CHENNAI: Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Micheal Waldron
Musician: Danny Elfman
Synopsis: Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to the multiverse. However, a threat emerges that may be too big for his team to handle.
Ever since it was announced that director Sam Raimi, who is popularly known for his zingy Evil Dead horror series and for his Spider-man solo film series with Tobey Maguire is back helming an MCU film after fifteen years, that too a sequel for Doctor Strange, Marvel fans have been pretty much excited.
Back in September last year, Marvel's What If episode 4 was released that showed us a different angle of Doctor Strange -- a much darker, sinister-type short that had the concept of multiverse inbuilt in it. Since then, we wondered, is there any chance for horror/superhero specialist Sam Raimi to bring his horror style into this cheesy type of film that is more focused on the VFX fight sequences rather than deeper character arcs. Well, that is what is Doctor Strange in the multiverse of Madness is.
The film starts right after Spider-Man: No Way Home, where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) misshapes the spell and beckoned the multiverse to all its quirks. We see Strange in a chase with America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a mysterious being with the ability to travel across dimensions to acquire the Darkhold (that we saw in the Marvel TV series 'WandaVision) outrunning a fire demon in a CG-psychedelic cosmic realm before it takes control of it. Then, Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) are tasked with protecting the powerful girl from Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who wants to take her power to be reunited with her two sons.
Given Sam Raimi's excellent vision for horror, he brings the quirkiness to the film with much depth for both the lead characters. Be it, Wanda, being a mother and seeking to get back to her kids or Doctor Strange trying a help a kid who is stuck in danger -- all make a thrilling and entertaining ride for fans with visually stunning action set pieces.
In an extremely trippy sequence, we see both Strange and America jump through various dimensions and the musical duel between Strange vs Strange is thought-out so creatively and brought on screen with the same effect that you just wonder how much vision has been put into the film.
Sadly, the cameos in the film from X-Men to the much-awaited reboot of the Fantastic Four don't have the same effect or any purpose in the story. They appear just for fan service and to acknowledge the fact that they too exist in the MCU (which is much more evident already). It feels like how Marvel randomly brought Daredevil into Spider-Man: No Way Home.
But, Wanda makes the most out of it and stands out in this film. She gets maximum screen time and her tragic backstory makes the audience immediately connect with her. She sometimes overshadows Benedict Cumberbatch, who slips into the character with ease, and his partnership with Christine and Chavez makes for some comedic relief in this MCU's first horror outing.
The second half is a bit messy with the plot trying to tie up loose ends and wanting to give the template happy ending that serves only for an interesting fight between Zombie Strange and Scarlet Witch, but nothing for the arc of Doctor Strange. Wanda also becomes a single character trait of being a desperate mother that feels like a missed opportunity to explore the depth and emotional richness of her character given in the WandaVision series.
In the end, with the film's tone changing from bizarre weirdness to affecting human drama, Multiverse of Madness is an all and all Sam Raimi's show, who masterfully stamps his signature throughout and mixes horror with extravaganza.