Nothing dates a movie quite like bad CGI. Take Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films as an example: Released at the very beginning of the twenty-first century, their precursor, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, easily holds up under the scrutiny of eyes that are now twenty years older. The Hobbit films, on the other hand, were pretty ugly to begin with despite coming out much later. Much of this has to do with the timelessness of practical effects over special effects, as one is as good looking as its ever going to get while the other is constantly improving. Sometimes, however, a story is so batcrap crazy and so indistinguishable from the real world that CGI is the only option. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one such film. Frenetic, trippy, and a joy to look at, the Doctor’s latest adventure is a scarily good time despite a few notable flaws.
As part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Multiverse of Madness is a sequel to not only 2016’s Doctor Strange, but also to Avengers: Endgame and Disney+’s WandaVision. If you are already a fan of the MCU, you will be happy to know that Disney/Marvel Studio’s streak of decent to exceptional content is unbroken. If you are not a fan, then you will have absolutely no reason to watch this movie, as the continuity lockout is severe at this point in the franchise. If you can remember the basics of what came before it, however, Multiverse of Madness will be a mostly satisfying experience. Benedict Cumberbatch is back as the master of the mystic arts, and he is as good as ever. He is joined once again by Rachel McAdams (who has slightly more to do in this movie than the last but is still mostly wasted), Benedict Wong, and talented newcomer Xochitl Gomez, but it is Elizabeth Olsen who thoroughly steals the show this time around as the broken, ticking timebomb that is Wanda Maximoff. Taking over director duties is horror and superhero movie legend Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead trilogy, Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy), who brings a delightfully scary yet endearingly corny touch that is perfect for Doctor Strange’s corner of the MCU. It is his signature style of filmmaking that makes Multiverse of Madness stand out more than anything else, and it’s nice to see that the Disney/Marvel juggernaut still has room for individual flair.
Multiverse of Madness definitely has its flaws. The soundtrack by the illustrious Danny Elfman is surprisingly generic and rarely noticeable, and while the unabashed weirdness of Multiverse of Madness works more often than not, some of the weirdness occasionally comes across as simply dumb. This is also the case with the dialogue, which ranges from satisfactory to cringy, as well as the ever-present CGI that will constantly remind you that you that yes, you are watching a movie filmed almost entirely in front of a green screen and no, none of this is something that can conceivably happen in the real world.
But Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still a treat for those who have sunk so much time into a universe that skipping any entry would be tantamount to heresy. With a good many thrills, a few scares, and a cheer-inducing cameo or two, it might be just what the doctor ordered.
Sorry, I was dying to get that phrase in there somewhere.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now available exclusively in theaters.