Review: Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (spoiler-free)

Short version – this movie is in my top 3 MCU films. I loved it.

I saw the new MCU film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in a packed Dolby theater. I’m not going to do an overview of the plot, because that would in and of itself would be a spoiler. The reason being, the trailers did an excellent job of misdirection; I thought I had a handle on the broad plot of the film from the trailers, but ended up not knowing much of what was going to happen. That’s a pretty rare thing nowadays, and was most welcome.

In the broadest sense, the film’s theme is loss, and what it takes to overcome that loss. There are terrific character arcs between Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), as well as a parallel one with Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). While the action is impressive and the pace brisk, the film never forgets that it’s telling a story about people, and their personal journeys are always present.

I used to say that “it’s a Marvel movie, so of course the special effects are great”, but there have been some missteps in Phase 4 lately (Shang-Chi and Eternals) that sort of ruined that automatic expectation. But Disney got its mojo back for Doctor Strange, which is bright, and colorful, and never gets lost in CGI mud, even with the monsters (speaking of which, the battle with Gigantos in Manhattan is a terrific set-piece, and really showcases how magical combat works in the MCU, while at the same time giving some terrific reminders of past Sa Raimi films. Danny Elfman does the score for the film, and it’s up to his usual high standards. Keep an ear open for some call-backs to previous films and TV shows.

Speaking of which, it wouldn’t hurt to have watched Wandavision before going into this. It’s not necessary, as they give a suitably vague indication that something bad happened in Westview, but I liked the film’s restraint in not thinking that it needed to give a whole recap of everything that happened. Other than that, anyone who’s seen a few MCU films will be fine.

The second act of this film is stuffed with fan-service. And I say that as someone who likes fan service, and thinks that giving fans little bits and bobs of things they will go bananas to see is a good thing. There are cameos, and comic-accurate presentations that we’ve not seen before, and just… wonderful stuff. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.

I’ve heard some reviews that were dissatisfied with the writing, citing a scene or two that were just a little bit too convenient for the plot. I see what they’re saying, but honestly in the context of the scene, it didn’t bother me too much.

On the whole this was one of the best MCU films so far, and along with Spider-Man No Way Home has redeemed the hitherto-lackluster Phase 4. In my ranking of everything Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is in 3rd place right behind Captain America the Winter Soldier and Spider-Man No Way Home. I’m probably going to see it again, which is something I don’t normally do with movies nowadays.

Oh, and there’s a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene. Stick around for them!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

1 thought on “Review: Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (spoiler-free)

  1. I don’t know about top 3 but it’s certainly in the top 5.
    1. Iron Man, for it’s elegant simplicity, and the movie that started it all.
    2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    3. Thor Ragarok (“Are you Thor the God of Hammers? That hammer was to help you control your power; to focus it. It was never your source of strength.”)
    4. Spider-Man: No Way Home
    5. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

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