‘Doctor Strange 2’ Global Review: ‘Vaguely disappointing’

The latest Marvel juggernaut has raked in a plump box office bounty, but the review reception for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hasn’t been totally warm. A major criticism: Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) storyline, her villain part seemingly undoing her painful journey to redemption in Disney Plus series WandaVision.

Still, the Doctor Strange sequel brings a fresh voice to the Marvel palette in notable horror director Sam Raimi. His gory gags and stylistic panache are welcome shades to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — at least according to some of our CNET staffers in their reviews from different parts of the world.

Marvel

‘Painfully forced’

Into the Multiverse of Madness definitely made me a little mad — and not in a good way. Wanda’s Distraught Mom storyline felt painfully forced — it was clear right from the outset she would never be able to steal another Wanda’s kids. Then there’s the multiverse aspect. After having its trailer tacked on at the end of No Way Home’s credits, this movie seemed like it would well and truly blow open the multiverse. Instead, Jamie Lee Curtis is right: Everything Everywhere All At Once is a far more fulfilling multiverse movie exploring infinite possibilities, not just about three universes.

All that being said, I loved Sam Raimi’s horror touches.

— Jennifer Bisset, Sydney

Marvel

‘Vaguely disappointing’

I’m a big fan of the first Doctor Strange film, and I enjoy a good horror movie, so Multiverse of Madness seemed like it would be tailor-made for me. Instead, it felt… vaguely disappointing? Don’t get me wrong, it was fun watching a horror-influenced superhero film, and Xochitl Gomez was great as America Chavez. But the overall experience felt rushed, like the movie was afraid of spending too much time on its characters. I really wanted a sequel that dove deep into the themes of self-sacrifice and grief from the first Strange movie and WandaVision, exploring them through the lens of horror. And while there are certainly elements of that here, the final product ultimately felt much more interested in weird wizard battles, without the same emotional weight we got in No Way Home. 

— Adam Benjamin, Seattle

Marvel

A lot to like

There was a lot I liked about Into the Multiverse of Madness. The Raimi touches, Xochitl Gomez’ portrayal of America Chavez, the campy dialogue, all the body horror — all things I was expecting and excited for. But there was also a lot I really didn’t like. The biggest thing for me was that ultimately the movie had the wrong villain. Elizabeth Olsen was incredible, but I spent the first two acts actively waiting for the flip, for Wanda to end up aligning with Doctor Strange to face off a bigger foe. Maybe Chthon, given the location. Or maybe even one of Stephen’s own variants. So much of Stephen Strange’s battle is internal and ego-driven, and What If showed us his capacity to go full evil with a push. That would have been far more dynamic to me, instead of walking back Wanda’s character progression with a convenient “mad woman” trope. She deserves better, and it undoes so much of what WandaVision did best. 

— Steph Panecasio, Sydney

Marvel Studios

‘Raimi’s style leers from behind the MCU’s template’

In the multiverse anything’s possible — and somewhere there’s a Doctor Strange sequel with a lean, sensical plot and jokes that land. Instead, we’re in a better universe where just enough of Raimi’s style leers from behind the MCU’s template to make another marathon of cameos and nods to future spin-offs worth watching. It’s far too inconsistent for greatness and often just flat-out bad, but brain explosions, Bruce Campbell, practical zombie effects and spectral deadite wannabes make it worthwhile.

— Morgan Little, San Francisco

Marvel

Worried about the future of the MCU

Like some of hardened MCU fans, I looked at the Multiverse of Madness as being Avengers-esque in its scope with expectations for it to be the the first big jumping point of Phase 4. It was that expectation that caused me to not be as thrilled with the movie once it was over. Don’t get me wrong, seeing a MCU movie with a proper horror feel to it was great, however, I was expecting something bigger. I think what this movie really did was worry me about the future of the MCU. Right now, Kevin Feige is spinning a lot of plates, and they’re getting a little too wobbly. 

— Oscar Gonzalez, New York City 

Marvel

‘Thrilling horror and delightfully silly’

The Multiverse of Madness isn’t what a lot of people will be expecting, and that’s a good thing. Director Sam Raimi spills his ghoulish bag of tricks in the MCU, bringing some thrilling horror and delightfully silly and gory gags to a film franchise oversaturated with same-ey superhero action and snarky quips. Like Taika Waititi breathing new life into Thor, the MCU thrives on new blood, and it’s good to see ur-producer Kevin Feige loosen the stylistic reins. Not enough to let the movie do more than push the franchise cart forward and drop some nerd-pleasing cameos, but any novelty is sorely needed as the MCU searches for post-Endgame purpose.

David Lumb, Los Angeles 

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