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Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong and Benedict Cumberbatch, top, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review – one for diehard Marvel fans

Self-referential in the extreme, this latest outing for dimension-hopping Benedict Cumberbatch is a largely joyless affair

B y definition, multiverses are everywhere. But do they really need to be quite so ubiquitous? The multiverse concept triggered a playful, pinballing game of narrative tag in the Spider-Man franchise, and unleashes an anarchic onslaught of silliness in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s forthcoming Everything Everywhere All at Once . But in this latest outing for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange, who is tasked with protecting dimension-hopping teen America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from nefarious forces intent on stealing her powers, the whole multiverse business is starting to feel more like a joylessly efficient get-out card to be played whenever the screenplay finds itself written into a corner.

There’s an early high point in which Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) are forced to do battle with a monocular giant octopus, while Rachel McAdams’s Christine, whose wedding has been interrupted by the tentacled gatecrasher, simply rolls her eyes. But the fun is short-lived, courtesy of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and director Sam Raimi’s commitment to grisly visual flourishes. Unlike movies such as Black Panther and Shang-Chi , which functioned as self-contained entities, this film requires an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel minutiae and world-class cross-referencing skills to fully work. And who, outside the diehard fanbase, has the bandwidth for that level of commitment?

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review: The loopiest, bloodiest Marvel movie yet

Turn and face the Strange, one far-out multiverse at a time.

movie review dr strange

Give Sam Raimi a multiverse, and he will take a mile. The director's Doctor Strange (in theaters May 6) feels like many disparate and often deeply confusing things — comedy, camp horror, maternal drama, sustained fireball — but it is also not like any other Marvel movie that came before it. And 28 films into the franchise, that's a wildly refreshing thing, even as the story careens off in more directions than the Kaiju-sized octo-beast who storms into an early scene, bashing its tentacles through small people and tall buildings like an envoy from some nightmare aquarium.

There are monsters everywhere in The Multiverse of Madness , the first one in a chaotic dream sequence that opens the story without preamble or explanation: All that Benedict Cumberbatch 's dapper, fussy Master of Mystic Arts knows when he wakes up is that he had to battle some glimmering incubus to save a girl, and that he died trying. The girl, it turns out, is named America Chavez ( The Baby-Sitters Club 's Xochitl Gomez), and she calmly sets him straight: It wasn't a dream, it was an alternate universe, which means there are infinite Other Stephens out there, fighting the same fight.

More ex-girlfriends too, though in this world the only one who matters, Christine Palmer ( Rachel McAdams ), is still marrying a man who isn't him. More pressingly, there's an unknown quantity of Wandas ( Elizabeth Olsen ) on the loose, and Wanda wants her children back, even if she conjured them from pure wishful thinking. Because Wanda is also the Scarlet Witch, reluctant supervillain, her whims can destroy worlds — and she's already begun by coming after America, whose universe-hopping abilities are the only thing she believes will reunite her with her two little boys, alive in every dimension but the one she's stuck in.

Whether this all sounds elementary to you or vaguely insane depends heavily, of course, on your familiarity with the MCU; there are no guard rails or lit-up walkways for the uninitiated here. Raimi, who made his name with the Evil Dead series and movies like Darkman and A Simple Plan before helming the first three Spider-Man entries in the early 2000s, freely treats it as license to let his freak flag fly, though it takes him about an hour to ramp up to full pandemonium, maybe because he has so much mythology and green screen to work in. (The number of cameos from the extended cinematic universe that drew gasps and cheers at a preview screening are numerous and worth not spoiling, though the internet is more than happy to correct that for you.)

The script, by Michael Waldron ( Loki , Rick and Morty ) skims over most of what you might traditionally call storyline, frog-hopping hectically across moods and bits of exposition to get to the next explosive set piece. But he does it nimbly too, throwing off one-liners and winks to the genre like flashbangs. Cumberbatch, his body superhero-yoked and his hair streaked with two paintbrush swipes of white at the temples, picks up those bits like little bonbons and rolls them around on his tongue, delighted. Olsen is another kind of movie, often by herself: a wrecked, furious woman from an Ibsen drama, desperate to get back to the things she's lost.

The fact that actors of this caliber — Chewitel Ejioifor , Benedict Wong , Patrick Stewart , and Michael Stuhlbarg also appear, some of them for only a handful of lines — is testament to the sheer gravitational pull of Marvel; you've never seen McAdams tell a bunch of swirling zombie goblins to go back to hell, and you probably never will again. Raimi mostly lets them in on the joke, though he also sends several of them off to spectacularly showy deaths (with many universes come many spares). He generally seems to thrill at throwing out the rule book, zipping giddily between dimensions — one is made of cubes, another bright splashes of paint — and reveling in a kind of squishy, explicit gore that the MCU's bloodless violence often studiously avoids.

In a movie that already contains multitudes, finding a throughline can feel like reaching for a rope swing in the dark; characters are grounded in urgent emotional intimacy one moment, and throwing bolts of CG lightning at demon-octopi the next. Chavez, as the girl the fate of all this relies on, is plucky and smart, but too broadly drawn to really register as her own distinct person rather than a carefully market-tested symbol. (More than once, someone says "We have to save America!" straight-faced.) In many ways, Strange is a mess, and probably 20 minutes too long at two hours (which in Marvel math, is still practically a haiku). It's rarely boring though, down to the last obligatory post-credit scene — whether or not there's method in the Madness . Grade: B

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Benedict Cumberbatch hurls a fireball as Doctor Strange.

