Can I shock you? I liked it! REALLY liked it, in fact. I know. Must be some multi-versal me in a good mood or something. Nah. ‘Tis a fine film.
WARNING: SPOILERS FEATURE. Because one MAJOR weakness of the movie is that it is next to impossible to review WITHOUT somehow giving stuff away. Sorry! But you have been warned.
Just know that I recommend the movie, with reservation, should you choose to look away now.
The plot is simple enough.
Kid with ability to open every universe and travel between said, is under attack. Demonic octopi stalk her, across dimensions. Dr Strange is entrusted with the prevention of a universe ending catastrophe, via protecting the magic girl in question, from another magic person on the block. Enter Scarlet Witch (an Olsen twin). Strange and the Witch must do battle, to a destructive and demonic death, if reality itself is to be saved..
So yes. I like to semi-love this movie. Because:
The pace is strong, propelled, from the outset, by high stakes, mesmeric visuals and doses of humour to punctuate the magic-exposition stuff. At no stage was I looking at my watch and wishing the film to end. A truly immersive experience, it sets its stall up, fast, and rarely relents.
Sam Raimi is back on form as a director. The action is well choreographed, balancing some CGI sugar rush fluff with more urgent physicality and Gothic, supernatural, semi-horror stuff.
There is still a nominally family friendly vibe at work, although they do push that a tad toward the end, with references to demonology, zombies and all sorts of more mature material. It’s to the edge and the wire, but gets away with everything.
Kinda like an Indiana Jones film; just without the quite the excellence in character definition and genre balance?
As in, yes: There are some drawbacks to this Dr Strange sequel, which prevent it from being an all time great/classic.
- A MULTIVERSE MOVIE FOR MARVEL. That does NOT bring in all the old X -Men, Fantastic Fours or resurrect TONY STARK?! Sod off. You big teases. The cameos they do showcase? WIPED OUT. In ONE SCENE. Laughable.
- No hint, either, as to the truly ‘big bad’ behind everything?? WHERE IS PHASE 4 ‘at’? Who is our Thanos / Avenger team to combat the next threat? And indeed, what is the point of that, given Dr Strange just saved everything, single handed?
- They throw in some lesbians. Only to kill them off in a split second. That is not inclusion. It is the opposite. China and Saudi et al probably will not cut those scenes but actively relish its mixed message? Go there. Or don’t. But STOP half arsing it. That is an insult to the cause of gay rights imho?
- Be brave. Make Dr Strange GAY. Seriously. That would explain why he does not marry or at least have a torrid affair with Scarlet Witch.
Anyway: Cumberbatch is fine here. He’s no Tom Hiddleston, though 😉
More importantly, Benedict simply is not Downey/Stark. Good actor, sure. Nice guy: yep! But trying to place him front and centre of the Marvel universe simply will not ‘cut it’, especially given that the script cannot decide what type of hero this is.
Should Strange be funny and crack wise? Or very serious and deep? Cynical or romantic? In action/adventure /heroic genre blending, you have to keep a lead hero almost sketch like in narrative short-hand, albeit with shades on occasion. Do not give us some multiple choice medley.
And STOP TRYING TO PRETEND that Cumberbatch’s Strange has any chemistry with Rachel McAdams. This aint Stark and Pepper Potts!
All that said? EVERYTHING IN THIS FILM IS BOTH PROPPED UP AND REDEEMED / ENHANCED BY:
- Scarlet Witch. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You MAKE THIS MOVIE.
- I want to see entire spin off universes where you are in that costume. A lot. I want a portal to said reality. And yes, would happily read the illicit magic book thingie to meet you there.
- Cor! MY kinda girl. More of her, please. She steals the show and pushes it into top tier Marvel movie magic.
- Quite THE sexiest redhead on film since Nicole Kidman.
So yes: I recommend DR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. It has some genre conflict and tonal issues, undecided between family friendly comic book sci-fi and budding Raimi horror. There are attempts at soul and humour which backfire, as well as teases at the titular multiverse which basically disappoint in many ways. But as a ride, an experience, an uplift, a supernatural thriller? Bingo. I like it. B+ And check the post credit scenes for bonus fun.