Monday, May 09, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

 

Based on the Marvel comics series by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the story of the titular sorcerer who finds himself dealing with new threats from different universes as well as an old ally prompting him to seek help from Wanda Maximoff as she would encounter her own troubles in the multiverse. Directed by Sam Raimi and screenplay by Michael Waldron, the film is an exploration into the different universes where Doctor Strange has to deal with versions of himself and those he knew as well as other threats as Benedict Cumberbatch reprises the role of Doctor Steven Strange with Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. Also starring Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne, and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an enthralling and terrifying film from Sam Raimi.

Following events relating to Spider-Man, Doctor Steven Strange encounters something from another universe who chases a young woman in America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who is also from another universe as Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) learn that something is happening in the different multiverse relating to Chavez’s power where Strange asks Wanda Maximoff for help. It is a film that play into many multiple universes as it also relates to a book that is the opposite of a book that Maximoff has from her own previous adventure as it brings hope to the multiverse. Michael Waldron’s screenplay does manage to showcase what is at stake but doesn’t really do much in doing more with the motivation of some of the characters with Maximoff being a major reason as her possession of the Darkhold has her wanting to find her sons Billy and Tommy Maximoff (Julian Hillard and Jett Klyne, respectively) in the multiverse as she believes Chavez is key to finding them.

Maximoff becomes an obstacle for Strange, Wong, and Chavez where Strange and Chavez travel through the multiverse where they meet a variation of Strange’s former friend Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is part of a mysterious organization known as the Illuminati. Strange also meets a variation of his former flame in Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) who is a scientist who works for the Illuminati and isn’t fond of any version of Strange due to his own commitments to his work as a Master of the Mystic Arts. The different versions of characters is a key component of the film but it does get confusing and for audiences that aren’t aware of Maximoff’s own adventure in WandaVision do get lost. There’s a lot of exposition that Waldron creates that is overwhelming but also confusing when it comes to the concept of dream-walking where a character dreams about being in another world and uses that variation of that character to do things. It is among the elements of the film that does drag the story and make it nonsensical at times along with some stories relating to the multiverse including a version of Doctor Strange who was working with the Illuminati and what he did to kill their version of Thanos.

Sam Raimi’s direction definitely bear some of his own visual style in terms of the zooms he uses as well as these set pieces that are elaborate. Shot largely on location in Britain including the Longcross Studios at Longcross, Surrey, Raimi does create a film that showcases a world that has different versions as the version of New York City that Strange lives in is different from the New York City that he and Chavez would go to where they would learn that a variation of Strange had died. The world-building that Raimi does through the usage of wide and medium shots not only showcase the different universes the characters are in but also these worlds that are unique such as a montage where Strange and Chavez travel through different multiverses that include a 2D animation bit as it showcase these variations of worlds that are all unique. It is among these lavish sequences where Raimi does play into the adventure and action but also with elements of humor as it relates to Strange’s interaction with Chavez as well as the rules of the multiverse.

Then there’s Raimi’s approach to horror as it relates to Maximoff’s own desire to find her sons through the multiverse as she is intent on using the Darkhold book as it is a MacGuffin of sorts as well as the opposite book known as the Book of Vishanti that Chavez and a version of Doctor Strange are trying to get in the film’s first sequence that also involves a gigantic one-eyed monster known as Gargantos. Raimi also play into some of the gory elements in horror but not overtly gory as there are some major deaths as well as moments such as a scene where Strange, Chavez, and Palmer are running away from a version of Maximoff as it has all of these scary moments expected from horror. The film’s climax does involve Strange having to go into places that is against the rules imposed on other masters of the mystic arts yet it all has to do with Chavez and her own powers to travel through the universe even though she is unable to control it. Yet, it also shows exactly what Strange has learned and what he has to do to save the universe while also coming to terms with the sacrifices he’s made in his own life. Overall, Raimi crafts an exhilarating and chilling film about a sorcerer traveling through the multiverse to stop a threat from destroying his own universe.

Cinematographer John Mathieson does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the vibrancy of the alternate version of Earth as well as some stylish lighting for a few interiors including the usage of red for Maximoff’s own world, and the dark colors in the world that Strange would encounter. Editors Bob Murawski and Tia Nolan do excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of montages, jump-cuts, and other cuts to play into the suspense and horror. Production designer Charles Wood, with set decorator John Bush and supervising art director Thomas Brown, does amazing work with the look of the Kamar-Taj base in Nepal where Strange and Wong do their training as well as the base of the Illuminati and a secret palace that holds a dark secret. Costume designer Graham Churchyard does fantastic work with the costumes from Wanda’s Scarlet Witch costume as well as the different costumes of the different variations of Strange including the Cloak of Levitation that has a mind of its own as well as the casual look of America Chavez with her denim jacket with a LGBTQ pride pin on it. Hair/makeup designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, along with prosthetics makeup designer Barrie Gower, does terrific work with the look of the different variations of Doctor Strange as well as the two different looks of Maximoff in her different hairstyles as it all play into the many variations of the multiverse.