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Double, double, gargoyles and rubble: There are witchy doings and evil twins aplenty in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the spookily unhinged new entry in the Marvel Cinematic — uh, Universe? Multiverse? Whatever we’re supposed to call this increasingly hydra-headed Disney content behemoth, it has rarely ventured in a direction this playful, this ghoulish, this exuberantly grotesque.

That’s another way of saying that the latest Strange brew — full of mangled extremities, gouged eyeballs and other freaky flourishes — is the satisfying handiwork of the director Sam Raimi, whose long-overdue return to feature filmmaking is no less welcome for being tied to Hollywood’s most continually fatted cash cow.

Raimi, of course, comes to this assignment with no shortage of Marvel movie history under his belt. An early throwaway Spider-Man joke gently reminds you that he directed the original Spidey film trilogy (2002-07) for Sony, though he’s steered clear of the many subsequent chapters, including last year’s hugely successful “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” That dizzying adventure, with its trio of Spider-Men wreaking meta-havoc on the MCU cosmos, was in some ways a warm-up act for all the multiverse-rattling chaos in store here. Written by Michael Waldron (“Loki”), “Multiverse of Madness” begins with a giant octopus attack and spreads its narrative tentacles from there, yanking us into an alternately goofy and grisly story that pauses every so often to unleash a tidal wave of grief.

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Some of that grief is expressed, with a stiff and handsomely goateed upper lip, by Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, superb as ever), the sardonic neurosurgeon turned mighty red-cloaked sorcerer who still carries a torch for his former lover and colleague, Dr. Christine Palmer (a game if underserved Rachel McAdams). But the real weight of this story’s emotional anguish is shouldered not by Strange, but by his old friend Wanda Maximoff (a spectacular Elizabeth Olsen), who — as dedicated MCU scholars with advanced degrees in “WandaVision” studies will know — has drawn on her formidable powers to blot out the trauma of her many unbearable losses.

That trauma still haunts Wanda’s dreams (she has nightly visions of her lost twin sons), and it now runs the risk of obliterating her soul. Determined to transform her shattered fantasies of a happy family life into a reality, Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch, has set her sights on conquering the multiverse — specifically, one of the many parallel universes in which a more carefree version of herself might settle down in undisturbed domestic bliss. It’s a heartrending vision, the kind that Faustian bargains are made of, and it floods the script’s sometimes inelegant, herky-jerky plotting with unexpected rivers of human feeling.

Elizabeth Olsen stars as Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch.

Wanda reminds you of Raimi’s long-standing affinity for witches, even if some of his haggard creations have been more memorable (Lorna Raver’s old crone from “Drag Me to Hell” ) than others (the three witches from the inaptly titled “Oz the Great and Powerful” ). Happily, he has a terrific performer here in Olsen; with fiery magenta eyes and a devil-horned tiara, she’s chillingly persuasive as a woman so devastated by her grief that she’s willing to inflict her own brutal casualties in order to overcome it. Building on the stealth emotionalism of her “WandaVision” arc, Olsen does possibly her most impressive work since her stellar debut in the 2011 independent drama “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” in which she also played a woman dangerously susceptible to the pull of mad, malevolent forces.

So emotionally dominant is Olsen here that Cumberbatch’s Strange sometimes feels less like a hero than a villain’s foil, which is honestly all to the good. Strange’s mission is simply to prevent Wanda from succeeding in hers, and to that end he’ll team up with a mysterious, multiverse-traveling newcomer, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez, appealing if bland), who soon sends them flying through one interdimensional portal after another. (The various alternate universes, including a flower-forward vision of New York, are the standout elements of John Mathieson’s cinematography and Charles Wood’s trip-tastic production design.) Along the way, he also leans on some familiar faces, including his wizardly colleague Wong (the invaluable Benedict Wong); his old frenemy Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor); and an alternate version of Christine who serves as a pesky reminder that love really is the most inescapable force in the multiverse.

Through the multiverse they go, crashing through various distorting and dreamlike mirrors — a cosmic labyrinth in which Strange and Wanda, in particular, will come face to face with a doppelgänger or two. Those surreal face-to-face confrontations allow the filmmakers to pose a few playful questions about fate, predestination and human decency: What binds us to our alternate-universe counterparts, and what sets us apart from them? Which recurring cycles can we break, and which mistakes are we doomed to repeat? These are rather different questions from the ones posed by the year’s other multiverse extravaganza, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and they land with particular force for Strange, who benefits, as ever, from Cumberbatch’s chronic unwillingness to seem too likable. Arrogance, cynicism and self-doubt become this Doctor Strange, initially obscuring — and then gradually revealing — his fundamental decency.

Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong and Benedict Cumberbatch

There’s still more: occult rites and ancient runes, high-altitude sanctums and acid-washed visuals, plus a bevy of out-there cameos that Raimi uses to poke fun at the elasticity of the multiverse. (It’s hardly a spoiler to note that it wouldn’t be a Raimi film if his favorite muse, Bruce Campbell, didn’t turn up in a scene or two.) There are also some deliciously pustular visions, including a few zombie- and wraith-like denizens who wouldn’t look out of place in Raimi’s “Evil Dead” movies. If Scott Derrickson, the director of 2016’s “Doctor Strange,” teased out the altered states and Far East mysticism in Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s original comic books, then Raimi has found in this sequel a surprisingly accommodating vehicle for his ecstatic love of horror filmmaking (to say nothing of a darkly exultant score by Danny Elfman).

