‘Multiverse of Madness’ is a cheesy horror movie

photo of Dr. Strange with magic coming out of hands.
The second Dr. Strange movie after the debut in 2016, “Multiverse of Madness” marks a new era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons).

The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” premiered last week, raking in $450 million opening weekend globally. The film sees Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) face off against Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in full Scarlet Witch mode. Watching Wanda live up to her full villain potential does not disappoint; the film takes the Marvel villain role farther than it has ever been before.

Doctor Strange trades in his independent and highly sarcastic nature to save a girl from malevolent forces that want her powers. This is the introduction of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager capable of jumping between multiverses when she is in fear. Gomez is endearing and natural in her role as Chavez, but the introduction of the new character is hard to fully embrace amid the outrageous twists of the film’s plot. Audiences get an entertaining taste of Cumberbatch’s acting range as they encounter different versions of Dr. Strange in alternate universes with some splashy cameos that are just as random as they are comical.

Sam Raimi, who made his MCU directorial debut with the film, sets himself apart from other directors as he does not include all the signature tropes and stylistic choices that usually come with a Marvel movie. Known for his directorial work with both the original Spider-Man films and the Evil Dead franchise, audiences were met with a surprising amount of horror-genre elements, much to the shock and delight of fans.

Olsen is quite literally a monster. Her portrayal of the Scarlet Witch takes the Marvel villain archetype to a new level with a shocking death count for an MCU film. With black-stained fingers and the iconic, blood-red crown headpiece, Wanda’s pain and suffering from the loss of her self-fabricated children from ‘Wandavision’ shine through the character’s alter ego thanks to Olsen’s powerful acting skills.

Danny Elfman brings some nostalgia to the film with a spooky and thrilling score that serves as a breath of fresh air in the MCU. One particular track towards the end of the film involves a tribute to classical composers in the midst of a mind-blowing battle scene between Doctor Strange and his evil alter ego from another universe. It’s fun to have such an unpredictable inclusion of classical music in such a massive superhero franchise film — indeed, at certain points, it’s easy to forget that this is an MCU film at all.

The atmosphere and tone of the film is so eerie that it becomes bizarre and hilarious when Raimi’s cheesy horror elements and ‘80s-esque dialogue ensue. The film’s sentimentality is often corny, attributing back to Raimi’s emotional Spider-Man films and their ruminations on responsibility. Raimi incorporates a lot of this contemplation of morality in the film as Doctor Strange explores what is truly important in life. He battles with his past failures, especially his decisions in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” and his relationship with Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The scenes between the two are as cliché as ever, and audiences experience a softer side of Doctor Strange — the relationship arc as a whole is reminiscent of the central couple from the original Spider-Man films.

In the end, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” isn’t as much of a Marvel film as it is Raimi’s game. It seems he had the time of his life taking the MCU on a cheesy and pretty gorey spin, despite the legendary franchise having no history with such elements. The question remains whether it was refreshing and shocking for fans or if they are just too far removed from the iconic themes of the MCU.