Remember reading those early adventures of Dr. Strange and wishing you could see artist Steve Ditko’s crazy reality-tearing images on the big screen?
Turns out, you can. Using the universes created by the late Ditko as a canvas, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens the door to the next phase of the Marvel Comics Universe, and it’s amazing.
Dr. Strange, which opens May 6 (Free Comic Book Day weekend,) is the latest Marvel release as it restructures itself after the loss of powerhouses like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and other Avengers.
The characters in The Multiverse of Madness are a mixture of older adventurers from the comics, like Strange himself, played wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch, and newer, scene-stealing heroes like America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). Dr. Strange has been cast as the new lynchpin of the Marvel universe, performing minor but pivotal roles in Avengers and Spider-Man movies.
The first Dr. Strange solo film from 2016 set the character in motion, but this newest outing allows the character to show what he is capable of. So much happens in this film it’s almost impossible to describe it without revealing major spoilers.
That being said, the plot revolves around America Chavez, a teenage girl with the power to crack through the many different universes in the Marvel multiverse. She pops up in midtown Manhattan with the monstrous (and unnamed) Shuma Gorath behind her in all its tentacled horror. The monster, an ancient god, was first seen in Conan’s Hyperborean age, and actually made its debut in an early Dr. Strange story.
The entire multiverse is collapsing and only Dr. Strange, former student Wong (Benedict Wong) who is now Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, and America Chavez can stop it. When Strange seeks help from another Marvel magician, the Scarlet Witch (Elizbeth Olsen), he learns that she is far more than she appears. Olsen reprises her role from the eclectic WandaVision television series, ratcheting the character up in the power department.
There are many GOTCHA moments in the new film, with unexpected characters popping up at crucial moments. One is the return of the evil Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), or at least a version of the adversary who was introduced in the second comic appearance of Dr. Strange. This version is far more complicated than the one in the comics.
If there is one breakout character in the film, it’s Gomez as America Chavez. She manages to avoid the teenage sidekick label and establishes America as a force to be reckoned with. The second breakout character is Wong, an actor who commands any scene he’s in.
There are two post credit scenes. One teases the sequel to the film and the other a silly moment a fan-favorite actor who has a scene early in the film.
Director Sam Raimi, obviously a comics lover, respectfully ties in all kinds of bits and pieces of the Marvel Universe, even some that are under the purview of other studios. Hopefully, this signals further collusion of the disparate Marvel characters into one universe, as they did in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The film runs a tad more than two hours, which fly past.