Raimi’s sheer passion for his material can sometimes overwhelm the coherence of his storytelling, and his unfashionable sincerity doesn’t always mesh with the breezy quip-a-minute tone that is the Marvel enterprise’s preferred comic idiom. I mean those both as compliments. Some overly busy cross-cutting and a few flubbed punchlines are a small price to pay for a filmmaker with enough of a vision to make you briefly forget that you’re watching another assembly-line product. That may not sound terribly inspiring, but in the context of an overall series where movie magic seizes hold only in fits and starts, it can feel downright heroic.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’

Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes Playing: Starts May 6 in general release

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Review: doctor strange and the scarlet witch take on the 'multiverse of madness'.

Bob Mondello 2010

Bob Mondello

After unleashing all kinds of trouble in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Marvel's Doctor Strange will try to clean up the mess in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.


Believe it or not, we've gone more than a month without the release of a Marvel movie. "Morbius" opened the 1 of April, and "Thor: Love And Thunder" isn't coming out until July. But there is a bit of fan service opening this weekend. Here's critic Bob Mondello on "Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Shortly after the opening credits, Doctor Stephen Strange is at a wedding, wearing a brave face as his beloved Christine marries someone else. Then, somewhat to his relief, I suspect, bravery of a more conventional Marvel sort is needed out in the streets of Lower Manhattan. A one-eyed octopus that could have escaped from Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." - except that it's the size of a small apartment building - seems intent on eating a bus. Strange quickly realizes it's actually trying to eat a teenaged girl on the bus and puts a stop to that with much flexing of wrists and assistance from Sorcerer Supreme Wong.


XOCHITL GOMEZ: (As America Chavez) Look out.

MONDELLO: The girl, once rescued, strikes Strange as familiar. Wasn't she in his dream the night before? Not a dream, she tells him - another universe in which he was a somewhat less reliable Doctor Strange.

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) Things just got out of hand.

MONDELLO: A multiverse traveler who's being chased by a demon, the girl's name is America Chavez, which means people will spend the rest of the movie saying things like, we have to save America, and is America OK? - but never mind. The film has bigger fish to fry - that octopus, for instance. So Strange, figuring he needs an ally, turns to an old pal...

CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) Wanda.

MONDELLO: ...Who's also known as the Scarlet Witch.

ELIZABETH OLSEN: (As Wanda Maximoff) I knew sooner or later, you would show up.

CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) I need your help.

OLSEN: (As Wanda Maximoff) With what?

CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) What do you know about the multiverse?

MONDELLO: Now, I know a little something about the multiverse and how it gives you alternate versions of yourself, having caught last month's crazily inventive "Everything Everywhere All At Once." That was not, strictly speaking, good preparation for Marvel's multiverse, partly because it's thought through, where Marvel's works hard at seeming random and also because Marvel's is governed by different and extremely complicated rules in addition to the more prosaic ones that have always bugged Wanda.

OLSEN: (As Wanda Maximoff) You break the rules and become the hero. I do it, I become the enemy. That doesn't seem fair.

MONDELLO: Be that as it may, she does get to act while the others are busy soaring past a block-iverse (ph) and a paint-iverse (ph) on their way to a flower-bedecked New York-iverse (ph). There are even end credits for a splinter unit, which makes sense after you've seen Wanda wreak havoc in a hall of mirrors. Whatever can be done with performers gesticulating in front of screens has definitely been done.

CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) You OK?

MONDELLO: Director Sam Raimi, who cut his teeth on the "Evil Dead" franchise before he went family-friendly with the first three "Spider-Man" films, will get his horror freak on by film's end. Corpses and wispy black smoke wraiths will go toe-to-rotting-toe with the lightning bolt-tossing superhero types, but only after the filmmaker has dispensed with a full hour or so of explaining things.

CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) Multiverse is a concept about which we know frighteningly little.

MONDELLO: And that goes double for intricacies in the darkhold and the Book of Vishanti and variations between sorcery and witchcraft. I'll let you wade through those for yourself. And what about the good doctor?

CUMBERBATCH: (As Stephen Strange) I never meant for any of this to happen.

MONDELLO: Well, by comparison with the unrestrained love that audiences have for, say, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange-love, if you'll pardon that expression, seems limited. Not that Benedict Cumberbatch isn't hard-working - he brings a lot more intensity than you'd think possible to moving his fingers an inch or two as digital sparks fly. But his scripts have so far felt sort of second-tier in the Marvel canon. And the script for "Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness," which is absolutely the most entertaining multiverse movie to come out so far in May, is no exception. I'm Bob Mondello.


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There Is Hell, and Then There Is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Portrait of Angelica Jade Bastién

The pleasure of director Sam Raimi’s trilogy of Spider-Man films beginning in 2002 can be found in the bombast. Its arch dialogue and visual ecstasy serve to streamline our understanding of the characters, allowing them, as well as the world they inhabit, to feel uniquely real even with its heightened tone. The swooning camerawork elevates sequences like the failed surgery of Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) in Spider-Man 2 — darkness swallows the characters whole, while the cutting sound design of nails scraping against tile leaves you with goosebumps. The body can be a site of horror and power in the superhero genre, an idea that is made lightning bright by a combination of good scripting and the approach actors take to it. But in films as mammoth as these, the latter can only go so far.

