MINOR MARVEL SPOILERS AHOY
As a life-long science fiction and comic book nerd, the idea of the multi-verse hasn't been new to me since I was a kid, but Marvel is doubling down on the concept with Phase Four of the MCU. With "Loki," we got a look at all the different variants of the trickster god across multiple universes. In "Spider-Man: Far From Home" we got to see as many cinematic Spider-Men as we could shake a stick at. Plus, Sony's "Into the Spider-Verse" proved that there's no limit to imagination when animation is at the forefront.
A few weeks ago, we got a genuinely mind-blowing multi-versal mind-f*ck with "Everything Everywhere All At Once" which filled the high-concept ideas with heart and characters we deeply cared about. Now, it's Doctor Strange's turn, which if COVID hadn't delayed so many release dates, we would have gotten directly after Disney's "WandaVision" and it might not feel like an idea we've been marinating in for the last year and a half.
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" smartly takes a different approach to multiple universes by letting horror auteur Sam Raimi pack every frame of the movie with his personality as a filmmaker. I won't give away any of the plot other than to say if you haven't watched "WandaVision," I would definitely catch up on that before watching "MoM," as a huge chunk of the emotional payoff of the film is based on being familiar with that series.
There's some bad plotting and dialogue in the new "Strange," but what really worked for me is how spooky, gross and weird it is. Raimi is responsible for the "Evil Dead" franchise, arguably the greatest horror movie trilogy of all time. He's also responsible for the Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" trilogy which produced what is inarguably one of the greatest superhero movies of all time, "Spider-Man 2." So imagine when that filmmaker is given $200 million and the directive from Marvel to "get weird with it."
The first Doctor Strange had headier ideas and more of a psychedelic look at the master of the mystical arts, but the new one is superior in almost every way by being a campy, creepy monster movie that feels like the greatest unmade 1990s superhero movie anyone could imagine. This feels like "The Crow," "Hellboy," "Evil Dead II" and "Darkman" all had a baby together in 1993 and kept it in the basement of an abandoned cabin in the woods, releasing it into the world wild-eyed and twitching, ready to give some kids nightmares.
Raimi is a director who works on a very specific wavelength and it's one I've loved since the first time I saw "Evil Dead II" in 1991. He speaks to the 12-year-old in me who grew up reading "Goosebumps" and watching "Are You Afraid of the Dark." Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of storytelling problems with "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," but I have a strong feeling I'll re-watch this Marvel movie more than any other. We needed some horror in the MCU, but I had no idea it would be this, well, strange.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Dir. Sam Raimi
Regal Old Mill, Sisters Movie House, Odem Theater Pub, McMenamins