Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ★★½

certainly nice to see a director with distinctive style get to display that style in a Marvel movie-- doesn't happen frequently enough. I giggled at some of the shots and jump scares, and the thing Dr. Strange does at the end... well, I get why Raimi was interested. it made me smile.

the movie is, for the most part, cotton candy. Cumberbatch wiggles his fingers and wears a bad wig or two, Wong has fun, and Gomez is charming despite being given absolutely nothing to do. Olsen is trying her best to give this thing an emotional core, but there's just not enough meat on the very CGI bones of this thing to make it stick. and outside of some of the horror-adjacent fun Raimi has, in terms of dialogue and tone, it's the same as all the others-- breezy, quippy, lighter than air.

and then there's the cameos, which I won't spoil. some of them were fun and interesting. but the big one-- the one people will be talking about, the one that's probably already trending on Twitter-- is a colossal misstep imo. the real MVP of the MCU from the very beginning has been its stellar casting department work, but this shameless and vacuous act of fan casting not only departs from what makes the character so interesting... but also shies away from what has made the actor in question successful over the years! so what we're left with is a completely charisma-less mini-performance that suggests a flagrant misunderstanding of who could have (and should have) been one of the new cornerstones of the brand. it's the MCU equivalent of the Fast and Furious franchise going to space solely for the memes.

and I realize this cameo is just a 5-10 minute performance within the movie, but it feels like a microcosm of why these movies have begun to feel so unwieldy. there's this need to keep growing, to keep expanding the fanbase, to keep providing more, more, more. a desperate desire to feed the machine of fandom, when at the end of the day, the fans won't give a shit whether the movies keep getting bigger or whether the cameos are fan cast or any of that. as long as the story is good, it can be as epic or as intimate, as bold or as familiar as it needs to be, and it'll hit. there are definitely distinctive and interesting flourishes here, but you can feel the story's spine growing herniated by all it's asked to accomplish for the larger universe.

Marvel's got its formula down, and they hit their beats here, no question. end of the day, most fans will be pleased, and it clears the bar of base level entertainment that more or less every Marvel movie to date has cleared (which I acknowledge is no small feat). but I fear that, much like Dr. Strange discovers here, if too many characters from too many universes spend too much time together, we won't be left with a recognizable world or real people we love anymore.

we'll just have a big depressing CGI mess.

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