In hiring a beloved “auteur” like Raimi to take over the Doctor Strange sequel, Marvel has given the Multiverse of Madness some heft. It has also piqued audience expectations for a familiar blend of pop art and macabre intrigue. These are expectations that aren’t quite met in the latest MCU installment, a truth not so much surprising as it is grimly disappointing. Your career either dies with some integrity or you live long enough for your artistry to be absorbed and nullified by the Marvel machine. And it’s easy to see why Marvel would absorb Raimi, with all his weight and prestige, into its machinery. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is trying for a blend of horror and humor, something close to the heart and terror that Raimi was able to bring to bear throughout his career. But here, his craft has been hemmed in, gamified, leeched of color and vivacity. The plot, as it stands, is held together with bubblegum and a prayer. Doctor Stephen Strange (played with a foot out the door by Benedict Cumberbatch) performs daring feats of sorcery and jumps through a variety of poorly crafted universes with America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), an interdimensional being who can punch holes through universes (if only she could learn how to wield such abilities), in hopes of outmaneuvering the incredibly powerful, and now completely batshit evil, Wanda Maximoff–slash–Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson).

There are moments with intriguing Raimi ideas behind them — when a tentacled beast’s eye is plucked out; when Doctor Strange possesses a corpse in another universe; when a mystical battle involves notes of music alight in the air; when a whole universe turns into a graying graveyard with only a single spark of life. Bodies here and there are left mangled and bloody, and alternate versions of characters we’ve come to know appear throughout. Multiverses have an intrinsically somber quality as they are evidence of the road not taken and the people who we could have been if things were different. But Doctor Strange ’s multiverse is neither emotionally resonant nor artistically agile enough to leave an impression. There’s a sequence in which America and Doctor Strange find themselves traveling through universes at a breakneck speed, each more debilitating than the last. One is underwater. Another transforms them into cartoon characters. In another, they’re garish, living paint. The ideas that hold a gleam of potential are shot down by the film’s rank ugliness, its incessant pace of exposition, the utter slog of the first hour, and the insistence on special effects that render the horrifying as textureless.

I come to Marvel films hoping for something to hold onto, for a wisp of the electric thrill audiences around me feel. Instead, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness left me more disenchanted than ever. How can I not raise my eyebrow at the casting of America Chavez, who has predominantly read as Afro-Latina in comics? How can I not notice that the Zombie Doctor Strange has less frisson than Billy Butcherson’s mangled corpse in Hocus Pocus ? Doctor Strange 2 is too keenly aware fans don’t need much to cheer at these wretched undertakings. These are corporate installments for shareholders rather than, you know, actual films. This is perhaps how we arrive at screenwriter Michael Waldron’s utterly sexist conception of Wanda.

Since the events of WandaVision (which you would need to watch to get what the hell is going on here), the Scarlet Witch has leaned full tilt into her now-villainous persona, eyeing America’s powers as a way to reach a universe where her fake children are actually alive. In this universe, dreams are windows into the lives of our multiversal selves, and for Wanda, her dream involves being a suburban housewife. Without Vision, or any inkling of Wanda’s desires beyond her children, this dream comes across as even more claustrophobic. Apparently Wanda — an immensely powerful witch who can bend reality — only aspires to be a mom. It’s her single, devouring need, and when it’s not met, she loses her mind, leading to death and destruction for everyone around her. Waldron’s story juxtaposes the composed Doctor Strange and Wanda to make evident her inability to control her emotions and her powers. (The characterization harkens back to the discomforting nature of Black Widow, who in Age of Ultron was revealed to have been sterilized . ) Marvel is cunning in how it projects the appearance of meaningful representation in its stories, whether it be the totemic royalty of Black Panther or the glimmer of queer folks in Eternals . If they’re doing white women so dirty, how can the rest of us expect any better?

Olson is saddled with a character so thinly written as a crazy bitch, who can neither control her emotions nor her great powers, that of course her performance is half-hearted and tepid. Cumberbatch is on autopilot beside her. Gomez is given only quips and exposition scenes, turning a character that is meant to be spunky aggressively bland. (I won’t even get into the Illuminati, a group of superheroes in another dimension that is so clearly meant to satisfy internet fancasting.) The film strives to be blatantly weirder, bloodier, and more gruesome than the usual MCU fare (which is really not saying much as this series is primed to appeal to the widest audience possible), but it remains so disconnected from the tactile experience of inhabiting a living body that the effort feels pallid. If you squint your eyes, you can see the Raimi sheen, but every broadly odd moment is ultimately devoid of the brio and complication necessary. After all, grotesquery isn’t solely about the images but what message they’re communicating. The message here: All this murder and insanity is the result of one woman and her desperate need to have (imaginary) kids.

Discussing Marvel films, and now TV shows, has come to feel like commenting on business decisions rather than artistic ones. The superhero juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down as it balloons in ways that force audiences to subscribe to Disney+ to understand the full litany of connections across its characters and worlds. It’s information gluttony. Yet audiences have been trained to subsist on scraps of diversity, of joy, of appropriately attuned bombast. There isn’t much else to say about these films. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness feels like a bridge to further stories rather than a work that stands on its own. How can it when there’s no end on the other side of the bridge in sight?

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On the surface, “Doctor Strange” pushes the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a bold new direction. By eschewing the usual stories of technologically-gifted playboys and noble super soldiers for a world ruled by magic, “Doctor Strange” feels fresh. It crackles with energy, moving from one plot point to the next, not wasting any moment. This was also the first time I ever noticed the musical score on my first viewing of a Marvel film—it doesn’t create an iconic theme for its hero but imbues the film with the appropriate mood. The visuals are electrifying and CGI is used very well to build a world far different than anything else we’ve seen in superhero adaptations recently. But for all of its wondrous world-building and trippy effects, “Doctor Strange” isn’t the evolutionary step forward for Marvel that it needs to be storytelling-wise. Underneath all of its improvements, the core narrative is something we’ve seen countless times.

