“we could never truly leave each other even if we tried” – wanda to her sons or elizabeth olsen on her contract
multiverses are hot right now. and as they should be! they’re fun and add endless possibilities to the narrative (or in marvel’s case, endless ways to milk the same intellectual property). however for the multiverse to really work, that is meaningfully and effectively, it needs to place a certain amount of trust in its audience and be mold breaking. this is something that seems to be especially difficult for marvel. to it’s credit, they have damn near perfected their formula to create a well oiled machine that can just chug out the same story disguised as something else and gain earth-shattering returns at the box office. i mean people eat. this. up. that being said, while obviously the multiverse exists in the marvel comics, the idea seems antithetical to the MCU, which in many ways lacks the heart and vulnerability that made everything everywhere all at once so successful. still, though, dr strange in the multiverse of madness makes significant strides towards diverging from the the classic marvel formula, much to the credit of sam raimi, and is able to lean a bit further than ever into other genres, in this case, horror. still, the film is riddled with classic marvel-isms that sanitize and unimmerse the viewer from the especially exciting narrative.
like any other marvel property, there is an excruciating laundry list of content you need to see before watching multiverse of madness in order to truly understand what’s going on (ultron, dr. strange, infinity war, endgame, wandavision, etc.) but, thanks to sam raimi, you can for the most part scrape by and infer what’s going on with little background knowledge. the film begins with the questionable cgi that haunts the film throughout with one especially eye-opening moment (iykyk, also how does this even happen y’alls budget is 200 million), and follows stephen strange (benedict cumberbatch, who manages to give a lackluster performance just a year after his career’s best in power of the dog, hey, blame the writing not him) after the events of spider-man: no way home. after meeting a new character in need of guidance and protection (who is incredibly forgetable i fear), they embark on some seriously boring and cringeworthy conversations and action sequences for about the first 20 minutes of the movie. then we see wanda. i cannot emphasize enough how heavily elizabeth olsen’s wanda carried this film on her back. i was seriously blown away by her performance, especially considering i thought she was pretty mediocre/ just fine in wandavision. her performance and character serve as a conduit for all the horror sam raimi masterfully orchestrates with the increased creative freedom offered to him by the studio. there is about a 30-40 minute good horror film packed into the second act of multiverse of madness, which was unfortunately broken up by tonally inconsistent and unnecessary on-the-nose snarky dialogue and storytelling which marvel loves so dearly. part of the reason for the success of this stretch of the film is the electrifying score by danny elfman, who never misses.
i don’t think a marvel movie will ever be capital c Cinema, and that’s fine, that’s not what it’s meant to be. but, while the ending and mid/post-credit scenes leave a lot up in the air, if this is any indication, (and i say this with very very bated breath), marvel may be taking a turn towards a more refined level of filmmaking and genre work if they continue to allow more creative freedom to their directors as well as their narrative structure. at the end of the day, the sentiment the filmmaking/ going world is left with after consuming any marvel product is, yes that was fun, but how sustainable is this? can marvel continue to go on to be the unprecedented powerhouse it is, restricting anything else from even scraping the top ten and regardless, should we even let that happen. marvel seems to have planned out the next ten years of content so i guess we shall see.
VERDICT: i was gagging a little here and there
Cinematic Realness Seal of Approval: Elizabeth Olsen