Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, 2022.
Directed by Sam Raimi.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Rachel McAdams.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, arrives on digital, with the 4K, Blu-ray and DVD editions slated for July 26. It’s another fine addition to the MCU, one that sets the stage for interesting things to come on screens large and small during the MCU’s fourth phase.
This is an interesting time for fans of the science-fiction, fantasy and superhero genres. There are several must-see movies every year, and so far one studio, Warner Bros., has released their theatrical films online at the same time they hit silver screens around the world.
Meanwhile, the time between a theatrical run and a home video debut has shrunk considerably, with many studios opting to release on digital first and on optical disc a few weeks later. (And in the case of Disney, review copies, like the one I received for this film, are going digital-only).
And with the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, there’s definitely a question as to whether the theatrical experience has been forever altered. Theaters are back to full operation these days, although box office grosses don’t seem to have returned to pre-pandemic levels, based on a perusal of the latest numbers at Box Office Mojo.
Which is my long-winded way of wondering where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) goes from here. Sure, people are still going to the movies, but for how much longer? TVs are getting bigger, better, and cheaper, and a decent sound system isn’t a very expensive add-on. You can get close to the theatrical experience in the privacy of your own home, even if you rely solely on streaming.
And this crossroads has arrived just as the MCU kicks its fourth phase into gear. Where the first three phases laid the foundation, this fourth phase promises to put a new spin on the characters, much like the way modern comic books have reinvented their decades-old universes.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a big part of this new phase, introducing us to alternate versions of not just the title character but others too, as well as multiple versions of Earth. Earth-616 is the main timeline that we’ve come to know and love since Iron Man hit the big screen in 2008, but Earth-838 and its alternate versions of many characters figures prominently in this story too.
The plot is pretty basic: Doctor Strange must protect America Chavez, a young girl with the power to travel through the multiverse; she has already met a different version of Strange. When she ends up on Earth-616 and meets that version of Doctor Strange, he tries to find out what’s going on only to discover that the Scarlet Witch wants America for her own purposes.
And thus the race is on across the multi-verse. It helps if you’ve seen the WandaVision series on Disney+, although that’s not mandatory, and avid watchers of other MCU movies and TV shows will be rewarded by all kinds of nods and winks layered into the film.
Overall, the film is a fun ride. It’s not as bonkers off-the-wall as Everything Everywhere All at Once, but it doesn’t need to be, especially since it needs to set the stage for other MCU phase four movies and TV shows. We’re now entering an age of always-on story universes, one where you don’t have much time to digest the latest movie or TV show before the next one arrives (and there are plenty of franchises competing for your attention).
Here’s what you’ll find in the digital release; the bonus features lead off with a one-minute intro from director Sam Raimi, which I think may be unique to this release.
• Audio commentary: Director Sam Raimi, writer Michael Waldron, and co-producer Richie Palmer talk about the film. It’s an entertaining discussion of how the movie came about and the various creative decisions that were made along the way. It’s a worthwhile listen, especially for MCU fans.
• Constructing the Multiverse (11 minutes): As the title suggests, this is a look at the work that went into creating alternate versions of our heroes and keeping them all straight.
• Introducing America Chavez (3.5 minutes): This is a character who first appeared in the Marvel comic book universe in 2011 and who is making her MCU debut with this film.
• Method to the Madness (5 minutes): A specific focus on Sam Raimi’s approach to the film. It’s nice to see him working with Marvel characters again.
Three inconsequential deleted scenes and a gag reel round out this release.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★