Monday, May 27, 2024

Review: “Dr. Strange” is Back in Another Suavely Made, Shiny Marvel Hit



You can almost bet on the idea that if I like a super hero or comic book movie, I’ll be in the minority.

So is it alright to say I really enjoyed “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”? This is the second film to feature Benedict Cumberbatch as the wizard like super hero, but he’s been in other Marvel films aka the Marvel universe.

But when the Avengers’ story came to an end, Marvel invoked the “multi-verse” so that old characters could come in new stories from parallel time warps or something. I liken it to changing trains on the LIRR at Jamaica for one of several routes. I could be one Roger on the way to Far Rockaway, one going to Great Neck, and another Patchogue.

So Dr. Steven Strange has one life where he’s screwed up his relationship with Rachel McAdams to the point where he’s attending her wedding to someone else. Meantime, a teen girl he’s never seen before (charming newcomer Xochitl Gomez) drops in from another universe. She has the power to cross all multiverses– in other words, she can go from Great Neck to Patchogue without going back to Jamaica. Because of that the evil Scarlett Witch, aka Wanda from Wanda from Wanda Vision– Elisabeth Olsen — wants to grab her and take that power so she can rule the galaxies.

Meantime, presumably, regular people are on Earth going to CVS and Dairy Queen unaware of this misghegos in the skies.

There are Easter eggs galore and a ton of references to other movies. That’s what sends fans back to these things over and over. But “Doctor Strange 2” as I will call it also directed by Sam Raimi, who made the first three “Spider Man” movies with Tobey Maguire so enjoyable. He’s given this film a comic book feel, irreverent and jaunty, and meta enough to feel smart.

I digress here to say kudos to the production design team, everyone in special effects, the whole below the line crew which in the end credits look like walls of names. They hae topped all previous Marvel movies with their precise and innovative work. Martin Scorsese would not appreciate it, but did!

Back to the movie: Gomez’s character is named America, so a lot of proclamations made about her, especially toward the end, could be construed as thoughts about this country. Stan Lee would approve. Raimi has brought in cult actor Bruce Campbell from the director’s own “Evil Dead” series. Well played, gentlemen. Several Marvel characters turn up in an alternate universe to help Doctor Strange and none of it works out. Still, it’s a different universe so I’m not worried about them.

The big SPOILER is that John Krasinski appears as Dr. Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four. This would suggest that a new “FF4” movie is coming with Krasinski in the lead role. And why not? The audience let out a howl when they saw him. Another cameo is from Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier from “X Men.”

I never thought when Benedict Cumberbatch was starting out that this classical actor with Oscar aspirations would wind up in the Marvel universe as a comic book hero. But hey. Laurence Olivier might have gone in this very direction. Cumberbatch certainly classes up the joint. Elisabeth Olsen as Wanda continues to be as charming as ever. I was thrilled to see Hayley Atwell in her cameo, as well as Lashana Lynch. Michael Stuhlbarg is a gem as a new character in the series. As for Rachel McAdams, I want to see her in some great “real” movies, but she’s a pleasure as the gal Steven Strange can’t get out of his head.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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