DOCTOR STRANGE 2
FILM REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
Release Date: 6th May 2022
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong
Written by: Michael Waldron
Cinematography: John Mathieson
``pure, undiluted product without any artistic reason for existing``
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the Marvel Paul Daniels, Doctor Steven Strange, in the 28th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will we never be set free?
In the run-up to release, Marvel has gone to great lengths to prevent critics from spoiling any plot details in their reviews. But I don’t see how it’s possible to spoil something this awful. Like bad meat, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrives already spoiled.
The plot is a veritable tsunami of bewilderment. A teenager called America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) shows up from a parallel universe and Doctor Strange has to protect her from Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, who for some reason is now a baddie. Chavez has the ability to travel from one parallel universe to another parallel universe, and the Scarlet Witch wants to kill her and steal this ability so she can be with her children. Or something. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, partly because it is completely inconsequential, but mostly because I couldn’t care less.
I was cautiously optimistic about all of this. The first Doctor Strange (2016) was… grand. And Sam Raimi in the director’s chair is a big plus. Raimi is an eccentric, unconventional filmmaker who wears his pulp influences proudly. He has also made two of the best comic book movies of all time, in Spider-Man (2002) and the high water-mark, Spider-Man 2 (2004). But apart from the traditional Bruce Campbell cameo, there is no sign of Raimi’s hand in this at all, bar perhaps two minutes of footage near the end of the movie. This could have been directed by anyone. Literally anyone. And I have a feeling that it was.
There is no story here to speak of. It’s just an exercise in moving pieces around a board. There’s nothing for the viewer to grasp onto, because characterization is non-existent. Xochitl Gomez wears a jacket that is more interesting than her character. All Cumberbatch does is spout ridiculously overcomplicated exposition, explaining why he needs to get from point A to point B, then he goes from point A to point B and wiggles his fingers at a tennis ball on a stick (that will be replaced with some computer generated ones and zeroes). Then he goes from point B to point C and does it all over again. The money must be spectacular.
Even the most easy-to-please cinemagoer should expect a movie to have a plot that’s vaguely character-driven and semi-decent dialogue. Doctor Strange in the Something of Something has none of those. Over the course of Marvel’s 14-year journey from blockbuster spectacle to turgid timewasting, this is the most blatant example thus far of how cynical the studio has become. Doctor Strange 2 is nothing more than an object, designed with the sole purpose of filling a gap in Marvel’s calendar. It’s content. It is pure, undiluted product without any artistic reason for existing. There’s no art or craft in this whatsoever. Any achievements on display are technical ones.
I wouldn’t mind if there was a half-decent story buried under all this guff about parallel universes and magic books, but there’s nothing there. There is no story. There’s just an endless series of references to other Marvel movies. References designed to give fans the illusion of affinity or kinship. A reward for consuming all the other Marvel product, for being such a good boy and eating all of the Marvel biscuits.
As was the case with Chloe Zhao’s The Eternals recently, you can’t fight the Marvel algorithm, no matter who you are. On the evidence of Doctor Strange 2, Raimi’s level of involvement is questionable. It is obvious that Marvel is using directors like Zhao and Raimi solely for their marketing value, rather than any value they have as filmmakers. They are impressive names for the poster, and nothing more.
Just like white bread, Marvel’s soulless product is assembled on a conveyor belt and churned out, over and over again. Four times a year. The fans better be getting something out of this, because the time, effort, talent and money being squandered on these things is simply staggering.