The Marvel Cinematic Universe found itself pushing its possibilities when exploring the mystic arts in Doctor Strange (2016), treading over a traditional superhero story with a more compelling origin film. Marvel Studios promised that Doctor Strange would return. Their commitment was fulfilled as Benedict Cumberbatch's Master of the Mystic Arts Doctor Stephen Strange became a necessarily recurring addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fate of such rested in his piously restored hands.
The impatiently sizable lapse of time between Doctor Strange and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness warranted a fair amount of curiosity and concern. Marvel Studios places their timing around their major events strategically, but the rift between the first film and its companion piece rifted further apart. A search for a stand-in director commenced after Doctor Strange's Scott Derrickson departed and the delay of the sequel was privy to concerned reactions from anxious fans.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness delivers upon its titular boasting. Both multiversal travel and madness are afoot, though in a way that can be overstimulatingly underwhelming at different levels. The artistry behind visual effects is staggeringly disenchanting: the carelessness and declination to revisit means of improving the computer generation work are to be met with great disappointment. For a Hollywood tentpole that is confident in securing unfathomable box office wealth, there is enough funding to achieve exceptionally advanced special effects. It's as if the budget set aside for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was prioritized for its grand cameo scenes before profits were to be distributed elsewhere.
The spirit of director Sam Raimi's horror legacy haunting the film is not enough to save it. Themes of horror and tense moment of suspense can only attempt to remedy the redundancy of writer Michael Waldron's screenplay. There is the determination to remain far too similar to the formula of Marvel Studios, and though creativity wants to filter in, there is only room for familiarity. The vastness of the multiverse is squandered by an aggressively mediocre script. Character exposition could permit growth and development, but individual storylines refuse to evolve from a singular motivation that they are bound to. The imbalance of tonal and thematic consistency stretches beyond the mismatched length of Benedict Wong's hair from scene to scene.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness flirted with the idea of being bold through more graphic depictions of violence followed by intense imagery. To its own dismay, the maximalist approach that is taken toward a histrionic superhero frenzy has lost its touch on humanity. Crowd-pleasing tactics can only drive Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness so far before its self-contained feel concaves beneath the weight of expectation. The feeling of a lesson on pride, grief, and ego is buried beneath the overwrought bounding between universes. They ring far too hollow to leave any resonation behind. Alternate realities feel unlived in and manufactured beyond conviction. The concept of exploring timelines tangled between one another has been present enough for each to develop a personality of their own, though each seems unbothered by the demolition of universes. Despite the unknown of the multiverse and its mysteries, there's a recurrence of only a few hand-picked characters.
The pent-up demand for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is entertainingly overstuffed. The breathless busyness and colorful imagination assist in turning the page that ushers in a new chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once separated from its shortcomings, It may not be the most clean-cut or composed comic book movie and crumble beneath its own creative consequences but vows that there is more to the multiverse yet to be discovered.
*There are two post-credit scenes.*