The first reviews for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are rolling in, and there’s definitely a consistent theme coming through: Sam Raimi was the right man for the job. The famed Spider-Man director took over after the first Doctor Strange director, Scott Derrickson, exited the project. As several of the reviews have noted, Raimi has basically grafted together a multiverse-spanning adventure with the Evil Dead II, and it surprisingly works well.
While the there are some quibbles over the overwhelming Marvel-ness of it all, Multiverse of Madness is being roundly praised for finally pushing the MCU into new directions after the first few entries have barely hinted at a plan for Phase 4. You can check out what the critics are saying below:
Mike Ryan, Uproxx:
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the closest the MCU has ever come to a straight-up horror movie. And not in a scary way, but in a Sam Raimi hyper-visual style that mixes gore with comedy. Honestly, it’s kind of remarkable what Marvel let Raimi get away with.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly:
The director’s take on Doctor Strange (in theaters May 6) feels like many disparate and often deeply confusing things — comedy, camp horror, maternal drama, sustained fireball — but it is also not like any other Marvel movie that came before it. And 23 films into the franchise, that’s a wildly refreshing thing, even as the story careens off in more directions than the Kaiju-sized octo-beast who storms into an early scene.
Brian Truitt, USA Today:
While the Marvel-ness of “Madness” will make your head spin, Raimi’s signature style, penchant for the macabre and sense of humor oddly ground the film. Scenes that feel akin to his Tobey Maguire Spider-films of the early 2000s – and the zombies, demons, monsters and schlocky weirdness reminiscent of “Evil Dead” and “Drag Me to Hell” – almost seem nostalgic.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times:
Raimi’s sheer passion for his material can sometimes overwhelm the coherence of his storytelling, and his unfashionable sincerity doesn’t always mesh with the breezy quip-a-minute tone that is the Marvel enterprise’s preferred comic idiom. I mean those both as compliments. Some overly busy cross-cutting and a few flubbed punchlines are a small price to pay for a filmmaker with enough of a vision to make you briefly forget that you’re watching another assembly-line product.
Susana Polo, Polygon:
The real hero in Multiverse of Madness isn’t a person; it’s the visuals — particularly the way Raimi and his team depict mind-rending magical abilities, ones that obey no wands or Harry Potter-like pig-Latin incantations. Director Scott Derrickson leaned on shifting kaleidoscope worlds and Inception-esque landscapes for the original Doctor Strange. But once a single sequence nodding at that film’s fractal magic visuals is out of the way, Multiverse of Madness completes a full transformation into Sam Raimi’s House of Magical Spooks and Monsters.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
It’s a movie set in several universes at once, and it keeps shooting off into ever more insane dimensions of alternate reality. Its story doesn’t develop so much as it multiplies. In theory, this should multiply the fun, though that’s not necessarily the way it works out. “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” is a ride, a head trip, a CGI horror jam, a what-is-reality Marvel brainteaser and, at moments, a bit of an ordeal.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire:
A violent, wacky, drag-me-to-several-different-hells at once funhouse of a film that makes good on the reckoning Chiwetel Ejiofor promised at the end of the original by cutting away the safety net that previous installments of the MCU have tried to pretend wasn’t there.
Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge:
Watching Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, you do get the distinct sense that you’re seeing the beginning of a new chapter for Stephen Strange and his associates, which is interesting given how listless the MCU has sometimes felt following the Infinity Saga. Clearly, Marvel’s already planning for a future that’s filled with even more of Strange’s brand of magic and far-flung characters you wouldn’t have dreamed of seeing in the MCU just a few years back.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters May 6.