Although I have already described Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as a film that is «appropriately weird, satisfactorily violent, and generally succeeds as dark popcorn entertainment», it has its fair share of flaws. The movie seems like a hodgepodge of ideas that don’t quite stick together, and the end result doesn’t seem to matter much to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, no matter what that mid-credits teaser tells us.
Let’s see where this entry in the MCU stumbled (after seeing where it faltered, of course).
Limited Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch is an amazing actor sherlock, The imitation gameand Way of the dog — and, of course, passes the vision test for the character of Doctor Strange. However, after five films and counting, one would think that Marvel would give him something more than giving smart dialogue and reacting to computer monsters. There was a chance here to build an emotional narrative around Strange and Kristin’s failed romance, but the film never fully fleshes out the plot beyond a few rudimentary scenes, and grossly underutilizes Cumberbatch’s talents.
Played by plucky young star Xochitl Gomez, America Chavez comes across as the latest hero to embark on one of those half-baked MCU journeys – meaning she can’t control her powers until the script says so – even if she’s basically standing around looking beat down confused by the wild events around her. When will the time come for her to fully embrace her superhero persona – by punching hard I guess? — the climax comes with a thud, because we know nothing about America other than briefly touched on the tragic backstory of her parents.
I’m sure we’ll learn more about America in future adventures, but her inclusion in Doctor Strange felt more like a rushed origin story than a necessary inclusion in an actual movie.
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Danny Elfman score
Danny Elfman’s collaboration with Sam Raimi has resulted in some truly breathtaking musical compositions. dark man, Spiderman and Spiderman 2e.g. – and enabling composer on Doctor Strange 2 was one of the reasons I was excited to see the latest MCU adventure. Alas, like many Marvel soundtracks, Elfman’s music lacks thematic content and instead resorts to atypical background noise devoid of themes or any identity. Moreover, he throws out the work of Michael Giacchino from the original. Doctor Strange (which remains one of the best MCU scores) in favor of a separate score with no noticeable identity.
As stated above, you can tell that Sam Raimi wanted to go further. Indeed, the director showed the original version for Doctor Strange 2 ran for nearly three hours before reshoots cut the story short. I have a feeling that the new scenes also toned down the violence because… well… Disney. Not that the extra 40 minutes of violence made the movie better, but why call Sam Raimi just to handcuff him? Give the man free rein to tell his story and live with the consequences. Haven’t we learned anything? Spiderman 3?
Cameos are all the rage in the MCU right now. Fans go crazy over the 10-second scene in which Daredevil catches a brick. No way homeeven if said scene adds nothing to the overall plot of the surrounding film.
Doctor Strange 2 doesn’t go too far with the cameo gimmick, but there is an extended sequence that introduces the Illuminati – a secret organization made up of Reed Richards Krasinka, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejifor), Charles Xavier (plays Patrick Stewart again for a number of reasons), Black Bolt (Anson Mount) , Maria Rambo, aka Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch) and Captain Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) – this leads nowhere. Scarlet Witch appears and quickly brutalizes the team, and no one seems to care.
What can we say about this group of characters? Did anyone really demand any of these guys besides Mister Fantastic? Is there really no one who could play Professor X?
Speaking of which, it seems like for the umpteenth time Marvel has teased mutants in this universe but failed to do anything other than a brief appearance by the former X-Men star. Will we ever get the X-Men in the MCU?
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After all that’s been going on Doctor Strange 2, you would think that we would get a stronger role in the follow-up movie. I mean, the most powerful group of heroes in an alternate universe has been unceremoniously wiped out, and as a result, Charlize Theron appears in the mid-credits to drag Strange on yet another mind-blowing adventure through space. I suppose it’s my fault that I expected everything that happens in the MCU to have long-term consequences – it’s the same series that wiped out half the galaxy in five years and brought everyone back without too much trouble – but every action a hero takes / the villain has to have consequences, otherwise it really doesn’t make sense.
Multiverse of Madness brings some really unique ideas to the Marvel franchise – notably powers emanating from ancient witches and Hell itself – only to brush them off without too much thought. In reality, the events of the movie boil down to little more than Wanda’s supposed death and Strange’s third eye. At some point, the MCU needs to shift into another gear and present a spectacle that carries more weight. Although, given that the film is approaching another billion dollars, why mess with success?