Scott Derrickson, director of the first Doctor Strange a film that dropped a sequel due to «creative differences» with Marvel. This is what usually happens when a director disagrees with studio executives. After all, Marvel isn’t about to retire. It’s their characters, their universe and their home style.
So when Marvel brought in Sam Raimi to replace Derrickson as director Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness it was exciting, but you also had to wonder: what movie was Raimi cast in for? Was he just an assassin to shoot what Marvel wanted? Or would Marvel let Sam Raimi be Sam Raimi?
The answer is, to my relief and joy, yes they will. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness this is a Marvel movie, with all the necessary action, special effects, and surprise cameos that entails, but this also Film by Sam Raimi through and through. It’s about tortured heroes who must fight the forces of unholy evil – along with darker versions of themselves. He has all-powerful books that can lead to the end of the world. There are zombies or two. It has surprisingly strong horror and violence for a PG-13 movie. And maybe most importantly, it feels like the work of a gifted director; a guy who knows how to tell a story through camera placement and movement, music and point of view editing.
Admittedly, a lot of this happens in the second half of the movie. The first part is much more shaky and visually messy as Raimi rushes to introduce Multiverse of MadnessMost important new character: America Chavez (Zochitl Gomez), a young woman with the ability to move between universes. Pursued by monsters who want to steal her powers, America finds herself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where she is rescued by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and fellow superhero sorcerer Wong (Benedict Wong). But America’s pursuers won’t stop, which is why Strange turns to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), another Avenger last seen (on her Disney+ show) for help. WandaVision) is trying to find his lost family somewhere in the multiverse.
The story from there depends on the twists and turns that the trailers are for Multiverse of Madness Don’t spoil it, me too. All you really need to know about the plot is that it follows a twisting chase through different realities, bringing Strange and Wanda face to face with alternate versions of themselves.
Seeing heroes go bad and villains turn to the light are hallmarks of Marvel Comics stories set in alternate realities (like the ones that inspired last summer). What if…? TV series) and they are always fun for cheap thrills. Here, however, Raimi and screenwriter Michael Waldron use this trick to sort through the hopes and disappointments of these characters. The question «Are you happy?» posing for characters everywhere Multiverse of Madness, and this simple request is refracted in history in a very interesting way. Every time Strange and Wanda meet their doppelgänger, they come face to face with a different path their lives could have taken – or may still take in the future if they’re not careful.
I can do Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sounds like a treatise on the meaning of life, and I believe that on some level, at some points, it is. But obviously it’s more fundamentally pompous spectacular action. On that front, it serves as a reminder of how much better films like this are when they’re directed by a legitimately talented director like Raimi. Some of the early sequences, such as Strange and Wong fighting a giant alien octopus, could have belonged to anyone. But towards the end of the movie, there are concepts and visuals that could only have come from Sam Raimi’s mind and camera. One moment in particular sums up the man’s entire film career very closely in one unsettling, hilarious and even poignant image.
It’s also worth mentioning that Raimi has always been an underrated cast director – think of all the great performances in Spiderman 2 and Simple Plan and dark man and Living and dead and so on and so forth – and his cast works great here amid the many green screens and deranged demons from the dark dimensions. Even some supporting actors make a big impression, like Michael Stuhlbarg as Strange’s old surgical colleague Dr. West, or Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Strange’s on-and-off romantic partner. Considering the very difficult part (or technically parts) Olsen turns Wanda into an interesting mixture of warmth and fury. The way her arch here builds on her history in Avengers: Infinity War and WandaVision is one of the most prominent examples of Marvel’s signature multimedia storytelling.
After a shaky start, introducing some of its characters and premise, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness goes into a very interesting groove. It’s alternately funny, exciting, and, in the end, more than a little scary. It also features more memorable imagery than the average Marvel movie, such as an ominous stairway that appears to lead from the ocean to infinity. (The film was directed by Oscar-nominated cinematographer John Matheson, whose previous work includes the Ridley Scott film. Gladiator and James Mangold Logan.)
One of the hallmarks of Raimi’s films, especially his Spiderman films is a fervent belief in heroes and their old-fashioned values of doing the right thing for no other reason than that it has to be done. Such a sincere belief in good comes from Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness. Doctor Strange himself delivers some monologues at the end of this film, encouraging the characters to reach their full potential and confessing their deepest secrets and darkest fears. To my surprise, those moments in this goofy, tense blockbuster moved me. That’s what’s great about Sam Raimi; it’s not just that is he believes in these characters, he makes you believe in them and you.
– Disney spins Doctor Strange as the only place, at least initially, to see the trailer for the long-awaited James Cameron film Avatar continuation. They showed the teaser to the press before the movie, and… it’s not something worth going all out for if you don’t want to see it already. Doctor Strange. It is short, quiet and very similar to Avatar – but Avatar 13 years ago. At the very least, there was no footage in this preview that suggested Cameron had made some mind-blowing technological leap in that time.
– Very little quibble: I wish Benedict Cumberbatch’s superhero hair was as realistic as his magical cape. Why does his Doctor Strange wig look so much like a wig?
-Some of the cameos in this film were shown in trailers, while others were not; if you want to go in completely untouched, I will be very careful on social media starting Thursday evening. (Or maybe start right now.)
– Another trademark of Raimi is unforgettable musical scores, and Doctor Strange presents another one in which Raimi again teams up with her old co-worker from dark man and Spiderman movie, Danny Elfman. One scene in particular illuminates Elfman’s performance in a way that is sure to go down in history as one of the most inventive action sequences in any Marvel movie to date.
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