Special effects supervisor Alan Roberts and visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs do incredible work with the visual effects from the design of Gargantos as well as other magical effects that Strange and Wong uses along with some of the massive set pieces as the effects work is a major highlight. Sound editors Addison Teague and Katy Wood do superb work with the sound in the way some of the creatures sound as well as the way objects sound including the atmosphere of a location. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is phenomenal for the bombastic music themes that are created with its usage of orchestral elements for its suspense and action along with themes that do intensify the sense of horror while music supervisor Dave Jordan cultivate a soundtrack that feature different themes from other films and TV shows from Marvel for some of the characters in their alternate variations.

The casting by Sarah Haley Finn is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Bruce Campbell in a hilarious cameo as a pizza vendor from an alternate universe, Ross Marquand in a voice role as Ultron drones who work for the Illuminati, Ako Mitchell as Palmer’s new husband Charlie, screenwriter Michael Waldron as a guest at Palmer’s wedding, Momo Yeung and Daniel Swain as two masters who respectively run the Hong Kong and London sanctums, Ruth Livier and Chess Lopez as Chavez’s mothers from her memory as a child, Sheila Atm as a Mystic arts master who works closely with Wong at Kamar-Taj, Adam Hugill as the minotaur Mystic arts master Rintrah, and Michael Stuhlbarg in a terrific small role as Strange’s former surgeon rival Dr. Nic West who laments over being killed during the Blip and returning back only to deal with loss of his own as he and Strange both feel uncomfortable at Palmer’s wedding.

In the roles of the members of the Illuminati, Patrick Stewart’s performance as an alternate version of Charles Xavier/Professor X as well as Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter, John Krasinski as Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Lashana Lynch as an alternate version of Maria Rambeau/Captain Marvel, and Anson Mount as Blackagar Boltagon/Black Bolt are fun to watch although it is largely fan-service as they play into people who decide Strange’s fate as they also carry a secret about their own version of Doctor Strange. Julian Hillard and Jett Klyne are superb in their respective roles as Billy and Tommy Maximoff as the sons of Wanda Maximoff whom Wanda believes are alive as they’re just kids who already have a mother and are unaware of what Wanda is doing. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic as an alternate version of Karl Mordo as a former colleague/mentor of Strange who is the Sorcerer Supreme in an alternate universe who believes Strange is dangerous and is up to no good.

Rachel McAdams is excellent as Christine Palmer as Doctor Strange’s former flame who gets married to another man while an alternate version of Palmer is a more stern scientist who isn’t willing to put up with Strange’s bullshit though she becomes protective of Chavez when it comes to a major threat as she is also far more capable of taking care of herself. Benedict Wong is brilliant as Wong as the Sorcerer Supreme who helps Strange in dealing with some of the chaos involved as he also has to contend with some dark forces as well as what Strange had to do to save everyone. Xochitl Gomez is amazing as America Chavez as a young teenage girl who has the power to travel through different multiverses but doesn’t know how to control her powers as she deals with being a source of power that people want as she is also someone who has a hard time trusting people for valid reasons.

Elizabeth Olsen is outstanding as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch as a woman with her own powers as she is convinced that her sons are in another universe while realizing another version of her is with her sons where Olsen brings a dark sense of humor and terror to her performance of a woman ravaged by loss and the need to control things. Finally, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch in a sensational performance as the titular character as a former surgeon turned sorcerer who is dealing with images from an alternate universe as he struggles with these revelations but also versions of himself and their faults with the need to not just save the world but also to help this young girl he’s grown to care for despite his own arrogance at times.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a marvelous film from Sam Raimi that features great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, and a break-out performance from Xochitl Gomez. Despite the messy elements in the film’s screenplay and its emphasis on exposition that does drag the story, the film does succeed in its stake as well as the work from its supporting cast as well as its visuals, emphasis on suspense and horror, exploration of the multiverse, and Danny Elfman’s thrilling score. In the end, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a remarkable film from Sam Raimi.

Sam Raimi Films: (It’s Murder!) – (Clockwork) – (Within the Woods) – The Evil Dead - (Crimewave) – Evil Dead II - (Darkman) – Army of Darkness - (The Quick and the Dead) – (A Simple Plan) – (For the Love of the Game) – (The Gift (2000 film)) – Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man 3 (Drag Me to Hell) – (Oz, the Great and Powerful)

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame

Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Eternals - Spider-Man: No Way Home - (Thor: Love and Thunder) – (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) - (Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania) - (The Marvels) - (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) – (Fantastic Four)

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