A local theater actually had a very early showing of, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," yesterday. For that reason, I was able to catch it at 10AM with my friend, Doug. Doug and I both enjoy Marvel flicks and he loves the works of Sam Rami (who directs this feature). I wanted to give it a day for the movie to settle in mind so I'm posting my review on a Saturday. Also, as this is still fresh in theaters I will offer some spoiler-free thoughts and then more spoiler-filled observations before my conclusion.
Relatively Spoiler-Free Segment
This is what you get if you marry the Marvel Universe with a horror movie. Rami has experience with both genres and to this film's credit, it doesn't feel too much like a bland, "House style," Marvel project in the same manner that, say, "Avengers: Endgame," was. I will forever say I liked that film well enough but found it to be a slog. The creepy imagery and visceral fight scenes honestly made me a little surprised this squeaked by with a PG-13 rating considering just how nasty stuff could get.
I am of the apparently small number of people who really liked the first, "Doctor Strange," and this has a very different vibe but still features Benedict Cumberbatch doing a solid job balancing arrogance and humanity in his portrayal of Dr. Stephen Strange. Plus, it isn't spoilery to share (as they feature in the previews) that Elizabeth Olsen does a lovely job as Wanda Maximoff and Xochitl Gomez is a delight as a newcomer to the MCU, America Chavez. Rachel McAdams is back as Dr. Christine Palmer, but feels as criminally underutilized as she was in the first flick considering how talented she is. Between the great special effects and fantastic acting, what could I have been less-than-impressed by? For that, we need to discuss the plot a bit more and move into my spoiler-filled segments.
I and others have been kind of bummed that, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," basically takes Wanda's story of someone living through tragedy and trauma the best they can and casts it all aside to make her a villain. For this film she literally turns into a blood-stained horror movie slasher, killing tons of people who get in her way whilst stalking her would-be victims through hallways as she snarls and her eyes glow their creepy red hue. Despite some efforts to make us feel a little bad for her--"I'm not a monster, I'm a mother!" she is still murdering a slew of folks in an effort to then kill America Chavez and use her powers to find a reality where she can have her children from, "Wandavision," that she lost as they didn't really, "Exist," in her reality.
Also, there is the much-buzzed-about Illuminati which features some fun actors stepping into roles such as fan-favorite Patrick Stewart returning as Professor X and John Krasinski appears as a universe's Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. These and other appearances sadly are little more than cameos as the whole Illuminati essentially finds itself reduced to cannon fodder for Wanda. The exact continuity of these characters isn't really touched upon further (such as if we will get Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic in the main Marvel Universe now with that movie on the way) and they are basically big helpings of fan-service...before their brutal murders. If a viewer thinks of them more as a fun bonus addition to the flick as opposed to expecting them to play a huge role it isn't a big issue they are around so briefly, however.
Concluding Thoughts (No More Spoilers)
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," is a fun movie filled with personality thanks to Sam Rami's skill and little flourishes. Even if certain elements of the story itself perturbed me the amazing effects and great acting makes it a lovely way to spend 2 hours and some change. Just be prepared for some shockingly gross and scary imagery. Those with sensitive stomachs or who dislike horror may need to sit this one out. Those into that kind of stuff will love this, however. Oh, and Doug thought it was great too.
4 out of 5 stars.