Detractors can say what they will about the Marvel film franchise becoming increasingly formulaic (an argument that isn’t entirely wrong), but at least Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness unquestionably reflects the style and sensibilities of the guy hired to direct it.
With a manic pace, absurd humor and trippy visuals, Sam Raimi’s stamp is all over this. While he’s certainly no stranger to Marvel - having directed the first Spider-Man trilogy - Raimi draws more personal inspiration from his own Evil Dead franchise (Army of Darkness, in particular). I suppose a horror-tinged sequel might not be what traditional MCU fans are expecting, but considering the premise, his approach is exactly what a film like this needs. Besides, what franchise isn't made better with zombies?
Additionally, Raimi brings some of old friends along for the ride, including composer Danny Elfman and Bruce Campbell, the latter of whom appears in a brief but hilarious homage to his Ash character from Evil Dead. Speaking of which, in addition to the usual batch of MCU Easter Eggs and cameos, Raimi throws in a few of his own, including that same puke-colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 that has appeared in nearly all of his films.
|"It's your Frisbee, Wong. You go up there and get it."|
Still, when focusing on its wonderfully bonkers story, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a lot of fun and arguably better than the first film. Benedict Cumberbatch slips comfortably back into the title role, depicting Steven Strange as enjoyably arrogant as ever, if not a bit more introspective about his past. Once again, “sidekick” Wong (Benedict Wong) is a terrific comic foil, while young newcomer Xochiti Gomez is quite engaging as America Chavez (a relatively new Marvel character, perhaps being groomed for a film or series of her own). Loaded with the usual visual fireworks - particularly when leaping through the Multiverse - this is another solid entry in the MCU, bolstered by Sam Raimi’s indubitable style.
FEATURETTES - “Working with Sam Raimi”; “Constructing the Multiverse”; “Introducing America Chavez”; “Method to the Madness”
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AUDIO COMMENTARY - Director Sam Raimi, writer Michael Waldron and co-producer Richard Palmer.