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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Doctor Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness

Title: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Describe This Movie In One Ren & Stimpy Quote:
COMMANDER HOEK: They think I'm crazy. But I know better. It is not *I* who am crazy. It is I who am *mad*!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Multiverse, meet Madness. Madness, Multiverse.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Samaras out of 5.
Tagline: "Enter a new dimension of Strange."

Better Tagline: "You got Evil Dead in my MCU. You got MCU in my Evil Dead."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: We all have bad dreams, they're just usually (one hopes) not about alternative reality versions of yourself fleeing demons alongside a superpowered teenager. Unfortunately for Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), that dream threatens to come true when America Gomez (Xochitl Gomez) drops in from another dimension. The surgeon-turned-wizard decides to seek counsel from that other powerful spellcaster, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Unfortunately for all concerned, the soon-to-be Scarlet Witch has plans of her own.
"Critical" Analysis: An argument can be made that the formula for the current model of the MCU first arose from Sam Raimi's original run of Spider-Man movies. Those flicks wedded great power to a more intimate, personal perspective that mirrored Stan Lee's vision for Marvel Comics in general, and also showed the way forward for Kevin Feige.

Raimi returns to the superhero fold with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and the director's touch is much more distinct here than it ever was in his 2000s superhero efforts. Helming a trilogy that earned over a billion dollars worldwide apparently has Raimi feeling his oats, with the resulting Multiverse of Madness being the scariest thing the MCU has done.

Not counting Kumail Nanjiani's dancing in Eternals, of course.

From the opening scene, in which Strange experiences visions of a version of himself electing to kill America rather than allow a demon to absorb her powers, to scenes evoking everything from The Ring to Raimi's own Drag Me to Hell, the movie seems as interested in creeping audiences out as it does advancing Marvel's "Phase Four" workplan.

Not that it does a hell of a lot in that regard. MoM does expand the multiverse concept introduced in — let's see, Loki, What If...?, and Spider-Man: No Way Home — and features a few nifty cameos (one of which you probably already guessed from the trailer). It also more or less concludes the storyline begun in WandaVision.

But as to where any of this is going, your guess is as good as mine. For example, Kang was apparently introduced as the next Big Bad in Loki, but he's nowhere to be found here. Turning a former Avenger into the villain is a nice twist, and Olsen can be terrifying (there's a chase scene in an underground tunnel that wouldn't have been out of place in the original Nightmare on Elm Street), but her motivation is thin, to say the least.

That's still enough for the Scarlet Witch to full-on murder dozens of people in this movie. Opponents are crushed, disemboweled (mostly off camera), neck snapped, and — in one scene you won't forget — literally ripped to shreds. It's mostly bloodless, as befits the dictates of Big Mouse, but Raimi wrings every drop out of that PG-13 rating.

So congrats to Kevin Feige on his first horror movie, and for finally introducing Deadites (well, shit-talking demons, but still) to the MCU.

But it's a horror movie that doesn't go anywhere. Once you pare out the scary stuff and the fan service, the story is — to coin a phrase — a nothingburger. Raimi reportedly began shooting with only a half-finished script, and it shows. Gimmicks are usually no substitute for a plot, not so you'd notice from Phase Four to this point.

Also? The magic in these movies is dumb. It's a supernatural version of Star Trek's tech, in which Strange and Wanda's spellcasting fulfill whatever requirement the moment calls for, even if it's something never introduced in 27 previous movies (*cough* "dreamwalking" *cough*).

Feige, like James Cameron before him, is probably the last person we should underestimate when it comes to endgames (heh), but the Infinity Saga concluded three years and six movies ago and it's hard to see where any of this is going.

What About "The Classic?" Raimi's beloved 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 is rumored to have a cameo in Multiverse of Madness. Alas, I did not spot it.

Ask A 12-Year Old:
RFTED: Well, what'd you think?
12YO: It was ... unsettling. But in a good way.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar