Summer Movie Preview

From left, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange are in a scene from "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

The summer blockbuster season has started and Marvel Studios is back at it with its newest film, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Benedict Wong reprising their roles as Strange and his friend Wong, respectively. This time fellow Avenger Elizabeth Olsen — Wanda in “WandaVision” — joins the cast.

This is Marvel's first summer movie since 2019 due to the reshuffling of its release schedule. It also picks up on plot threads introduced in the 2021 releases of Disney+ miniseries “WandaVision" and “Loki” as well as last year's box office hit “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Helmed by Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man" (2002), “Evil Dead”), the movie is the first to incorporate horror elements into the long-running film franchise. As the MCU has expanded, the producers, including head honcho Kevin Feige, have taken some risks in the tone of some films.

The first “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie was a first because it was willing to incorporate rather unpopular comic characters in a space opera-style science fiction extravaganza. The “Multiverse of Madness” turns into that same skid, feeling very much like a twisting haunted house of mirrors.

The performances are decent. Cumberbatch feels comfortable in the role of Strange; he really has the character dialed in. What’s fun for the audience is seeing him playing different variations of the character from alternate universes; while each one has roughly the same personality, something is drastically different, with some posing danger to the heroes.

Raimi brings his signature style to the movie, directing the camera angles and other visuals in a way meant to keep the audience feeling off-kilter and disoriented as one would expect while traveling across the multiverse.

But more inspired than the camera work is the music. Raimi partnered with Danny Elfman whom he worked with on his "Spider-Man" trilogy in the early to mid-2000s. Elfman’s score uses familiar bars from classical music during a particular fight where Strange's weapon of choice is the notes on sheet music.

As the environment becomes more twisted and confusing, the music matches that tone, becoming more discordant with the ever-changing universe Strange travels.

There are plenty of fun surprises that got leaked early on through promotional media but the movie is still full of surprises, including a nod to a previous television entry in the MCU as well as a much-demanded piece of fan casting.

Of the movies — not counting the Disney+ series — released during Marvel’s Phase 4, “Multiverse of Madness” is the strongest entry into the franchise next to “No Way Home.” While it has suffered in the global markets due to being banned in China and parts of the Middle East for various reasons, the movie is still doing well at the box office.

If you’re a fan of the franchise or just Raimi as a director, you will enjoy this movie.

Garrett K. Jones is a local fantasy author.  He currently has four books released in his ongoing series, and he produces a vlog on YouTube and the Creator's Corner podcast (available on Spotify, Google, & Apple).  IG/Twitter:  @gkj_publishing

Feel free to contact him with title suggestions of films you’d like him to review.