After six years, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finally has his second solo film and this time the stakes couldn’t be greater. When America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenage girl with the power to travel between universes, finds herself chased by a monster into our world, it’s up to the good Doctor to step into the multiverse to stop a madness that’s closer to home.
When this film was first announced it was touted as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first “horror” movie and naturally there was some scepticism on my part. After all, these are fun formulaic family-friendly films for the masses. But now the film is finally out, and I am very happy to say this was a really fun time that is at its most enjoyable when it embraces the horror promise. All of that is down to the masterful direction of Sam Raimi, who returns to superheroes after last helming the original Spider-Man trilogy. There are a lot of Raimi trademarks such as Dutch angles, quick zooms, demons, ghosts, dark magic and even some surprisingly gory deaths that sit this film right alongside his Evil Dead trilogy. One scene, in particular, has the film’s villain (who shall remain unnamed so as to keep the surprise) attack unsuspecting foes by pulling them through reflections. They then enter the room through one of these reflections, their body twisted and contorted. It’s tense, gnarly stuff that’s more akin to The Exorcist than Ant-Man.
Another highlight of the film was the performance of Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff which is very hard to write about without spoiling so all I shall say is she was absolutely the highlight. Newcomer Xochitl Gomez was also a fun addition to the cast and has great chemistry with Cumberbatch. A lot of discourse is also being given to this film’s cameos, of which there are some good ones but thankfully they aren’t distracting inclusions. I have a sneaky feeling these fans will be disappointed by how quick the cameos are but for myself, I was relieved as ultimately this is a Doctor Strange film and he should be the focus.
It wasn’t a perfect film though. The script and plot definitely needed more work. There were a few clunky lines of dialogue and the first half-hour in particular is a lot of exposition. The film also seemed a little rushed in parts and could have used some more time to breathe. It felt that Marvel was trying their hardest to stick to a 2-hour runtime whilst cramming in a lot of stuff. I got the feeling that there was a slightly longer cut out there that could help with some of the pacing.
These are minor complaints though really as the film worked for me, purely on the Raimi flair and bonkers inter-dimensional fun. You can really feel the affinity that Raimi has for the 60s Marvel Comics, and I hope that he stays on for another multiversal outing.