Doctor Stephen Strange ( Benedict Cumberbatch ) is a genius, rich neurosurgeon with an ego that could rival Tony Stark’s. He moves through the world with little regard for the people around him. After being distracted looking at medical documents while driving (he may be smart but his ego makes him think he’s invulnerable), Strange gets into a brutal car accident that wrecks his hands. His scarred, trembling hands are a constant reminder of the man he once was and never will be again. This doesn’t make Strange rethink the way he lives. Instead, as one surgery after another fails, he becomes crueler and more withdrawn, even lashing out at ex-lover/co-worker Christine Palmer ( Rachel McAdams ), who is the last person on whom he can depend; his world of medicine and science has failed him. But after receiving a tip from Jonathon Pangborn (a charismatic, underutilized Benjamin Bratt ), Strange finds himself under the tutelage of The Ancient One ( Tilda Swinton ) in Nepal, who opens him up to worlds he never believed existed. The visual landscape of their first encounter is the film at its most daring. We’re privy to worlds full of neon purples, cerulean blues and blood reds. We watch Strange become enveloped by hundreds of hands as if out of a nightmare. He bounces between dimensions that resemble the dark beauty of outer space to those that are a kaleidoscope of colors. Even a man as arrogant as Strange can’t deny what he’s been shown.

Strange may be a character that hews too close to the model of rich, egotistical white men with which superhero films are obsessed. But the film had the opportunity to do something different, by showing the interior of a character forced to rethink everything he knows and the nature of reality itself. Instead, "Doctor Strange" falls into some significant narrative mistakes.

One of the most glaring sins of “Doctor Strange” is how quickly Strange masters magic. There isn’t much tension in his arc. While he struggles briefly at first to keep up with other students The Ancient One has taken under her care, he’s soon stealing sacred books out from under Wong ( Benedict Wong ), the sharp-eyed master who protects the texts at The Ancient One’s behest. Strange plays by his own rules, growing far beyond the skills of those around him. He even goes as far as bending time, secretly reading from forbidden texts and wielding the Eye of Agamotto. When Karl Mordo ( Chiwetel Ejiofor ) remarks that Strange seems destined for this, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Of course he was. 

In effect, Strange is proven right. Who cares about rules and breaking the laws of nature when you’re actually right, and in turn you save the world? Strange never grows much as a character since he proves to be right about far too much, justifying his ego and rank arrogance. Cumberbatch is having considerable fun with the role (although he brings nothing unexpected) but he can’t distract from how nothing in Strange’s story feels earned. You also can’t ignore that “Doctor Strange” is essentially the story of a white man who travels to an “exotic” land, whose culture and people he doesn’t respect let alone know the language of. Yet somehow he just happens to realize he’s a natural at magic and gets good enough to beat practitioners who have been doing this for years.

In this way, “Doctor Strange” reveals the precarious place in which superhero films find themselves. Director Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige have repeatedly defended this movie's controversial casting. They’re very aware of the increasing expectation of audiences. But it isn’t enough to cast actors like Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor in supporting roles, you have to give them something interesting to do. And as fun and light as “Doctor Strange” is, it is impossible to ignore the problems inherent in casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One.

Swinton inhabits the sorceress with her trademark oddity and cutting humor. It takes only a careful tilt of her head or blithe remark to Strange to believe this woman has lived for hundreds of years. In many ways, Swinton’s presence seems to be from another film entirely—one that would truly embrace the weirdness of the premise beyond some trippy visual effects.

Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill have spoken at length about the decision to cast Swinton in a role that was originally a Tibetan man in the comics. They feared casting an Asian man or even woman would mean the character would fall into well-worn stereotypes. So, they whitewashed the role. If the only way you can bypass these issues is to whitewash the part (yet keep the Asian setting and vague mysticism), the problem isn’t the character, it’s your lack of imagination as a creator. The filmmakers behind “Doctor Strange” may be well-intentioned but that doesn’t soften the racism threading the movie. Despite the desire to be inventive, “Doctor Strange” unfortunately repeats many of the mistakes of its predecessors beyond uncomfortable racial politics.

There are many great actors that color the film's margins, but “Doctor Strange” doesn’t make the best use of them. Rachel McAdams plays one of the most poorly written superhero love interests I think I’ve ever seen. She has a warm, flirtatious energy that is a welcome addition to the movie. But she isn’t a person so much as a convenient prop forgotten about for long stretches until Strange needs her.

"Doctor Strange'"s worst sin in terms of casting comes in its villain. At this point, has any major franchise wasted as many great actors in thinly-written villain roles as the MCU? Mads Mikkelsen is an amazing actor who often creates an alluring mix of darkness, pathos and passion. His unsettling screen presence is perfect for this kind of story. But Kaecilius, a former pupil of The Ancient One, has such muddled motivations and little interiority that Mikkelsen is surprisingly forgettable. Strange’s battle with him ultimately comes down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Strange doesn’t care about being a hero. The juxtaposition between Kaecilius and Strange is one of the more ill-thought out central conflicts from a blockbuster in a long time. They aren’t battling because of opposing ideologies or deep emotional history. They’re simply an inconvenience to each other. If anything, Mordo’s obsession with order would make him a more compelling foil for Kaecilius.

