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Yet it’s also very much in line with Raimi’s ability to empathize with even the most lost souls in all his movies, a part of the director’s toolbox that’s supported by Michael Waldron’s zigzagging yet heartfelt script. Two storylines sit at the center of the madness: the unworkable and out-of-reach love affair between Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and, more importantly, the obsessive quest of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) to find her children somewhere out there in the multiverse… children that her fraying mind refuses to believe don’t actually exist.

It’s Wanda’s search for her two sons, directly following up the events of 2021’s WandaVision TV series, that makes it fortuitous when she crosses paths with America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young woman who seems to be the only person in existence with the ability to travel between universes. But America’s power is also exceedingly dangerous to the existence of any universe through which she passes, forcing Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), and Wanda to face some hard, strange choices as they realize the fate of all the realities is at stake.

We won’t reveal much more than that, but Multiverse of Madness rolls out its narrative in fits and starts, and Raimi’s headlong, head-spinning approach to storytelling occasionally leads the director to get in his own way. Reflecting its own title, Multiverse of Madness has a frantic, on-the-edge-of-losing-control feel that sends it careening toward its next set-piece while the rest of us catch up. Sometimes the movie forcefully stops for an exposition dump that’s jarring, but Raimi’s tilting, whirling camera quickly dashes off again to the next tableau.

It’s one of those tableaux, in which Doctor Strange is introduced to the famed Marvel Comics tribunal known as the Illuminati, that will make a number of heads in the audience explode. There is fan service here aplenty, some of it already hinted at and some unexpected (drawing astonished gasps from members of the audience at our screening).

It’s also a moment that feels like it’s right out of the comics, and if anything, Raimi leans hard into comic book imagery, even more so than in any of his three Spider-Man movies. In fact, Multiverse of Madness might be the most outright comic book-y film in the entire MCU to date, not an easy task in a film series based on more than six decades of the damn things. But whereas earlier MCU installments might have held back or spoon-fed their more bizarre elements, Multiverse of Madness throws it all against the wall in often messy yet gloriously bizarre fashion.

Cumberbatch has grown increasingly comfortable in Strange’s cloak with each of his now six live-action appearances in the MCU, and he’s ably assisted by Wong, who throws off a lot of his previous “funny sidekick” vibe in favor of a more substantial presence. McAdams, reduced to little more than a stand-in in the original 2016 Doctor Strange origin story, is also given more to do. Gomez, who’s got appealing screen presence and fits the part, is too often reduced to the role of exposition machine in the course of the film’s events, and her performance suffers for it.

Source: Den of Geek

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