Dangers of a fractured mind

MARVEL Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has achieved not only the biggest opening day since Avengers: Endgame which was released in April 2019, but is also the franchise’s second biggest opening day of all time. Released nationwide on May 4, the film raked in over RM7 million on its first day of release.

Multiverse of Madness is a sequel to Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home, in that it recalls action from both films and expands on the main character’s universe-saving decision from the former. It’s also a direct sequel to WandaVision, the television show that kickstarted Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Multiverse of Madness opens with a monstrous octopus chasing a young girl called America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) throughout realities, wreaking mayhem. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) rush into action, only to discover that America is being hunted for her ability to travel between different realities.

The story expands from there, dragging us into an alternately comical and gruesome tale that pauses every now and then to unleash a tidal wave of sorrow.

Some anguish is expressed by Doctor Stephen Strange, the sarcastic neurosurgeon turned great red-cloaked sorcerer who still cares for his former lover and colleague, Doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). However, the true emotional weight of this drama is carried not by Strange, but by his old friend Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who has used her powerful skills to blot out the agony of her many painful losses.

Wanda, who is still grieving the loss of her children at the end of the Disney+ show and is enslaved by the evil Darkhold, a book of evil, is willing to go to any lengths to live in a universe where she still has her children, causing chaos for Strange, Wong and America, in a battle that ends up involving Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a few familiar faces, and some new faces with familiar names.

In particular, Olsen shines as Wanda. When her abilities are awakened, she becomes a fearsome force, yet she remains a sympathetic and even miserable individual.

Sixteen-year-old Gomez, a newcomer to the MCU, plays the brave America Chavez, who is known in the comics as Miss America. Even though her underutilised role retreads No Way Home‘s running joke about Strange being grouchy with wide-eyed youngsters, Gomez adds a vibrant glow to the film.

Wong, along the rest of the ensemble, remains one of the MCU’s most endearing minor characters. And even with his modest role, Ejiofor’s returning friend-turned-foe Mordo perfectly expresses his emotional distress.

Many MCU fans have been yearning for something like Multiverse of Madness. Sam Raimi is the ideal director for delivering some actual blood, gore, and violence, even if it’s done in the most family-friendly and vibrant way conceivable.

Raimi, well known for his gory work in the Evil Dead trilogy and Drag Me to Hell, returns with gouged-out eyeballs, revived ghouls and shaky demonic camera angles.

Even though the film’s main hero feels a little lost and misplaced, a great core pursuit keeps the story going, and the combination of adventure, horror, and action is matched with a flair befitting of confident superhero Doctor Strange himself. Marvel’s winning approach may be a formula, but the addition of strangeness keeps it fresh and exciting.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theatres.

DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi

CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Xochitl Gomez

E-VALUE: 8

ACTING: 9

PLOT: 8