The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS | The Movie Waffler


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review
Doctor Strange battles Scarlett Witch in the multiverse...or something.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stühlbarg, Rachel McAdams

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness poster

Despite it making a gazillion dollars at the box office, George Lucas took onboard criticism of his Star Wars dialogue and promptly hired two of the best screenwriters about – Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan – to work on its sequel. After over 30 movies, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has yet to display any such self-awareness. As long as these things keep making money, who cares about the quality, right? The dialogue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a curious evolution, going from being overly stacked with Joss Whedon-esque quips to the purely functional dialogue of more recent entries. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Macguffins boasts the worst dialogue of any MCU entry thus far. It's two hours of characters explaining the plot to one another, with not a single memorable line. Brackett and Kasdan it ain't.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review

The movie is written by Michael Waldron, who has only previously worked in TV. Therein lies the problem. Writing for TV and writing for the movies are two very different disciplines, yet the Hollywood producers of today keep making the same mistake of hiring writers with no experience of the big screen medium. This movie doesn't really have much of a story, but it has a hell of a lot of plot, and all of that plot is conveyed through dialogue rather than action. It often feels as though the script is being made up on the fly, like some unimaginative Dungeon Master pulling a half-assed plot out of thin air during a late night game of Dungeons & Dragons. A major criticism of the MCU movies is that they tend to come off as though they're more focussed on setting up future instalments than telling a single story. Nowhere does this criticism apply more than DSITMOM. This movie has no life of its own. It exists merely to set up a new line of Funko Pops, introducing new characters who presumably will play a bigger role further down the line, but doing nothing interesting with them. "Oh look, it's Captain Spaghetti," a character shrieks. "Wait, isn't that Doctor Meatballs?" another reacts, as various human action figures walk onto the screen and stand around uncomfortably, their PVC outfits struggling to contain their 'roided up Marvel muscles. Some of the comics' world's most beloved characters pop up here, but as is always the case, they just end up punching one another. Who looks at the vast back catalogue of Marvel comics, with all its imaginative heroes and villains, and thinks "Let's have them throw rocks at each other?"

The people in charge of the MCU, that's who! Every movie is the same bullshit – 90 minutes of plot explaining followed by 45 minutes of characters breaking off bits of scenery and hurling it at someone. None of the action set-pieces are ever memorable because they're not conceived by directors but by "pre-vis" teams. Why hire a filmmaker as distinctive as Sam Raimi to direct your movie if you're going to direct it for him? Ironically, Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange movie looked more like a Sam Raimi movie than Raimi's own Doctor Strange movie. Fans of Raimi are tossed a few crumbs here, like a book that looks a lot like the Necronomicon and a brief Bruce Campbell cameo that is easily the most entertaining moment in the whole movie, but there's practically none of Raimi's signature style on display.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review

There's a whole lot of multiverse, but not a lot of madness. On the madness scale I'd place it equivalent to the sort of workplace that displays one of those "You don't have to be mad to work here…" signs. Anyone expecting Raimi to take Marvel's millions and deliver a big budget Three Stooges tribute will be sorely disappointed. As for the multiverse, well you certainly get your fill if that's what you're after. The multiverse is one of the greatest cons played on cinema-goers since the days of William Castle's gimmicks. It essentially removes all the stakes, as a movie can kill off a character only to say "Don't worry folks, they're only dead in that universe." If any major characters are killed off we know they'll be back at some point down the line.

The actors do their best, God love them. Newcomer Xochitl Gomez is a bright spark as America Chavez, who presumably is the next Captain America, but her potentially fun chemistry with Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange is scuppered by the functional dialogue. You can see the two actors crying out for a few good lines (why can't Shane Black come back to this franchise?), and Benedict Wong looks visibly embarrassed with every line he delivers. Elizabeth Olsen, who has been squandering her early potential for the past decade, will have you wondering what a great Catwoman she might make with a performance that evokes '60s icons Julie Newmar and Elizabeth Montgomery. Every word that comes out of her mouth is exposition, but at least she manages to make it sultry.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review

Perhaps the greatest example of Marvel's "Tell, don’t show" approach to its storytelling is the relationship between Cumberbatch's Strange and Rachel McAdams' Christine Palmer. The movies keep telling us that the two are madly in love, but is there any visual evidence to back up this assertion? A lot of characters remind Strange that he loves Christine here, but we're left to ask "Does he really though?" as we've never seen any proof of this. In his unfairly dismissed Superman Returns, Bryan Singer found an ingenious way of showing how much Superman cares for his love interest Lois Lane by having him use his x-ray vision to follow her all the way down an elevator ride. I'm not arguing the case for rehabilitating Singer, but surely there are other filmmakers that possess that level of visual storytelling know-how? Maybe Marvel should let that Sam Raimi guy direct one of their movies. I bet he'd do a good job.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
 is in UK/ROI cinemas from May 5th.

2022 movie reviews