‘Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ a Wild Ride into the Psyche

Brandon King, Staff Reporter

“Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.”

A quote by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) perfectly encapsulates the plot of “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” These words apply to almost every character in the film. There are heavy themes of hypocrisy and guilt, while showing that one can recover from these feelings and become a better person.

“Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was released May 6. The main cast  includes Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff), and Xochitl Gomez (America Chavez).

In this sequel to “Doctor Strange” (2016), the story follows Dr. Steven Strange after the events of “WandaVision” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” as he deals with the consequences of his actions. Along the way, Strange quarrels with a friend turned foe who might prove too much for him to handle.

The acting in this film is by far some of the best in a while. Olsen draws out so much anger and pain through her character, Wanda Maximoff, and uses it in a way that makes you sympathetic. Her goal in this film is to reunite with her children, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne), who were last seen in the Disney Plus series “WandaVision.”  The audience follows Wanda on her journey across the multiverse to find her children as her friend, Doctor Strange, attempts to stop her.

It does not really feel like a Doctor Strange movie; instead it feels like a Wanda Maximoff story told through the perspective of Doctor Strange.

Cumberbatch returns to play the cocky and sarcastic Strange after his last appearance in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Cumberbatch draws laughs from the audience as he cracks witty one-liners with co-star Bennedict Wong (Wong). One moment involving Strange and Chavez is particularly funny, when the duo meet Bruce Campbell, the “Evil Dead” star in a cameo. There is dialogue between the three, but Strange ends it by casting a spell that makes Campbell hit himself repeatedly. Chavez asks when it will wear off, to which Strange replies, “Not long, three weeks.”

The stars make audiences laugh, gasp, and even jump from fear at certain parts. The film is able to mix the standard Marvel formula with gritty horror, something that has not been done before in the MCU.

Director Sam Raimi has a history in the horror film industry with the creation of the “Evil Dead” trilogy, starring Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. Since then, Raimi has directed films such as “Army of Darkness” and the original “Spider-Man” trilogy starring Tobey Maguire. Raimi returned to direct “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” after leaving Marvel 15 years ago with the completion of “Spider-Man 3.”

While this is not a standard horror film, Raimi does sneak in a few jump scares and tense moments. One of the best things this film does is keep the tension high.

The cinematography is nothing but brilliant. From the use of Dutch angles to arc shots, this film does not allow the camera to stay in one place. The cinematographer, John Mathieson, certainly took some cues from the previous movie, with many of the shots calling back to moments from the first film to enable viewers to see Strange’s surroundings.

The use of colors and sounds immerses audiences, with one fight scene even using music to build the fight into a climactic finish. The creativity that went into making the different bright and colorful universes that Strange and Chavez travel through is genius. It does, however, at times feel slightly overwhelming. Viewers cannot help but look away to rest their eyes.

Throughout Marvel history, we have seen overconfident and egotistical characters such as Tony Stark become heroic symbols of selflessness. In this film, you see Strange and other characters struggle with the idea of killing someone for the greater good. Eventually, they become better people because of it.

It seems the entirety of Marvel’s Phase 4 plan is comic accuracy, and this film does not shy away from that. The costume design in this film is spectacular and echoes the characters’ costumes from the comics perfectly. With Wanda finally calling herself the “Scarlet Witch” and having her horned tiara and seeing Professor X with his classic gold hoverchair from “X-men: The Animated Series,” the film satisfies.

One negative aspect stands out in the early scenes — pacing. The story opens in an action-packed sequence involving Strange and Chavez, and then begins to slow down as Strange visits a wedding. The film then ramps up again when Strange fights a creature from the multiverse, but then slows to a meeting in a coffee shop between Strange and Wong.

The film speeds up into a climactic fight, and then slows down instantly. It feels like being in a car as the driver presses the gas pedal, then brakes, repeatedly. Once the audience meets the Scarlet Witch, however, the movie moves into an adventure across the multiverse.

The ending feels fairly satisfying but left me wanting so much more. After learning there were 40 minutes cut from the two-hour film, I could only wonder what was left out.

The story dives into psychological issues without error. Seeing what Wanda resorted to after the events of “WandaVision” is a long-awaited gift. Some parts of the story can be compared to “Joker” (2019) in the exploration of mental illness, not only through the eyes of the victim, but those around them.

Overall, I give the film a 9 out of 10. It does not really feel like a Doctor Strange movie; instead it feels like a Wanda Maximoff story told through the perspective of Doctor Strange. But that is not a terrible thing. I know I will keep coming back to see the amazing skills of Olsen and Cumberbatch in future films.