Undoubtedly, the best aspect of the film is its rich visuals. From costume design to CGI to its framing, “Doctor Strange” is a visual feast in ways superhero films rarely are. In the Mirror Dimension, in which the magic of the characters won’t affect people in the real world, the characters cut loose showing off the extent of their abilities. Buildings break apart, fold into each other, reform in ways reminiscent of “ Inception .” Almost every scene bursts with color—crimson, marigold, neon purples, inky blacks. “Doctor Strange” at times takes on the language of video games in ways I’ve never seen before, with its characters being dwarfed by grand, collapsing buildings. The laws of physics are inconsequential here. And after a while the Mirror Dimension feels claustrophobic, a problem that ultimately comes down to the world-building. We get mere sketches of how any of this works. Sure, it’s thrilling to watch. But without understanding the impact of the magic in the Mirror Dimension or the ripple effect of playing with laws of physics it’s hard to feel thrilled, scared or awed after a while. In the end, the beauty and visual effects of “Doctor Strange” are frustratingly weightless.

Even with these considerable faults “Doctor Strange” can also be charming. It’s a spry film brimming with great details, striking imagery and joy. It pushes the MCU into a fascinating world full of magic and villains that exists beyond our understanding of time and reality—maybe next time they’ll do something interesting when they get there.

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Film credits.

Doctor Strange movie poster

Doctor Strange (2016)

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.

115 minutes

Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange

Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer

Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn

Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Karl Mordo

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius

Benedict Wong as Wong

Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Nicodemus West

  • Scott Derrickson

Writer (comic book)

  • Steve Ditko
  • Jon Spaihts
  • C. Robert Cargill


  • Sabrina Plisco
  • Wyatt Smith
  • Michael Giacchino

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Doctor Strange 2 gets lost in a tangle of fan service and half-baked ideas

The doctor strange sequel is a bloated comic book event in movie form.

By Charles Pulliam-Moore , a reporter focusing on film, TV, and pop culture. Before The Verge, he wrote about comic books, labor, race, and more at io9 and Gizmodo for almost five years.

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movie review dr strange

Most of Marvel Studios’ movies are meant to be at least somewhat accessible regardless of how much familiarity one has with the larger MCU or the comics a film is loosely based on. To a certain extent, this is also true of director Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness , a crossover event-style film that goes all-in on the concept of alternate universes . Multiverse of Madness often feels like it wants to be a fresh starting point for a new phase of Marvel storytelling; what it actually is, though, is a testament to how easy it is for these sorts of sprawling franchise projects to collapse under their own weight when they get too big.

Because Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange played such a crucial role in the Infinity Saga and then almost immediately became the MCU’s new de facto fatherly mentor figure in Spider-Man: No Way Home , it’s easy to forget how little time the character’s really spent in the spotlight by himself. Strange gets precious little alone time in Multiverse of Madness , but the film opens on a dazzling and disorienting set piece that recaptures some of the Steve Ditko-esque magic that made Scott Derrickson’s 2016 Doctor Strange sparkle . 

Doctor Strange gazing at a statue of himself.

Having faced down Dormammu, helped defeat Thanos, and pulled reality back together after breaking it with Spider-Man, present day Stephen Strange doesn’t really think much about the vivid nightmares he keeps having in which he’s not exactly himself. Horrific dreams filled with enchanted beasts are the sort of thing that experienced practitioners of the mystic arts like Strange and Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) are accustomed to. But Strange can’t help but feel that something’s deeply amiss when one of his night terrors takes a turn so grim that he’s jolted awake and left wondering who the mysterious young girl from his dream is.

Rather than specifying when exactly after WandaVision and No Way Home it takes place, Multiverse of Madness instead clues you in through small details about the world around Stephen, where he’s become known as one of the heroes who saved the universe. Where so many of Marvel’s post- Endgame stories have seemed comfortable digging through the immediate aftermath and chaos of Thanos’ snap, Multiverse of Madness feels almost pointedly focused on emphasizing how much people have moved on with their lives since then. 

Were it not for Strange and the Avengers, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and her fellow surgeon Nicodemus West (Michael Stuhlbarg) would still be dust, and they’re all deeply thankful to the sorcerer for his good deeds. But with people’s lives returning to something like normal, it’s hard for Stephen and those around him to make peace with the whole of who he’s become: a powerful — but not the most powerful — magician whose ex-girlfriend ended up marrying someone else. Stephen Strange’s comics accurate assholery returns in Multiverse of Madness, both as a reminder of what kind of haughty jerk he’s always been and as a crystallization of how alienating his life as a superhero is. Whereas Strange’s glibness with patients and his peers made him unlikable almost to ridiculousness in the first Doctor Strange , here it plays much more like pithiness Cumberbatch is occasionally able to accent with charm.

America Chavez manifesting a portal.

Multiverse of Madness does not truly get rolling until America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) unintentionally crash-lands in Strange’s home universe while being chased by a demonic creature from one of Strange’s nightmares. In addition to bringing a new level of understanding about the multiverse as a concept to Earth’s heroes, America’s also Multiverse of Madness ’ closest thing to an audience surrogate. Though Gomez’s America is a promising and powerful presence in scenes where she’s interacting with Strange and Wong, her chunks of exposition heavy dialogue do little to distract you from the reality that she’s also one of the movie’s MacGuffins. 

