When it comes to MCU films, there exists an undeniable compromise between the vision of the director, and the overall vision of the producers of the franchise. Sometimes, that “bigger picture” prevents directors from making an impact that sings their individual, signature styles. Thankfully, that is not the case when it comes to Sam Raimi’s first, and hopefully, not last stint in the MCU. Kevin Feige and the powers-that-be in the MCU, must have really loved what the unique director and screenwriter Michael Waldron had in mind for Doctor Strange’s second solo outing, because this movie does not play out like a lot of the MCU movies that have preceded it.

Now granted, when it comes to the Doctor Strange character and his wild adventures, there is plenty of room to go wild and crazy, but I do appreciate that Feige and his team had the guts to let Raimi and Waldron go hog wild. Now, that is not to say that the movie is absolutely perfect, because isn’t. However, it is certainly refreshing to see the MCU producers take their chances with some bold and visionary filmmakers, and allow them to see their mad whims come to fruition.

Following the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is obviously hoping for some normalcy in life. Well, at the same time, the more normal aspects of his existence isn’t exactly all that satisfying. His latest commitment is to awkwardly attend the wedding of his, one-time, love interest Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). While his attendance of the event initially feels uncomfortable, Strange is quickly forced to face his usual duties as a sorcerer. After dealing with an insane attack on his city by a creature from another universe, targeting teenager America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a girl with an amazing power of traveling from one universe to the next, Stephen is back in his crazy element.

A powerful villain is on the hunt for America’s abilities, and Doctor Strange must come to her aid. Knowing that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has some knowledge and experience with the “Multiverse,” Strange seeks her assistance with this unusual pressing matter. After consulting the Scarlet Witch, the sorcerer comes to the realization that the one-time Avenger has not at all been well, since losing her beloved paramour Vision in the Infinity War.

I cannot elaborate any further as to what actually happens in this movie, because that would totally ruin what should be a fun and thrilling experience for fans of the MCU and its characters. What I can say is that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is most definitely a Sam Raimi movie. And that is a pretty bold statement, given that a lot of this franchise’s movies, individually, don’t always feel like the product of the filmmakers who work on them. It gave me great joy to see Raimi’s signature style, front and center, but it is also fantastic that it works well in the context of the characters and the franchise at large.

Raimi utilizes his skills to make his Doctor Strange movie a mostly pure extension of what he brings to cinema. The director blends shades of superheroism, wild goofy fun, and horrific imagery. I would have to say that this latest entry in the MCU is certainly one of the more dark and horrorific entries I have ever seen. This works so well for the Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch characters and Raimi presents this story which much flair and aplomb.

In addition to his striking visuals and bizarre, but artistic style, Raimi’s movie gets an added boost from the fantastic and otherworldly score by Danny Elfman. Elfman, who has worked with Raimi in the past, gives an added dimension of weird and intensity that brings the whole experience home. Elfman’s music is another element that makes a Raimi movie complete.

While mostly all of the cast performs well enough, I must give much kudos and admiration to Elizabeth Olsen, who puts much passion into her character of Wanda Maximoff. It is Olsen who helps sell the gravity of her situation, and helps to make her character more relatable and empathetic. The movie serves as a continuation of her story arc from the WandaVision series and takes her into some dark and disturbing places, without completely losing sight of the qualities that make her worthy of love and sympathy.

The movie is definitely ambitious in a lot of ways, and mostly works. The story does get bogged down a little by exposition, and some inexplicable logic. Still, I had an absolute blast with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In allowing Sam Raimi to do what he does best, the MCU producers have managed to make one of their more exciting and entertaining films that feels unique and exceptional. It is nice to see that MCU producers are willing to take some risks and not follow a more cookie-cutter approach with some of their movies.

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