Sam Raimi puts the ‘Strange’ in ‘Multiverse of Madness’
Wild, sometimes frustrating ride has the director's fingerprints all over it
It recently occurred to me that I’ve been a film critic for more than two decades now.
In another multiverse, I was a chemical engineer (actually my first college major). I probably had some kids and lived a life that would have seemed OK to me. Things work out as they’re supposed to. There are no wrong answers.
But in this one, my love of movies and writing bubbled to the top, and I trace that to one event (which probably maybe was two events, memory is weird like that).
This event took place in Dresden, Ohio, home of the world’s largest basket. I was at the home of my friend Jerod with my other high school best friends, Jason and Shane.
In my memory at least, we watched two rented VHS movies that night, Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead II.”
That double-feature may have actually taken place on two different nights because memory is weird like that, but those two movies are the reason I’ve been a movie critic for 22 years.
I share this story, dear reader, to let you know I am not an impartial judge here. Nor have I ever claimed to be. I can’t actually tell you if “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a good movie, because I can’t judge a Sam Raimi movie impartially.
Raimi is a part of my movie DNA. An often-contentious relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is part of my movie critic DNA. With “Multiverse of Madness,” my multiverses collide.
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I’ve done this long enough to know that no one who is already planning to see this movie will read this, and yet? I’m not only not going to spoil anything, I’m not going to talk about the plot at all. Writing exhaustingly vague synopses has been a signature over the years.
It’s the new MCU movie. You’ll watch it, or you won’t. I will say (I guess this is a spoiler?), it’s more important that you’ve seen “Wanda Vision” than “Spider-Man: No Way Home” for context.
I will also say, this is the darkest, weirdest, and definitely horror-iest MCU movie ever. Some of you fanboys are going to absolutely hate it, and I’m going to pop more popcorn for those responses.
Narratively? It’s a bit of a mess. It’s unfortunate that this is already going to be the second-best movie about multiverses this year, because “Everything Everywhere All at Once” already came out, and I can’t imagine the multiverse where that doesn’t end up my favorite movie of 2022.
But I am blessed to live in a multiverse where Sam Raimi gets a $225 million budget to be unabashedly Sam Raimi.
Every whooshing camera shot, every weird overlay, every moment that Raimi gets to be Raimi made me giddy.
Is there a post-credits scene? Duh. It’s MCU. There always is.
This one made me clap for every minute I had to waste sitting with a full audience because it’s no longer an Easter egg, it’s expected.
It’s going to be very interesting to me to see where this one shakes out with the true MCU fans (Disclosure: I’m not really among them). There are some big moments, but this is assuredly not the crowd-pleaser fan service that was “No Way Home.”
But I’m so here for the weird. My collective shrug over the plot points and reveals is trumped by the moments where I was the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme spotting the Raimi callbacks.
Objective as I can be, it’s a three-star movie on my scale, but it’s so Sam Raimi, so how can I not give it a bump?
And since Raimi has been so key to my film critic career, I’ll leave you with the closing words of my interview with “Evil Dead” star Bruce Campbell when I asked him what his life advice was:
“Life advice? Don't give advice. That's my advice. Because nobody follows it, so why give it? They go, ‘uh-huh, uh-huh, oh, thanks’ So don't give advice, because you're not that person. You don't know what's going on in their pea brain. You don't know what's good for somebody else other than yourself.”
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”
Now playing in theaters
4 stars out of 5