America’s uncontrolled ability to naturally travel between universes — visualized stunningly as her creating star-shaped rifts in space — makes her the target for an unseen magical menace that’s hellbent on killing her, and there’s little she can do to stop it. Like Spider-Man: No Way Home before it, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness very heavy handedly leads with the idea that Stephen Strange has picked up where Tony Stark left off in terms of becoming a mentor to wayward super children.

Multiverse of Madness knows that very little about the MCU’s Doctor Strange has at all suggested that he’d be inclined to look after a child, which is likely why it often feels as if the movie’s knowingly slowing down to show you how he comes to care for America. In those moments where it’s slowing down, however, Multiverse of Madness never finds the time to let America be much more than a quippy kid who needs to be saved, which has the unintended effect of making Strange’s care for her feel that much more difficult to buy.

Far more compelling than Strange’s nascent paternal instincts is Multiverse of Madness ’s take on Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), yet another powerful magic user whose dreams have become distressingly vivid and lifelike. Thankfully, Multiverse of Madness avoids rehashing too much of WandaVision ’s plot and uses the logic of comic books to reasonably bring its magical brain trust together early on in the movie. But there is such a pronounced breezing past the specifics of what happened in WandaVision that the Scarlet Witch’s motivations and her relatively newfound grasp of magic might not make much sense to anyone who didn’t watch the show. Even though it’s not really explained, what does make sense and feel much more “right” is the overall tone and energy of Olsen’s Maximoff, which feels more like a reflection of the character actually being given things to do in a movie for once.

Wanda and Doctor Strange having a conversation.

With magic now even more fully on the narrative table, Multiverse of Madness is able to get much more imaginative and cerebral in its depictions of monsters, and many of the whimsical enchantments that defined early Doctor Strange comics like the Flames of the Faltine and the Icy Tendrils of Ikthalon . Because this is still a Marvel Studios production, however, Multiverse of Madness ’ more fantastical battle sequences involving magic do have a way of getting too busy for their own good. It’s important to note that despite its Marvel-esque stylistic sensibilities, Multiverse of Madness is also very much a Sam Raimi film in which the director’s unmistakable personal tastes rush to the forefront in moments that feel like Marvel gave him the clear to get really wild and into his specific brand of messed up.

It would be dishonest to say that Multiverse of Madness is a horror film. Rather, it’s another very big, very expensive superhero movie in which a spooky and sometimes genuinely alarming filter is applied with varying degrees of success. While some of Multiverse of Madness ’ scares come across as gags, far more of them are disturbing and clever examples of what all magicians can pull off with a bit of imagination, and Raimi tries to mirror that idea with a mixed bag of ambitious but not always successful shots from bold angles. The situation is similarly uneven with Danny Elfman’s aggressive score that dramatically oscillates between different degrees of florid excess — none of which ever fully manage to complement Multiverse of Madness ’ sound design.

Many moviegoers will be showing up for Multiverse of Madness for no other reason than to see just how many cameos there are and figure out who all that multiverse brings into the MCU. To its credit, the movie delivers on that front with a handful of featured players who bring an interesting energy to the film that it could use just a little bit more of. If you’ve seen Spider-Man: No Way Home , then you already have an idea of what Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ’ reaching into other universes is meant to do within the context of its own story. It’s a fun and flashy storytelling trick that simultaneously makes you long for the past and wonder what’s coming next. Unlike No Way Home , though, where the multiverse was framed as being more like part of the landscape its heroes had to navigate, Multiverse of Madness treats the concept like a plot device meant to move its story forward.

Watching Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness , you do get the distinct sense that you’re seeing the beginning of a new chapter for Stephen Strange and his associates, which is interesting given how listless the MCU has sometimes felt following the Infinity Saga. Clearly, Marvel’s already planning for a future that’s filled with even more of Strange’s brand of magic and far-flung characters you wouldn’t have dreamed of seeing in the MCU just a few years back. What seems less and less clear, though, is how Marvel Studios plans to get to that point.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne. The movie hits theaters on May 6th.

Update May 3rd, 1:45PM ET: Article updated to better describe the film’s visual style.

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Doctor Strange

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange (2016)

While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts. While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts. While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

  • Scott Derrickson
  • Jon Spaihts
  • C. Robert Cargill
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Rachel McAdams
  • 1.1K User reviews
  • 510 Critic reviews
  • 72 Metascore
  • 21 wins & 68 nominations total

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  • Dr. Stephen Strange

Chiwetel Ejiofor

  • Dr. Christine Palmer

Benedict Wong

  • The Ancient One

Michael Stuhlbarg

  • Dr. Nicodemus West

Benjamin Bratt

  • Jonathan Pangborn

Scott Adkins

  • Brunette Zealot

Alaa Safi

  • Tall Zealot

Katrina Durden

  • Blonde Zealot

Topo Wresniwiro

  • Tina Minoru
  • (as Linda Duan)

Mark Anthony Brighton

  • Daniel Drumm

Meera Syal

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Did you know

  • Trivia Rachel McAdams ' startled reaction in the broom closet was genuine, since the mop handle fell completely by accident, and scared McAdams almost out of her skin. Scott Derrickson decided to keep the reaction in the film, since she never broke character.
  • Goofs (at around 4 mins) After going through his clean up routine, Strange attaches his own mask, breaking aseptic protocols. In fact, a surgeon would put on his/her mask, then scrub, then have the OR team gown and glove him/her. Another error is that he inserted his hands all the way through his gown to don gloves. Hands must never leave the sleeves and gloves must be put on with the sleeves still covering. In addition, while he is removing the bullet from the patient's brain, he and Dr. Christine Palmer are shown intermittently with scrub masks and without.

