Dir. Sam Raimi
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
As the MCU gets into the full swing of the 4th phase, it is only inevitable the franchise touches on the horror genre. Previous series alumni Scott Derrickson and Rob C. Cargill are no strangers to fear (SINISTER, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE) but at the time of DOCTOR STANGE, there was little appetite for mainstream audiences to accept horror in the same setting as a cape wearing superhero. Fast forward six years and we have VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, MORBIUS and MOON KNIGHT all delving into the darker side of the comic book shelf to mixed effect forcing the MCU's hand to dabble in the dark arts on the big screen.
Bringing in Sam Raimi as replacement to Derrickson and Cargill's exit is a bold move, but a more fitting one as he has not only given us the greatest horror film ever made(TM) but also the best comic book movie to date, so how does a film introduce horror and riff off the back of 26 previous films successfully and still carry the franchise forward? Well it just about does.
DSATMOM is quite possible the most mixed MCU film to date as the once Sorceror Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) dreams of a multiversal stranger, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), crossing universes and when he finally sees her in person after a one eyed octopus gatecrashes the wedding of Christine (another wasted appearance by Rachel McAdams), Strange must protect her at all costs while the stakes of the multiverse lie in his hands. Seeking an ally, he finds Wanda (scene stealing from Elizabeth Olsen) who he learns is at the heart of everything bad going on in a quest to find her children, conjured up previously in the series WANDAVISION and as such the pair fight each other over a cat and mouse chase across the multiverse.
Akin to the kinetic visuals of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and THOR RAGNAROK, DSATMOM is a colourful frenzy that never strays to pander to it's darker moments, to which there are plenty. As such those tones of more adult material and notes that are masterfully played references to Raimi's earlier works, feel much more homage than breaking new ground and certainly will fray away younger audiences who are more familiar with talking racoons and thunder Gods.
Unlike MORBIUS, the other superhero horror released this month, Raimi's entry is not horror centric and as such never quite commits to it's more chilling moments. A possessed Wanda, zooming first person POVs, zombies and brutal murders included, DOCTOR STANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is not quite as mad as it could have been, touching only briefly on it's subject matter and instead being more a continuation of WANDAVISION the DOCTOR STRANGE. Unlike the magic he bought to cinemas in 2002 with SPRIDER-MAN and it's sequels, here Raimi feels lost in a canvas already painted and allowing him the small gaps left to flourish. There are moments of greatness, Wanda taking out an all powerful council and Strange possessing his own zombie body but on the whole, this is Marvel at it's most cardboard cut-out without the stunningly choregraphed magic seen in the first Doctor Strange instead replaced with a whirlwind of universe hopping that is more a glance at what could have been than a satisfying journey it should be.
There are cameos that will glee hardened Marvel fans but not as many as those who leak information may have suggested but it's worth stopping for the credits for an end credits scene all Raimi fans will love.