Benedict Cumberbatch makes his first official sequel as Marvel’s Doctor Strange, although he’s appeared in many other Marvel movies since the first film was released in 2016. The core concept of this movie has dramatic potential, casting one of the good guys, Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff, as the new villain. Wanda’s character arc is one of the more compelling ones in the Marvel universe. After losing her brother, lover, and children, she’s a prime target for the powers of temptation. In this film, we see her finally embrace her dark side, becoming the Scarlet Witch, and trying to cross over into alternate universes where she can be with other versions of her children.
The concept’s emotional potential, however, relies on viewers having seen previous films and the WandaVision television show. If you come into Multiverse of Madness cold, it won’t have the same effect. The film’s other two assets are Cumberbatch — always cool in a cape — and director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Evil Dead), who bends this particular chapter in a darker, more visceral direction than Marvel usually goes. For all the imaginative potential a multiverse offers, the film sticks mainly to just two universes (including our own), with only a brief moment where we get glimpses of other ones. The film moves briskly, with screenwriter Michael Waldron generating explanations for everything as it goes. It’s never as cogent or engaging as you’d want it to be, but for a popcorn munching diversion, it’s another superhero movie that suffices.
With Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, and Xochitl Gomez as a young teenager with multiverse-crossing powers Strange is trying to protect from the Scarlet Witch. There are also a few fun cameos.