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Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. Photo courtesy IMDB

New ‘Doctor Strange’ Opens Doors to Methods, Madness in the Multiverse

Movies

Back in November 2016, when I saw the first “Doctor Strange” movie in theaters, my interest in Stephen Strange’s storyline boiled down to two points: my initiation into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and my susceptibility to actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s charms.

It’s been almost six years since “Doctor Strange”premiered. And while the doctor has since made numerous appearances in other MCU films, his fans have been waiting (patiently) for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which was released in early May.

Given the endless surprises hiding up this story’s sleeves, writing a spoiler-free review is tricky. One review of the movie I read was concerned that viewers would be lost going into the “Multiverse” without having watched the precursory storylines told  in “WandaVision,” “Spiderman: No Way Home” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Having watched all three myself, I agree with this critique: Context is key.

“Multiverse” opens with Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) awakening from an intense dream of fighting a demon alongside a young girl  — and then getting dressed for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. (Yes, even a Master of the Mystic Arts can’t foresee why this is never a good idea.)

It’s just after Christine (Strange’s ex, played by Rachel McAdams) asks whether he’s happy, that Strange leaves to do battle with an octopus-like creature in pursuit of the same girl from his dream.

Strange defeats the creature with help from his friend, Sorcerer Supreme Wong, and learns the girl, America Chavez, has the power to travel in the Multiverse.

But as soon as we learn that America can’t control her power, we know it won’t be long before she’ll be hunted down or before Strange himself becomes entangled in the multiverse.

“There are myriad reasons why the Multiverse theory is fascinating to explore: It’s the idea that there’s another universe where we’re the happiest version of ourselves that’s tempting enough to abandon reason in pursuit of that perfect world.”

Writing this review as a Multiverse theory enthusiast, I was intrigued by the film’s interpretation of accessing the Multiverse through dreams, creating this idea that the versions of ourselves we dream about do, in fact, exist other realms.

Not even the most avid MCU fans in my life were prepared for the sinister shifts in character development that we saw in this new Doctor Strange.

I myself was startled by how early in the film certain reveals were delivered, and the brisk pace with which other bombshells were dropped.

Yet the deep dive into the Multiverse’s characters made that speed worthwhile. From an arrogant, self-driven doctor in 2016 to a more humbled practitioner of the mystical arts, Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange appears to have learned the lesson imparted on him six years and several movies ago: That it’s not all about him.

Though “Multiverse” wasn’t my favorite MCU film from the last few years — the bar was set somewhere between “Infinity War” and last year’s “Spiderman” — I’m relieved that Marvel hasn’t lost its capacity for catching viewers off guard between the cameos and cliffhangers.

With Sam Raimi (the celebrated director behind the cult classic horror “The Evil Dead” and the original “Spiderman” trilogy) perched atop the director’s chair, there’s a method to “the Multiverse of Madness” that viewers would be remiss to miss.

At the time of publication of this issue, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was playing at The Moviehouse in Millerton, N.Y., and the Four Brothers Drive-In Theater in Amenia, N.Y. It is expected to become available for streaming in the next six months.

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