Benedict Cumberbatch Elizabeth Olsen Chiwetel Ejiofor Benedict Wong
The strange wonders shown in this continuing saga of the Marvel universe(s) are a testament to the talent in filmmaking we’ve come to expect from Marvel, with a fine blending of story (Michael Waldron, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko), cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, et al.), music (Danny Elfman), stunning special effects and cinematography (John Mathieson). All of these efforts are woven together into a spell-binding whole by director Sam Raimi. Visually and emotionally, its powers draw the viewer into another colorful, fascinating, and sometimes terrifying world.
One must carefully attend to the plot because of all the complexities involved in multiple universes with characters appearing in more than one, often with subtle differences among their different manifestations.
The hubris of Doctor Strange Cumberbatch), so evident in the previous (2018) story, is short-lived in this one. Although starting out with his usual confidence in trying to incapacitate a huge octopus-like monster creating havoc on city streets and intent on capturing one small girl, Strange finds himself in need of assistance. He gets no small number of come-uppances from Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Olsen), a girl named America Chavez who is able to transverse universes at will, and others including the Doctor Strange in another universe. Eventually, he is brought before the Illuminati summoned by Karl Mordo (Ejiofor) to sit in judgment of him.
But throughout, there are major struggles with Scarlet Witch who appears to be power hungry, wanting to maintain her control in all the universes using Darkhold forces. To do that, she is after America to steal the girl’s powers against the wishes and efforts of Dr. Strange who feels duty bound to protect America, who first appeared to him in a dream, although later she informs him that he was actually in another universe.
As in the previous Doctor Strange, human conflicts are dramatically brought into the drama. Significant here are the pull of motherhood on a woman, humans’ need for power and control, the duty of the strong to protect the weak, the wisdom of cooperation vs. going it alone, and the challenge of maintaining human relationships and managing grief and loss.
Marvel movies are noteworthy for their broad-based appeal to young and old, fans of variable genres, and for their many historical, mythological, and literary references. That they are based on comic books—usually considered light reading—must bring a smile to many. Those who grew up on and have loved comic books might well say, “I could have told you so.”
For those who love fantasy/action/adventure films that keep you on the edge of your seat, this is very likely to appeal. In addition to the high drama and glittering visual display, it has human themes and moral conundrums worthy of post-theater discussion.
A mind-blowing experience traveling across multiple universes all of which have humans, some of whom appear in more than one, albeit with differing characteristics.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland