If “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” came out in the mid ‘90s, this review would have been a LOT easier to write. (Granted, it would look and feel a LOT different, too.) You see, back then spoilers were not that big of a deal to me and I would have written EVERYTHING, with a monster of a disclaimer of course.
Things changed for me right around “Star Wars: Episode II” when I realized that not seeking out or giving spoilers was more fun than having them. I know quite a few people that still live and love those kinds of things, but I just won’t do that kind of thing on a public forum. All of that being said, this is one of the most difficult reviews I may have ever written for a film.
So… it’s just after the events that unfolded in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (also, “WandaVision” will be a helpful prerequisite for this film), and Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has returned to the Sanctum Sanctorum to try to move on with his life. However, when a dream starts to become a reality as he meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the power to travel between universes, he realizes that nothing may ever be the same again.
And that’s all you’re getting from me.
Billed as the MCU’s first “straight-up horror film,” I was intrigued with what Sam Raimi was going to do with it (it’s no secret that he doesn’t get a pass for three “Spider-Man” movies that I was NOT a fan of… fight me; I don’t care if he did “Army of Darkness”). Coupled with trailers that had fanboys worldwide losing their minds as to who and/or what would be in this thing and changing release dates, the buzz surrounding the official start of the Summer Movie Season was stout to say the least.
Now here’s the thing: I am about to say something about an MCU film that I think I have never said before: At two hours and six minutes… this could (and should) have been longer. Yes, the visuals are trippy (it’s Doctor Strange, kids; IMAX WAS pretty cool too) and yes, there are fanboy moments that will have those of you well-versed in the ways of Marvel squealing with joy, but the last third of this film seems very disjointed (no pun intended, if you get it you get it). Knowing that it isn’t like Disney/Marvel Studios to run short on time with these films, it seems like the third act here was very rushed with gaps that may confuse those that are not as neck-deep in geek culture as some of the rest of us are. Even one of the two in-credits scenes is one that will have many scratching their heads while others will be nodding with approval.
It's not that I feel like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has gotten the MCU to the place that the writing is on cruise control, but it’s more that I feel like some unnecessary cuts were made that would have made this a better film. For me there was also the feeling that for a movie that refers to the Multiverse, there just isn’t a lot of Multiverse IN IT; there is some pretty cool (again) Easter Eggs within some of the “passing through,” but some more explanation of what was going on would have been helpful even for me. I absolutely know that there will be plenty of freeze-frame analysis coming as soon as people can screen-shot this entire film (and some of it will be cool), but having more of that to wow me over in real-time would have made this more enjoyable for me.
I think the best way to sum up my feelings on this film is that thing that our parents used to say to us to make us feel guilty when we did something wrong:
I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.