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'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' conjures wacky thrills

Film Review - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Posted at 10:45 AM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 11:46:55-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Doctor Strange's latest outing makes every effort to emphasize the "strange" aspect.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is outrageously wacky and off-the-wall. It starts with an interdimensional face-off with a one-eyed, Lovecraftian, dimension-skipping octopus.

And then things start to get weird.

Benedict Cumberbatch is back as the title character, an egotistical sorcerer who struggles with his hunger for power and control. Ever-brooding over his scuttled relationship with Christine (Rachel McAdams), he yearns for purpose and fulfillment.

The fabric of interconnected parallel universes seems to be falling apart all around him, but all this guy needs is a hug.

He finds urgency, if not fulfilment, when he discovers a powerful young girl who needs protection. Xochitl Gomez plays America Chavez, who seems to be the target of a nefarious dimension-hopper.

We also get a visit from Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), along with a host of eye-popping appearances from characters crawling out of various corners of the Marvel Cinemaic multiverse.

There are so many oddball sights, in fact, that you may need a flow chart to keep track of not only who is who, but what version of that character and why that character is played by which actor.

To get the most out of the film, you've got a list of prerequisites that rivals a grad-level college course. In particular, you'll need a working knowledge of the Disney+ series "Marvel's What If...?" and "WandaVision" to fully understand the wacky goings-on. A working knowledge of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" and a deep background in the X-Men movies of the early 2000s will also help.

Even if you can't quite keep track of what's going on, the film never ceases to be fun or exciting.

Director Sam Raimi leans hard into his supernatural horror roots, unearthing memories of his "Evil Dead" days with some jump-scares and gallows humor. Even one of his favorite old go-to stars shows up in an extended cameo.

Also back are some of Raimi's less-appreciated qualities, such as drawing broad, B-movie-level performances out of otherwise decent actors. Olsen, in particular, is comically bad in this film.

Oh, well. You can't get everything right when you're playing bumper cars with alternate realities. I'm just glad that this strange, flawed and beautiful film found its way into our dimension.

Watched Thursday at Harkins Tucson Spectrum.

RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
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Phil Villarreal is the senior real-time editor for KGUN 9. He is also a digital producer and host of "Phil on Film" seen weekly on Good Morning Tucson, Phil moved to KGUN after 17 years with the Arizona Daily Star. He is married and has four children. Share your story ideas and important issues with Phil by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.