after he wakes from seeing one of them die, he encounters a young woman from the same dream being attacked on the streets of New York. It’s a welcome distraction for him from attending the wedding of former love Christine (Rachel McAdams). Fans will be thrilled at the arrival of teen hero America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who can move around the multiverse but doesn’t quite know how to control her powers yet.
Strange soon discovers that Wanda wants America’s powers for herself, so she can cross into another reality where she actually does have those two adorable cherubs. She has also gained the evillest book of all, the Darkhold, which corrupts any who use it and calls forth her Scarlett Witch persona.
Olsen, as always, is absolutely sensational, blending terrifying menace with a heartbreaking, all-consuming obsession to be a mother. Her thunderously brutal, blood-soaked attack on the gathered forces of Earth’s sorcerers at Kamar-Taj is spectacularly done, reminding us just how terrifying she can be.
In the comics, Scarlett Witch is a being of unimaginable cosmic power, able to rewrite entire realities. The movie flirts with this but never truly delivers the full scale of her comic book origins. It does, however, reveal the long-rumoured and fan-serving showdown on Earth-838 against the Illuminati.
WARNING; MAJOR SPOILERS FROM HERE
Strange and America have fled Wanda to 838 where they meet many familiar faces in slightly different guises. Christine’s variant is actually a ground-breaking multiverse scientist who has mapped most of the known universes. The film thus happily gives McAdams rather more to do than the first time, although we’re still left wanting more.
Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) also appears, somewhat nicer here than before, and this universe has a Maria Rambeau Captain Marvel played by No Time To Die’s Lashana Lynch.
Excited screams in our audience continued as Sir Patrick Stewart’s Professor X rolls on in his X-Men comic book yellow chair, alongside Captain Carter, Hayley Atwell’s alternate Captain America from the What If…? Disney+ show. Anson Mount returns as Black Bolt after the ill-fated Inhumans TV series, and finally, Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, played beautifully by fan-favourite John Krasinski.
As well as the thrill of seeing them all on screen, this opens up a dizzying array of possibilities for the future as all the Marvel universes expand. The biggest clue to the future comes in a thrilling brief credits sequence when Charlize Theron pops up as Strange’s lover from another universe Thea. Definitely fun and complicated times ahead.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness teaser from Marvel
As well as the Illuminati facing off against Strange and then Wanda, there are numerous eye-poppingly cartoony and entertaining fight scenes throughout, especially when two Doctor Stranges battle each other in a reality where offensive magic is manifested as dramatic classical music. When the sorcerer also dreamwalks using the reanimated decomposing body of that first dead variant of himself, Raimi’s glee in his zombie past is infectious.
The film rattles along with gusto, doesn’t waste time on info dumping past plot lines or new information, and benefits from two powerhouse central performances from Cumberbatch and Olsen. However, it seems rather lazy to rewind the immense sacrifices and trials Wanda went through in WandaVision just to make her a rather pantomime evil witch baddie for most of the film. Yes, she finds devastating redemption yet again by the end, but the character and Olsen deserve much better.
In fact, I kept constantly imagining how much more deliciously dark and complex the movie could have been if the studio had dared to seek a higher 15 or even 18 rating. Ultimately, this is an entertaining if rather undemanding Marvel filler that pleasingly fills the gaps as we wait to discover the real overarching villains and plotlines of Marvel Phase Four and beyond.
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS IS PLAYING NOW AT ODEON IMAX CINEMAS
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