Consequently, the film feels like a collection of ideas that never add up. People “shadow walk,” there’s a “dark hold,” and there’s both a Book of the Damned and a swirling cloud comprised of the “souls of the cursed.” At one point, Strange fights himself using musical notes—cool, but why? “Doctor Strange wants to learn what it means to be happy versus Wanda Maximoff wants to be a mother” is not a coherent conflict. Despite a spirited performance by Gomez, America is surprisingly passive for long stretches of the film. And you have to wonder what sort of negotiations (creative or financial) must have gone on for the remarkably gifted McAdams to come back to this role; sure, they give her more screen time, but she isn’t really doing anything different, better or deeper than in the first film. It’s probably good that not every peripheral character in the MCU eventually becomes a superhero, but this is not the way to give Christine Palmer something to do.


The only consolation that comes from this meandering multiverse is that even if it isn’t very good, at least it got Raimi back in the moviemaking rotation. It’s less of an opportunity than he deserved, and maybe that’s why it’s less of an achievement than he’s capable of, but it’s destined to become a hit. All of which makes Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness feel more like a bit of lazy misdirection than anything truly magical. Still, if it was the only way to make Sam Raimi reappear, then it will have been worth it.