Film: ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (Running in Theatres)
Duration: 126 minutes
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg
IANS Rating: ***
This film, directed by Sam Raimi- is the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a mindboggling roller coaster ride of sorcery and witchcraft that barely pauses to breathe between its fantastical set-pieces and well-choreographed action sequences.
Director Sam Raimi and screenwriter Michael Waldron waste no time with an opening scene that throws you right into the middle of an action scene that makes more sense later on.
The film begins on an innocuous note with Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) having a dream where he meets America Chavez (Miss America in the comics), played with wide-eyed calmness by MCU newcomer Xotchitl Gomez. Soon after, he is awake and attends the wedding of his former lover, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).
The wedding celebration is interrupted when a monster destroys the city while chasing America Chavez. Dr. Strange dashes down to the streets to save her from the one-eyed octopus-like beast.
After the annihilation of the monster, Chavez tells Strange that she is capable of travelling between multiverses and that she can’t control the power- which she manifests. The only way she could do it is- if she can get hold of the Book of Vishanti, a collection of all-powerful spells. She also tells him that his dreams have something to do with the multiverse as “Dreams are windows into the lives of our multiverse variants. It’s all happening, somewhere.”
From thence, Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong), who is now the Sorcerer Supreme at Kamar-Taj, take it upon themselves to protect and save her from her pursuers after they realise that the monster was summoned- with witchcraft, not magic. They take on a psychedelic journey that reaches far into the limits of the imagination where they meet Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), the Scarlet Witch, as they try to uncover the dark mystery of what is going on with her.
As they flit from one universe to another, the plot does get increasingly complex but not interesting, or surprising unless you count the numerous cameos that show up on the screen. There are too many characters that show up on the screen, yet not a single one of them gets a chance to shine. They are all there to ensure that the next action sequence follows promptly.
The screenplay has tonal problems as it blends comedy, action, drama, romance, and horror with mixed results. To be fair- there are a few scenes that- generate a chuckle, but they are few and far between, and they are mostly juvenile or silly. Also, the cameo scenes appear to be trying hard to please the audience as though the central plot and characters weren’t enough to please them.
On the performance front, Cumberbatch, Wong, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo are all ace actors with great charisma and fabulous acting chops who deliver brilliant performances. But the surprise packet is Xochitl Gomez, as America Chavez. She is a breath of fresh air with her impishly delightful on-screen presence, she pulls on your heartstrings while still carrying some high-level action scenes in her own right.
On the technical front, the film boasts of great visual effects, sound design, great score, and elaborate costumes but nothing of it is outstanding that it registers in your mind space after you leave the theatre.