Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reviews say Sam Raimi lets his 'freak flag fly'
Monday night saw the first screenings of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the sequel to the Marvel sorcerer's 2016 film, this time costarring Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff. Critics still seem like they're wrapping their heads around the reality-hopping odyssey that is the latest MCU jaunt, but one thing is for sure: this is definitely a Sam Raimi film.
Members of the press praised the wacky and wild sensibilities from the director behind such campy horror films as The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and Drag Me to Hell. As EW's own critic Leah Greenblatt puts it, "Give Sam Raimi and multiverse, and he will take a mile."
After directing the original live-action Spider-Man movie trilogy, Raimi now "freely treats it as license to let his freak flag fly, though it takes him about an hour to work up to full pandemonium, maybe because he has so much mythology and green screen to work in," Greenblatt writes.
While much of the action and CG wizardry is pretty standard Marvel fair, according to some critics, IndieWire's David Ehrlich says Raimi is able to create "a violent, wacky, drag-me-to-several-different-hells at once funhouse of a film."
"The director will show flashes of his distinctive style in the very next sequence," The Hollywood Reporter's John Defore writes, "and by the end, Madness will become the first Marvel adventure in which a rotting corpse rises to fight alongside the good guys and a swarm of inky demons assembles like a hellish Voltron."
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness returns Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, who encounters a young America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) on the run from various creatures trying to nab her. America has the unique power to open portals into other realities in the multiverse, and someone wants that power for themself.
That figure turns out to be Wanda Maximoff. Still grieving the loss of her family during the events of WandaVision and now fully corrupted by the Book of the Damned, a.k.a. the Darkhold, the Scarlet Witch wants America's power so she can find a reality where her children are still alive. Thus begins the wild romp that ensues as Stephen and America plunge through the vastness of the multiverse.
See more reviews below.
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
"Give Sam Raimi a multiverse, and he will take a mile. The director's take on Doctor Strange (in theaters May 6) feels like many disparate and often deeply confusing things — comedy, camp horror, maternal drama, sustained fireball — but it is also not like any other Marvel movie that came before it. And 23 films into the franchise, that's a wildly refreshing thing, even as the story careens off in more directions than the Kaiju-sized octo-beast who storms into an early scene, bashing its tentacles through small people and tall buildings like an envoy from some nightmare aquarium."
Pete Hammond (Deadline)
"When you bring Sam Raimi into the Marvel Cinematic Universe you can bet you are going to get something different, and that is definitely the case with his pretty scary take on the latest MCU entry, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. Though Raimi is well versed in the Marvel comic book world having directed the first Spider-Man trilogy he is just as well known for many other genres, certainly for his horror filmography including The Evil Dead and Drag Me To Hell among a lot more, and here he successfully and entertainingly gets to mix that kind of dark, terrifying storytelling with beloved established characters in the MCU."
Justin Chang (The Los Angeles Times)
"Double, double, gargoyles and rubble: There are witchy doings and evil twins aplenty in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the spookily unhinged new entry in the Marvel Cinematic — uh, Universe? Multiverse? Whatever we're supposed to call this increasingly hydra-headed Disney content behemoth, it has rarely ventured in a direction this playful, this ghoulish, this exuberantly grotesque. That's another way of saying that the latest Strange brew — full of mangled extremities, gouged eyeballs and other freaky flourishes — is the satisfying handiwork of the director Sam Raimi, whose long-overdue return to feature filmmaking is no less welcome for being tied to Hollywood's most continually fatted cash cow."
Stephanie Zacharek (Time)
"Because not even a Sam Raimi Marvel movie can be an actual Sam Raimi movie, in which all the available tools are used to best advantage. The tools aren't the problem; it's the requirements for using them, which are limiting to any director. Raimi's long and robust resume includes three more-or-less delightful Spider-Man movies, a spicy western starring Sharon Stone (The Quick and the Dead), and the justly legendary zombie movie Evil Dead (1981), which has spawned several sequels and a remake. Among Raimi's numerous gifts as a filmmaker is his sardonic touch, though he never gives in to empty cynicism. That vibe, at least, permeates this Doctor Strange, even if most of the action — extravagant, messy, so over-the-top crazy that it ceases to be amazing — is business as usual in the Marvel world."
David Ehrlich (IndieWire)
"But the fact remains that Raimi is a natural-born scrapper who's always thrived on limitations. Many of his films (e.g. The Evil Dead and A Simple Plan) have tapped into a pure darkness underlying the seductive promise of infinite possibility, while others (take a wild guess) have displayed a deep conviction that power demands responsibility. He is, for those same reasons, the ideal person to offer Marvel the gentle gut-check it's needed for so long, the ideal person to tell a story about what happens after you open Pandora's box, and to do so in a way that allows the MCU and its fans to find a measure of peace in the idea that they have to move forward — no matter how much it hurts. That's not enough to make Multiverse of Madness a great movie, but it is enough to make it a real Sam Raimi movie."
Amelia Emberwing (IGN)
"If there's one thing Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness accomplishes, it's putting the final nail in the coffin of the idea that directors aren't allowed to put their distinct stylistic stamps on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Filmmakers like James Gunn, Taika Waititi, and Chloe Zhao all offered their respective MCU movies their quintessential style, of course, but there's something about this newest chapter that feels like it's screaming that these films are becoming the rule, not the exception. From top to bottom — and for better and for worse — Multiverse of Madness is a Sam Raimi movie through and through."
John Defore (The Hollywood Reporter)
"Longtime Sam Raimi fans may be deflated by an early scene in his return to superhero films, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. When every sorcerer in the Himalayan hideout of Kamar-Taj takes up arms against the planet's most powerful threat, a vast, billowing stormcloud would seem to herald a battle with plenty of room for Army of Darkness-style mayhem. But instead of Harryhausen skeletons and whiplash camera moves, we get the usual 'my magic CGI rays are stronger than your magic CGI rays' business, albeit with a bit of mind-control thrown in. Don't despair yet: The director will show flashes of his distinctive style in the very next sequence, and by the end, Madness will become the first Marvel adventure in which a rotting corpse rises to fight alongside the good guys and a swarm of inky demons assembles like a hellish Voltron. Cameras tilt and reflections do scary things."
Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
"It's a movie set in several universes at once, and it keeps shooting off into ever more insane dimensions of alternate reality. Its story doesn't develop so much as it multiplies. In theory, this should multiply the fun, though that's not necessarily the way it works out. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is a ride, a head trip, a CGI horror jam, a what-is-reality Marvel brainteaser and, at moments, a bit of an ordeal. It's a somewhat engaging mess, but a mess all the same."
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out in theaters this Friday.
Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.