By Sean Lawrence
“Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is exactly that: MADNESS. From the first frame to the last, it pulls you in right away, starting this thrilling journey through the Marvel multiverse and never lets up. Sometimes there is too much exposition and explaining of complex multiversal concepts and it can be confusing sometimes. However, director Sam Raimi (the “Spider-Man” trilogy) and writer Michael Waldron (“Loki”, “Rick & Morty”) are mostly laser-focused on developing the main storylines about Dr Strange, Wanda and America Chavez fully from start to finish. The story has deep, meaningful themes of loss, grief, gratitude and acceptance of reality – messages that are especially relevant now. There are a reasonable amount of surprising cameos, but not too many and they don’t take away or distract from the story, but enhance it.
This enticing film has some of the darkest but most dazzling scenes and visual effects that one would expect from a great Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, and the action sequences are intense and shocking. This film is indeed the MCU’s first horror film, and is the scariest, grossest, and most bloody and violent entry in this landmark franchise, including “Moon Knight.” Doctor Strange 2 has demons, possessions, zombies, monsters, evil witches and wizards, jump scares, and gory deaths. This is fitting, because Mr. Raimi scared us with his “Evil Dead” franchise, and is combining his unique horror and comedy style with his superhero movie experience from his historic “Spider-Man” trilogy to make this harrowing but beautiful work of art. However, this is still a Disney movie, and has the same fear factor as Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, where it dips its toes into horror but it doesn't go all the way there. As its PG-13 rating states, parents are highly recommended to only bring children above 13 years old, and to know what their kids are OK and not OK with. There are occasionally funny scenes with humor and weird aesthetics reminiscent of the hilarious and excellent “Thor: Ragnarok”, as comic relief for all this darkness.
Regardless of that, anyone in the audience can enjoy Doctor Strange 2, but if they don’t rewatch the countless MCU movies and shows to prepare for it, such as Dr. Strange 1, “Avengers: Infinity War”, “Avengers: Endgame”, “WandaVision,” “Loki,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” they won’t understand everything that is happening, and that could take away from the experience. This is a problem with the MCU – that it is so hard for the average consumer to keep track of all these plot details now. Each MCU entry feels like something we need to watch to not get confused with the story later, more than as something we want to watch of our own choice. However, there are recap videos on YouTube, and anyone who watches those while avoiding the spoilers will have an optimal experience with Doctor Strange 2.
In my overall gradings of MCU films, since I have given “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and “Black Panther” an A grade, I would give “Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'' a solid B. It might scare or confuse you, but the action, visual effects, cameos and occasional jokes will delight you, and its heartbreaking moments will make you cry. I highly recommend it.