Quick-Thoughts: Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

It felt so wrong watching this MCU movie in an empty theater. I didn’t laugh at any of the jokes this time because there wasn’t an enormous crowd around to convince me that any of the quips were remotely funny. Sociology.

A long, long, long time ago — 9 years to be precise, BUT… — a one-of-a-kind filmmaker by the name of Sam Raimi frivolously made what many believed to be his last contribution to feature-length cinema, prematurely sending his career off by the pothole of what many saw as a consequence of studio control, a damning scenario that could only make the director’s die-hard fans act as if an eternity had passed since then. At the hands of perhaps the most powerful franchise this century has endured yet, the auteur has been conjured back from a crypt for round three in the leading chair of some corporate blockbuster studio known for obstructively controlling their hired artists, as if this could alas be his strike-in to do what the outs of a Spider-Man capper and a prequel to the most beloved Hollywood classic couldn’t quite under such challenging moviemaking conditions. 

If you missed the iconic snap-zooms, tilt shots, schizophrenic soundbites, opacity layering, dual-purposed and rhythmic quick-cutting, camera-spins, rack-focusing, cartoony transitional graphics, etc., fear not because you get it all with the anti-commercial metal attitude that made Raimi’s blockbusters a vanguard to begin with. A couple horror sequences in particular put a big smile on my face — one involving a formerly snug abode, and another a carnage of familiar superhero faces that’ll put young children into a nightmare coma. Then again though, a parcel of the fear factor here feels simply like the director reestablishing what he’s already done before for the horror genre as he also committed in Drag Me to Hell (2009) – his returning Evil Dead mirror tricks and cameos especially exiling me into some serious nostalgic indulgence. Be that as it may, *occasionally* seeing such ruthlessness in the space of the MCU, a franchise that loves to astronomically compensate for every dark phenomena or stylistic stretch it introduces, was thirst-quenching, till it eventually departs of course via the unassailable studio prescription. Raimi has comparatively won with reuniting that grim trademark vision for which Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) tried to conserve under the counterintuitive sobriety of the family-friendly heads at Disney, but it plummets just as Sony’s infamously moderated Spider-Man 3 (2007) did when it comes to the congested narrative at stake.

Raimi and Michael Waldron’s revision of Disney’s MCU formula isn’t called a multiverse of madness for no reason: with a plot this convulsive, it’s hard not to feel as if pretty much every character arc comes off as unearned no matter the sector we find our heroes and villains beamed to. Conceptually all of these transformations are meaningful (though generic to the unruliest degree) but in execution they are ABSURDLY rushed, especially during its face-slap of a resolution. Thus, the second installment of Doctor Strange admittedly feels like its working off of a virtually unacceptable first draft script, but it also feels 99.9% shot by Sam Raimi — or at the very least by an actual human behind the camera — and its refreshing to see Marvel really push their PG-13 rating in the name of horror. God knows they need something gimmicky at this point in a franchise that’s been hanging by a thread since the inception of our global pandemic.

As if this coincidence was actually some social experiment in disguise though, there is another multiverse adventure competing (yet losing) concurrently in cinemas with this here franchise cash-cow that’s almost thematically identical to it, and in spite of its own questionable narrative spazzes, the project ends up being the one perpetrated with far more patience and care to those ideas. So just to let y’all know, Everything Everywhere All at Once is still in theaters!

Verdict: C

2022 Ranked, The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked, Sam Raimi Ranked

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” will be playing in theaters May 6th.

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