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‘Doctor Strange 2’ a field day for director Raimi

Movies

Before we get started, I need to make a quick admission: I love Sam Raimi. He’s one of my favorite directors.

Ok, now the gushing can start.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a big, sprawling superhero movie romp that spans different universes and alters the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. But as much as it’s an entry in the MCU, it’s just as much a movie by “Evil Dead” and “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi and it’s his touch, style and personality as a filmmaker that raise “Multiverse of Madness” a step above the typical Marvel movie.

“Multiverse of Madness” finds Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) protecting young America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from monsters that are pursuing her. Desperate, Strange enlists Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) to help. I don’t want to spoil anything but things really go off the rails from there.

In the past, Marvel has seemed to be a bit wary of letting filmmakers do anything too quirky or out there in order to maintain a consistent tone. Either that or they’d hire directors with strong character work skills but whose visual styles aren’t as strong. But beginning with James Gun and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the Marvel Studios people started letting directors inject more of their personal styles and visual flair into their films.

Raimi pushes the boundaries further than they’ve ever been pushed on “Multiverse of Madness.” Previous MCU films have had their dark moments but this movie goes full-on horror. Some of the content is scary enough that I’m not sure young kids should see it.

Beyond that, Raimi has the space to be Raimi, which means he gets to play with his full bag of tricks. Raimi’s style has always been highly influenced by the images in the comic books he grew up reading and that’s definitely the case here. The way shots are composed, how he moves the camera and the editing tricks he and long-time collaborator Bob Murawski employ all work together to give the film a frantic energy that other MCU films just haven’t had.

Not that Raimi carries this movie all by himself. The cast is pretty great, too. Cumberbatch is steady and stoic as Strange, even in the face of some pretty crazy happenings. Olsen holds down the main emotional beats as Wanda and both she and Cumberbatch do a good job portraying different versions of the same characters.

Other notable performances include Gomez, who does a really good job as America, and Rachel McAdams, who brings a lot of warmth to what could’ve been a fairly thankless role as Strange’s love interest, Christine Palmer. Benedict Wong has been one of my low-key favorite MCU characters for years and, once again, he’s great in this movie.

The movie isn’t flawless. The plot does feel a bit jumbled together and doesn’t flow as smoothly as it probably should. It’s also a good thing the actors are so good because writer Michael Waldron‘s dialogue is pretty corny. Though it also feels like the kind of dialogue Stan Lee would’ve written back in the day, so I can’t be too mad at it.

As I said up front, I’m a massive Sam Raimi fan, so to get to see him doing his thing in a big comic book movie for the first time in fifteen years makes my movie-geek heart really happy. But “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” delivers big-time action, insane cosmic melodrama and a few surprises, all with just the right amount of heart. It may not be the most mind-blowing multiverse movie you could see right now (that would be “Everything Everywhere All at Once”) but it is more fun than most MCU movies.

4 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.

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