On Wednesday morning in Las Vegas, Walt Disney Pictures held a presentation at exhibitor convention CinemaCon showcasing several of the films from the company’s 2022 slate. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness kicked off the panel with an introduction by Tony Chambers, Senior Vice President of Studio Distribution for The Walt Disney Company—and inevitably, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Instead of merely sending a sizzle reel, however, Feige followed his off-the-cuff statements by screening approximately 15 minutes of material from Multiverse Of Madness, which opens nationwide May 6.
What he showed not only set up the major story and character elements in the film but gave attendees a good sense of what to expect: not so much a Marvel movie directed by none other than director Sam Raimi, but a Sam Raimi movie that happens to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Without spoiling too much—and indeed, much of the most important information is in the film’s title—Multiverse Of Madness opens in a universe that isn’t our own. There’s a Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) there, paired with a young woman named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) whose powers hold an important key to connecting the multiverses. After first appearing in our Doctor Strange’s dreams, she later shows up in the streets outside of the wedding of Strange’s ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), where America is being chased by a giant, octopus-like being from one of those other universes.
Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) intervene and rescue the young woman, but have a number of questions, starting with why she appeared in his dreams, and what her powers are that make her so valuable to giant, slimy aliens like the one they just took down. In the course of the conversation with America, Strange and Wong recognize that the symbols on the beast they fought were actually runes, which suggests witchcraft—leading him to seek out Wanda Maximoff, who’s wrestling with dreams of her own that she desperately wants fulfilled.
Whether or not you’re excited to specifically watch the adventures of Doctor Strange, watching Sam Raimi direct a movie of those adventures offers a palpable thrill; since directing Sony’s (first) Spider-Man trilogy, he’s always injected the films’ blockbuster filmmaking with his personality, and it’s no different here.
Aside from a handful of gore gags that feel synonymous with the Evil Dead director, the comedic tone even in those moments, and his muscular camerawork across both dramatic and action sequences, reflects the sturdy proficiency and endless inventiveness for which he’s well and justifiably known.
Of course, there’s more to come very soon for reporters and audiences alike, when Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness opens in just over a week. But even without news of the long-awaited Avatar sequel swallowing the remainder of the air from the auditorium where Disney made its content presentation, Raimi’s return—not just his work, but his personality and style—offers cause for real celebration.