DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is a fun romp. The concept of multiple parallel universes isn’t new. But, I’m enjoying how it’s being creatively played with more in movies and TV shows, including in this recent Marvel Cinematic Universe installment. Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange and Elizabeth Olsen as an anguished, out of control Wanda the Scarlet Witch effectively carry this often goofy thrill ride of a show as they travel and battle their way through universes.
The over-the-top storyline and imagery had me laughing at times, though not in a disdainful way. For example, Dr. Strange magically astral travels, or whatever it is, into a decaying dead version of himself from another parallel universe (one of an infinite number of such universes). Inhabiting and reanimating this corpse, he “dream walks” into a universe holding the mysterious mountain location where the grand finale will happen. Along the way, he harnesses several screeching damned souls to assist him. Mr. Cumberbatch skillfully balances a tongue in cheek tone with sincerity throughout this CGI cinema circus. I wondered how often he burst out laughing while delivering his lines.
As a great counterbalance to Dr. Strange, Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch conveys pathos and anger beautifully. One cannot help but feel for her as she goes about wreaking havoc in an effort to unite with the two children of one of her counterpart selves from another ‘verse. Such high stakes drama to become all powerful simply to secure close connection with a few others and stave off grief and loneliness. And this all fueled from Wanda having to kill her true love in order to save the world (in 2019’s AVENGERS: ENDGAME). I think I’d be out of my right/wise mind too. Very tragic. I was glad to see Elizabeth Olsen finally have a chance to show her acting chops in this movie series.
The ensemble cast bears a brief mention here. I was moved to see the return of assorted characters from other MCU storylines, such as Patrick Stewart reprising his role of Dr. Xavier of the X-Men and Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter transformed here into the shield wielding superheroine Captain Carter. With the wonders and flexibility of parallel universes, even deceased people can show up still alive somewhere and appease us fans who’ve been missing seeing certain folks up on screen.
I’m well aware that comic book superhero movies aren’t for everyone, but for those of us who enjoy them, this production is surprisingly good. The story is easy to follow, full of colorful, fantastical beings, settings, and action sequences, and good old-fashioned thrilling with its imaginative mix of humor and excitement.