by Ian Morton
Famous for helming the beloved Spiderman franchise back in the early 2000’s (excluding Spiderman 3, it’s terrible), Sam Raimi joined Doctor Strange 2 after Scott Derrickson left the project over ‘creative differences’ in 2020. Given that Marvel wanted to introduce a horror inflection to the MCU, the decision to part ways with Derrickson seemed like an odd decision by the House of Mouse at the time – they had a good genre director, so why replace him? – but it made sense when thinking about the logistics of making a Marvel movie both a horror film and a 12A, and that Raimi’s style could accommodate both these elements more than Derricksons.
Fast forward to 2022 and Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange 2 is now in cinemas; a 12A Marvel movie that does indeed play around with horror elements and delves further into the multiverse but one that ultimately fails tonally to fit into the broader narrative, bogged down with a convoluted plot and uninspired character choices.
Like every other film in the Phase 4 production cycle, Doctor Strange 2 is a post-Endgame story that picks up after the events of Spiderman: No Way Home and more importantly, WandaVision. After an interdimensional traveller is chased to New York, Dr Strange is forced to confront the evil stalking the young voyager and stop the power she wields falling into the wrong hands.
Almost from the films opening credits do we see how shackled to the Marvel machine Dr Strange 2 is as it tries to balance a myriad of plot threads from other projects as well tell its own story. Convoluted might be the best word for it, as it struggles to juggle the introduction of new characters, expand the audience’s expectations of the multiverse and conclude plot threads started in other parts of the MCU. The result is a film that underserves its characters, sacrificing character development in favour of spectacle and at no point fulfilling a satisfying character arc, functioning only as a prerequisite for future events than part of an intimate Doctor Strange trilogy.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the 28th film in the franchise though, especially if you’re a Sam Raimi fan. With the filmmaker sprinkling his signature style into almost every facet of the production, Doctor Strange 2 is less Spiderman and more Evil Dead, supplanting his ‘goofy’ horror to fulfil the sequel’s remit and having fun at the same time. Everything the director is known for makes it into the final edit, from visuals through to quirky camera angles, it’s all there to be laughed at and enjoyed and when the film at its most manic does Raimis style hit its highest notes. While this does mean the film in no way fits in with the wider tone of the MCU, or even its predecessor for that matter, it very much does stand on its own as one of the rare Marvel films you could easily guess who made it.
Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s bonkers and stylistically does something very different to everything else we’ve seen before and stands out because of these changes. On the other hand though, it’s absolutely all over the place, changing the tone and injecting so much of Sam Raimi’s signature style, that it may alienate a fan base that just wants to see more of what makes the Marvel series great. It’s at its best when the film is at its most craziest but fails when it’s at its most Marveliest.
Doctor Strange is out in cinemas now!