Sam Raimi Made ‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’ Into An ‘Evil Dead‘ Movie

It’s funny to think back to the original Iron Man. Just a guy who builds a suit. Now, 14 years later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is skipping through the multiverse at full speed. Are these movies still accessible? I’m pretty sure Spider-Man: No Way Home was accessible. But Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will probably test these limits. For hardcore comic book fans, this movie has some moments that I couldn’t believe I was seeing in a movie that will make a lot of money. To the uninitiated – to those who haven’t watched at least every MCU movie – boy, this one would be kind of a confusing place to start.

Don’t get me wrong, I mostly enjoyed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. I’m just more thinking about the person who (and they must exist, right?) decides to check out an MCU movie, finally. And then throw in the Sam Raimi factor, which is very much a factor here, as 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, but all that doesn’t really kick in until maybe an hour into the movie, and it becomes a much better movie once that happens.

Which is kind of the inherent problem with all the multiverse stuff. Marvel can’t just tell the audience, “Look, before you watch this, you really should check out Loki on Disney+, which kind of explains what’s going on.” (And it’s not a coincidence that Michael Waldron wrote both Loki and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and seems to be Marvel’s official Master of the Multiverse; I hope he starts calling himself that.) So Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has to spend a good amount of time re-explaining the rules of the very movie we are about to watch. But once those rules are established, it’s a good amount of fun.

What’s kind of surprising is the plot isn’t a direct result of anything that happens in Spider-Man: No Way Home. And being as vague as possible, the plot isn’t quite the game-changer people might be expecting. Yes, there are quite a few fun cameos (many have been rumored), but nothing here seems like it has to be anything permanent. To manage expectations, this isn’t a movie where all the former Fox-produced X-Men are all of a sudden in the MCU. I think the narrative may have gotten away from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness a bit because this is more a crazy romp than it is a way to combine a bunch of universes. Which, honestly, is a pleasant surprise. This movie is still a lot, but it’s not that.

With no explanation, we are dropped into the plight of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the ability to travel across universes and, while being chased by some ghouls, winds up in the universe of the Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) we already know. Doctor Strange visits Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) asking for help, since America’s situation could impact multiple universes, but let’s just say, she is not sympathetic to Doctor Strange’s request. Beyond that, Wanda wants to use America’s powers to jump to another universe where she can live happily with the children she created in WandaVision. That is the showdown and the motivation: Strange, trying to protect America, versus Wanda, who is under the influence of an evil book called the Dark Hold (yes, Sam Raimi has a history with evil books) and who will stop at nothing to get to that other universe.

This is getting to the point in this piece that, if I keep going, I’m going to wind up inadvertently spoiling something, so I’m going to go ahead and wrap this up, but – again – at the heart of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a Sam Raimi movie. I was actually a little worried about this, because there’s not really much in Raimi’s Spider-Man movies that would lead us to believe he had any desire to bring the sensibilities of an Evil Dead movie to the superhero genre. But, looking back, I think that was by choice then: that Raimi wanted to prove he could make great superhero movies without having a zombie in the movie with half a face. But Raimi has no reservations this time.

I get the sense that was Marvel’s pitch to Raimi: Make this an Evil Dead Marvel movie. And, remarkably (eventually, after the exposition), he certainly did.

‘‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’ opens on May 6th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.