Film review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

The Marvel films are now “largely indistinguishable dollops of digital gloop”, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph, but if you like watching a load of branded characters “wisecrack, squabble and mope while pretending to fly around and shoot fireballs”, this film should hit the spot. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Strange, a surgeon-turned-sorcerer who first turned up in the franchise in 2016. In this instalment, he gets into a scrap with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), an embittered witch who is using a book of evil spells to wreak havoc. One of the film’s main points of interest is that it’s directed by Sam Raimi, the maestro behind the Evil Dead trilogy and the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies; but although there are trademark Raimi flourishes – including “much demonic wailing” – he has stuck to the franchise’s “fussily restrictive rule set”. The result is a superficial film made in Marvel’s ubiquitous “house style, with Raimi-flavouring sprinkled on top”.

Not only has Raimi been wasted on this, said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times, but so has Olsen, “a fine actress who once took a single step into the Marvel-verse” and now seems “unable to get out”. There’s little more to this film than “long passages of semi-intelligible exposition” interspersed with “glittering set pieces”. As for the plot, which involves Doctor Strange popping up in various different realities, it seems to have been “modelled on a plate of seafood linguine”. 

Well, I rather enjoyed the film, said Libby Purves in the Daily Mail. Yes, it’s “Marvel on amphetamines”, with “cultural references from every century, religion and Saturday matinee cliché” crammed in, but it’s also “massively entertaining” – even if, like me, “you gave up superhero movies 50 years ago”.

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