The 28th big-screen film in the ongoing interconnected Marvel verse, and 34th released title overall, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” looks like a 1950s sci-fi flick – a self-aware cult favorite -same. Unfortunately, since the arrogant and pompous main character doesn’t do well in stand-alone, Marvel made it a “crossover movie” involving other major characters. Sadly too, and unlike the team-up theme of “The Avengers” movies, this is more of an intersection of multiple storylines than a cooperative effort.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” feels like a 1950s sci-fi movie – a self-aware cult favorite.
What is that isin order, is a direct sequel to the Disney+ series “WandaVision,” a continuation of the multiverse introduced in “Loki,” a complement to the alternate characters introduced in “What If…,” and purportedly a follow-up to “Spider- Man: No Way Home,” featuring cameos that tie together the past two decades of disparate Marvel films into a single narrative. It’s also an origin story for a proud new Latinx teenage LGBTQ+ superhero, America Chavez.
Oh, and it’s a zombie movie.
In fact, to call it a superhero movie would be a misnomer. It’s a horror movie that happens to star superhero characters. There is no rescue of the world, there are practically no superpowers. Other than Chavez, it’s all witchcraft and wizardry, minus Hogwarts.
Of course, that doesn’t always work. The beginning of the film is particularly tense; you want the characters (and the director) to breathe. Let those emotional moments strike! But the show must go on – and quickly – to avoid what could easily have been a 3.5 hour runtime.
The pandemic is also wreaking havoc, albeit in more subtle ways. In the original pre-2020 release plan, the film would have hit theaters less than a week after the “WandaVision” finale aired, and its story suffers from this prolonged and unforeseen separation. Also, as originally conceived, it would have been the introduction of “Loki” and “What If…” to become “Spider-Man: No Way Home”. Despite additional dialogue reflecting the changes, there were times when reversing the release order weakened the overall final product, leaving it laden with additional storytelling.
And yet, the film is thoroughly entertaining. Despite the jumbled pace of the first hour, once the film settles into the zombie movie it wants to be, things start to click. Parents be warned – this is the scariest and bloodiest Marvel movie yet. (Marvel movies are noticeably bloodless, considering the amount of CGI combat that usually takes place in the third act.) There are genuine jump scares, a real feeling that the villains might take this one. , several fan favorites die variously, and director Sam Raimi even found a way to incorporate his muse, Bruce Campbell, into the proceedings. It’s not quite “Marvel’s Evil Dead”, but it’s as close as it gets.
Love it or hate it – the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains the force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.
It also means love it or hate it – the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains the force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Ticket pre-sales this weekend were massive; estimates suggest the film alone could gross between $150 million and $200 million domestically over the opening weekend. That’s a sales figure the domestic box office barely managed to reach with all releases combined this year, and one that will even eclipse other superhero hits like “The Batman.” It will be the first time a film in this pandemic box office has managed to come close to that number since the last bright spot for theaters, Marvel’s previous release, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Indeed, since cinemas reopened en masse in 2021, there has been a common factor in every box office swell – a Marvel movie release. The company’s ability to beat the pandemic box office blues has been remarkable. Like it or not, the MCU has invented a playbook to succeed in a highly fractured entertainment industry where the flood of content has overwhelmed the consumer. It’s a brand that people now trust to keep them entertained, regardless of the stars of the movie, the characters it features, or the genre it’s actually about.
This ability to be entertaining even when the film fails to fire on all cylinders is part of the Marvel brand identity. It’s the Maytag of cinema.
Once upon a time, critics watched Marvel’s surge in popularity and wondered when that superhero bubble would burst. But that perspective doesn’t provide insight into what Marvel actually built. This “Dr. Weird” epic is one of the best examples yet of how the empire created by Kevin Feige manages to continue to succeed time and time again. Perhaps its rivals should take note. .