It appears that more and more established directors are speaking out against the box office sensation and rollercoaster ride that has become superhero films. Whether trying to generate press for their upcoming movies, or sincerely concerned with the lack of attention for serious cinema, the takings speak for themselves.
One of the more unconventional superhero films that shows more a new direction towards Marvel’s mystic side has been Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Stephen Strange. Replacing first choice Ethan Hawke, Cumberbatch has made the performance his own, reprising the role for the sequel under the new direction of Sam Raimi. Together with Rachel McAdams, Xochitl Gomez and an emphatic performance from Elizabeth Olsen, Doctor Strange 2 delivers with a much darker feel.
Picking up where Scott Derrickson left off, Sam Raimi and composer Danny Elfman concoct a universe-hopping superhero sci-fi fantasy turned horror as Doctor Strange travels across multiverses to battle multiple threats with the help of a mysterious teenage girl. Renowned for The Evil Dead series, those familiar with Raimi’s work won’t be all that surprised by the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’s adventurous genre play as it veers into Raimi’s wacky horror dimension. One of the main criticisms of this maddening sequel, it’s also one of its strengths, shedding the typical Marvel shimmer to make a dramatic genre shift, even in contrast with the original.
“Never, I say never call me a magician.”
A Marvel superhero film, the visual effects are ever-present and spellbinding, and whilst the cast aren’t necessarily pushed to their limit – they’re classy enough to give it their all. A visually and tonally dexterous comic book movie, The Multiverse of Madness is designed to be exhilarating and eye-popping, captivating through its interdimensional horseplay and wild flights of fancy. While the visual effects are of a high standard, able to establish this multiverse, the overall effect can make you start to question the grounded realism of every environment.
The channel-flipping style storytelling keeps this otherworldly road trip movie moving hell for leather, offering connective visual tapestry over a coherent narrative. It helps to know the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which punctuates proceedings with some big swings, but the sequel remains strange enough to be its own standalone film with Raimi’s signature elements shining through.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness isn’t for everyone and may irk fans of the original with its maverick posturing, but it’s a welcome refresh in the key of Raimi that will hopefully prompt the Marvel juggernaut to become a bit more playful and inventive with forthcoming cinematic releases. Giving directors more creative control to wield the final product into their wheelhouse, this possible experiment bodes well for a universe that will need to keep reinventing itself to remain relevant.
The bottom line: Exhilarating