Saturday, May 7, 2022

A little something for the weekend?


A spoiler-free review by Blix Dresden

To date there are 29 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Avengers (2012) has just celebrated its 10-year-anniversary. Saying there is a bit of pregame to this film is an understatement, and before going into this blood-soaked banger, it’s strongly recommended that the viewer has a grasp of Avengers: Endgame/Infinity War, WandaVision, and a few episodes of “What If...?” (located on Disney+).

This is without doubt a Sam Raimi movie, just with Kevin Feige holding the kill-switch. Some fans may feel cheated as it narratively negates foundations provided by WandaVision. Without having seen all 9 episodes of the Disney+ show, some viewers may grumble at certain character motives (rather important ones) displayed in the final act of the film. A quick IMDB reveals it was written by Michael Waldron, who also wrote Loki, one of the only Disney+ shows I've yet to see. I’m judging no one for decisions imposed by Disney concerning the final cut. Sam Raimi himself has claimed this film originally clocked in slightly under 3 hours.

Snipping 30 minutes of footage, alongside with reshoots and a director walking out over creative differences, can take a toll on an assembly cut. It’s rough on the reels, so to say. And baby, Multiverse of Madness absolutely delivers in it's namesake’s regard. Though it does suffer studio possession, which only seems adequate at this point for Raimi’s career.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a sequel to several previous Marvel/Disney properties, with classic Hammer film homages, visual Wizard of Oz references, and mood reminiscent of The Terminator and Evil Dead II. It doubles-down on chaotic fan-service juxtaposed with a fast-paced, savage, and majestic flex concerning our sorcerer in question, Dr. Stephen Strange (performed once more by Benedict Cumberbatch with eloquent bravado). It’s messy, it’s ridiculous, and most of all it’s visually terrifying. Hogwarts this is not.

Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda/Scarlett Witch) stole the show!  She managed to channel Sissy Spacek’s performance as Carrie (1976) in every twist through this kaleidoscope of realities, and it only got darker. She was horrifying, tragic, dare-say portrayed as an emotionally confused anti-hero. Her comparisons to Carrie ended appropriately at the blood, as her schizoid-written arc somehow swings her back to friendly Disney territory in the end. In my opinion, it is a significant standout performance, though strongly derivative of past angst-performances that had less studio constriction (See The Neon Demon, 2016).

Though this film has a PG-13 rating, it is bluntly working against continuing Marvel’s kid-friendly themes. Anyone familiar with Raimi’s horror roots may feel oddly comfortable with the final product—an MCU fan may feel the continuation of the Marvel Saga is exhilarating, but I personally left the theater feeling results of previous films were discarded entirely, the emotional punch turning to merely a swollen bruise.

Unfortunately, the script wasn’t chiseled enough, and its frisky logic defined that fault; for example, there was a scene where Christine Palmer (Rachael McAdams) attempts to break a glass cell meant to imprison superheroes—with a fire extinguisher! I’ve also heard one of the most triumphant retinal “Pops!” of my entire cinematic experience thus to date.

It’s almost like a Troma movie, with a bit more color, money, and content restriction. Though it does ooze.

A thrill-ride does exists through the vitreous mulch infecting the plot, but it is held back by misuse of characters and lost opportunities. One can only be curious what exactly was left out of Raimi’s near 3-hour cut of the film.

I was very surprised by newcomer Xochitl Gomez. What she lacked in talented gravitas, she made up for in gentle charm and thankfully wasn’t constricted to being the sidekick. American Chavez will easily be welcomed to the MCU.

Let’s hope her next feature provides more character development and room to warp deeper into the mayhem of the multiverse.

Overall, it was an exceptionally great time, though only time will tell how relative.

Speaking as a comic-shop junkie. I give it a solid 7/10.



Blix Dresden is a resident of Asheville, NC. He lives with his wonderful lady and three psychotic cats. He has been working on his first novel.