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Doctor Strange casting a spell is as multi-armed as the modern Marvel sequel. Consider how many properties are being followed up on in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” It’s a sequel to “Doctor Strange,” but only just, as you’ll need to have seen that film less than the Strange adventures that followed. It’s a sequel to “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in that it references action from both films and expands on the title character’s universe-saving decision from the former.
It’s a direct sequel to “WandaVision,” the television show that brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to life. And, for a certain generation, it’s a sort of sequel to when Sam Raimi was one of the saddest filmmakers alive. Perhaps it’s because of all of these allegiances that “Multiverse of Madness” never develops its own identity and depth. It’s a Frankenfilm, a blockbuster pieced together from bits and pieces of other films, comic books, and TV shows and brought to life with the vigor of a Marvel budget. After a dreadfully long buildup, “Doctor Strange 2” gains some traction thanks to Raimi’s visual flair, but even that is short-lived. You can never go back home. Also, you must try to play this Doctor Strange 2 quiz.
Doctor Strange 2 Quiz
Dr. Stephen Strange is at the wedding of his unrequited love Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) when chaos breaks out in the street outside (and Michael Stuhlbarg’s name is on the poster for his single, early-movie scene at the wedding feels like an agent’s coup). A massive octopus-like creature is chasing a girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) across dimensions, causing havoc. Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) rush into action to save the girl, only to discover that America is sought after for her ability to travel through alternate universes, though she has no control over when she does so. Strange suspects witchcraft is involved, prompting him to seek the advice of Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), who is still grieving the loss of her children at the end of the Disney+ show and is under the spell of the evil Darkhold, a book of evil spells that Raimi fans will recognize as looking a lot like the Necronomicon. Wanda is willing to go to any length to live in the universe where she still has her children (though Vision’s existence is barely mentioned), causing chaos for Strange, Wong, and America involving Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a few classic characters, and, well, some new faces with familiar names.
About the quiz
Strange and America fly through alternate universes, including one that appears animated and one where their bodies are made of paint, relatively early in “Multiverse of Madness.” I became ecstatic. After what felt like an eternity of build-up, I assumed Raimi and company were about to blow up the Marvel formula machine and make a live-action film that felt like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Consider that. Raimi, a visual artist, with a modern MCU budget and complete creative freedom.
You’ll have to imagine it because this film isn’t interested in such possibilities. “Multiverse of Madness” is a film that is constantly at odds with its own possibilities. It has a plot that could have creatively surprised viewers over and over again with new variations on the very concept of a world with heroes in it, as well as a director willing to go there. However, it is clearly the result of a content machine working against its own self-interests because it is afraid of alienating any of the millions of potential viewers. The fact that these films only pretend to be “strange” when they’re as normal as can be added to their frustration. “WandaVision” and “Loki” both took more creative chances. Significantly.
This creates a double-edged sword when Sam Raimi, the director of “Spider-Man 2” and “Evil Dead 2,” appears about halfway through and then really gets going in the final act. Without giving anything away, “Multiverse of Madness” begins to involve the walking dead, and the Raimi who revolutionized the horror genre demonstrates that he still has some life in him. There are some creatively staged and executed action sequences in “Multiverse of Madness” that only the director of “Drag Me to Hell” could have made, and those moments are easily the film’s highlights and almost save it. One only wishes it didn’t take so long to get to them and that they weren’t bound to a film that, far too often, doesn’t know what to do with that energy.