Review: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

‘The Illuminati will see you now’


“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premiered in theaters on May 6, 2022. The film is an essential part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) timeline. Movie poster courtesy of Marvel Studios

Jenelle Lum, Staff Writer

Disclosure: This review is separated into two parts with the first section being spoiler-free. The second part contains spoilers.

Spoiler-free review

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” directed by Sam Raimi continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s phase four storyline after the Disney+ series “WandaVision” and Doctor Strange’s previous appearance in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The film pushes the boundaries of traditional Marvel movies by adding horror elements while maintaining its consistent storytelling.

This film is a crucial part of phase four of the Marvel cinematic universe because it explains the idea of a multiverse and visualizes some of the many universes that exist within its lore. The multiverse is an integral plot device for Marvel Comics.

Aside from what was shown in the trailers for the movie, there was little more than speculation to go on about which characters the audience would see in this film aside from Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Wanda Maximoff played by Elizabeth Olsen and America Chavez played by Xochitl Gomez.

There are a lot of surprises that were alluded to in the Disney+ series “What if…?” that they incorporated into the film.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” contains CGI fights with creatures that at times seemed like a visual step back from the first “Doctor Strange” with its mirror dimension scenes.

The way that some of the creatures in the movie are designed reminded me of cartoon characters rather than terrifying monsters, which somewhat loosened the usual immersion that Marvel movies usually have.

Even with the awkward CGI animation, I felt that the movie would be entertaining for both Marvel and horror fans.

The elements of horror presented throughout the film include jump scares, set design and gory fight scenes as recurring themes in the storytelling.

For instance, in one scene, Scarlet Witch uses the reflections on puddles and mirrors in Kamar Taj to escape her entrapment inside the spell Doctor Strange cast on her. Raimi played up the jump scares here and made her look almost demonic.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” features very dark, gothic setpieces for several of its key scenes. One specific scene features candles lit throughout the Sanctum Sanctorum that Doctor Strange visits in another universe. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

The set design is very gothic, with candles lit throughout the Sanctum Sanctorum that Doctor Strange visits in another universe. He sees the other variant of himself and the room is practically the polar opposite of the version that fans are used to seeing.

Marvel comics can be gruesome sometimes depending on the series and Marvel Studios did not hold back with this film. Some of the scenes had audience members gasping and cheering.

Before reading any further, note that it is important to at least have watched “Doctor Strange,” “WandaVision,” “Loki,” “What if…?” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Spoiler review: Proceed with caution

I was pleasantly surprised with the way Marvel Studios adapted the Scarlet Witch in this movie. She has faced so much tragedy over the years, having lost her brother and the man she loved, the Vision and struggles on her own to process this grief and try to move on with her life.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” shows Wanda Maximoff’s transformation into the Scarlet Witch. Scarlet Witch is portrayed as the villain in this story, but she has so many complex layers that complicate this narrative. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

“WandaVision” explained how Maximoff was willing to do anything to get her husband, the Vision, back, but this movie shifted the focus to the children that the couple had during the events of that series. Wanda did not want to accept the fact that her children were created by magic or that she would change the timeline beyond repair if she jumped to another universe.

There is one scene in particular in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” where the Scarlet Witch kills the entire Illuminati, a secret organization of some of Marvel’s strongest superheroes, with surprise characters like Captain Carter that were introduced in “What if…?”. Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic and Professor X from the X-men, played once again by Patrick Stewart also make an appearance, and their deaths at the hands of Scarlet Witch are brutal and show the audience just how powerful she can be.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” continues after the events of “WandaVision” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The film introduces the audience to various new universes with striking differences from the original. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Scarlet Witch is portrayed as the villain in this story, but she has so many layers that complicate this narrative. When Strange visits her at the cabin, she reveals that her beautiful apple orchard is nothing but dead trees and destruction.

The visual effects used on the Scarlet Witch make her look terrifying and has the audience wondering where she will jump out from. Scores composed by Danny Elfman, whom Raimi previously worked with on the first two films in his “Spider-Man” trilogy, were just as chilling and enforced the storytelling in this movie.

Another fantastic scene is when Strange is sent to another universe and meets a dark version of himself. The two then fight each other with music notes from instruments laying around in the room.

This scene really stood out to me because it was so different from anything seen in the MCU, while also being something that suits Doctor Strange’s aesthetic. The CGI used in the scene successfully immersed me in a way that the CGI monster at the beginning of the film could not.

Overall, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a fun adventure with a twisted storyline. The next Marvel installment is the miniseries “Ms. Marvel,” which debuts on June 8, 2022 on Disney+.