Kaecilius : How long have you been at Kamar-Taj, Mister...

Dr. Stephen Strange : Doctor!

Kaecilius : Mr. Doctor?

Dr. Stephen Strange : It's Strange.

Kaecilius : Maybe. Who am I to judge?

  • Crazy credits There is a message at the end of the credits warning viewers to not be distracted when driving. This is a reference to Dr Strange's catastrophic car accident, but it is also a running gag in the film about essential warnings appearing after (not before) instructions.
  • Connections Edited into Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Soundtracks Feels So Good Written by Chuck Mangione Performed by Chuck Mangione Courtesy of A&M Records under license from Universal Music Enterprises

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  • November 4, 2016 (United States)
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  • Dr. Strange
  • Kathmandu, Nepal (on location)
  • Marvel Studios
  • Walt Disney Pictures
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  • $165,000,000 (estimated)
  • $232,641,920
  • $85,058,311
  • Nov 6, 2016
  • $677,796,833

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  • Runtime 1 hour 55 minutes
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Dolby Digital
  • Dolby Surround 7.1
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Review: ‘Doctor Strange’ and His Most Excellent Adventure

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movie review dr strange

By Manohla Dargis

  • Nov. 3, 2016

Most Marvel movies open like Robert Downey Jr.’s stand-up routine in “Iron Man” before it goes south. They deliver quips and silky come-hither nonsense, only to end up like a big green monster stuck on rewind: “Hulk smash!” again and again, ad infinitum. In between start and finish, there are moments of levity and discovery in the machined product, but too often you can’t see the movie for Marvel’s action plan. Its latest, the giddily enjoyable “Doctor Strange,” is part of Marvel’s strategy for world domination, yet it’s also so visually transfixing, so beautiful and nimble that you may even briefly forget the brand.

You don’t need to know Dr. Strange to know his story. A tale of hubris — with foolish pride and an inevitable fall — it opens in contemporary New York, where Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), is flying high as a supersurgeon. After a crippling accident, he abandons his old life (partly embodied by Rachel McAdams, dewy and funny) for a grand exploit, traveling simultaneously into his soul and to the misterioso Far East. He meets leaders and fellow travelers, studies books and unlocks secrets, in time becoming a superhero with magical powers, a dubious goatee and a flirty cape that dries his tears.

Movie Review: ‘Doctor Strange’

The times critic manohla dargis reviews “doctor strange.”.

In “Doctor Strange,” Benedict Cumberbatch portrays a surgeon who learns how to bend reality after a crippling accident. In her review, Manohla Dargis writes: The giddily enjoyable “Doctor. Strange,” is part of Marvel’s strategy for world domination, yet it’s also so visually transfixing, so beautiful and nimble that you may even briefly forget the brand. Dr. Strange’s voyage of self-discovery is as old as the ancients where men become near-gods while training amid hazy, low-key lighting. The director Scott Derrickson and his crew push the medium’s plasticity, creating spaces that bend, splinter and multiply. The movie’s more lysergic sections are followed with carefully aligned narrative bricks and mortar and sometimes sealed with a quip, as if to reassure you that there’s nothing too far out about any of this.

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Dr. Strange first popped out of the glorious head of Steve Ditko, the comic-book visionary who brought him to life with Stan Lee (a pairing best known for Spider-Man). Dr. Strange’s travels east evoke the inner and outer magical mystery tours of the 1960s, summoning visions of head-tripping and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” In a, well, yes, strange bit of timing, Dr. Strange appeared in 1963, around the time Harvard fired Timothy Leary and a colleague for conducting experiments with hallucinogens. Five years later, in Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” the Merry Prankster Ken Kesey was downing acid and absorbed in “the plunging purple Steve Ditko shadows of Dr. Strange.”

“Doctor Strange” tethers its plunging purples, acid greens and altered states to a hero’s journey with its call to adventure, its mentor, its allies and its enemies. After his crisis, Dr. Strange lands in Nepal, where he meets a guide (Chiwetel Ejiofor, as brooding and sincere as Hamlet). There, he studies the way of the hero with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a Celtic sorcerer, who in the comics emerged from the Himalayas and the West’s long fascination with, and appropriation of, Eastern mysticism. (The screenwriter C. Robert Cargill has said that some of the changes involving the sorcerer, originally from Tibet, stemmed from concerns that depictions of Tibetans might anger China, a movie market powerhouse.)

Dr. Strange’s voyage of self-discovery is as old as the ancients and as familiar as Christopher Nolan’s 2005 “Batman Begins,” where men become near-gods while training amid hazy, low-key lighting. And just as Mr. Nolan borrows from the original Dr. Strange, this “Doctor Strange” borrows from Mr. Nolan. It owes a conspicuous debt to his delirious 2010 fantasy, “Inception,” and that movie’s vision of a city folding in on itself. In “Doctor Strange,” the director Scott Derrickson and his crew push the medium’s plasticity further, creating spaces that bend, splinter and multiply. A wall folds open like a spreading hand fan while cityscapes fragment into whirring, shifting fractal forms.

These impossible visions at times evoke the work of M. C. Escher , who used perspective to destabilize otherwise realistic images. Elsewhere, the movie’s pinging-ponging characters seem caught in one of Rube Goldberg ’s mischievous machines, like the witty chase in which Dr. Strange runs atop a platform while an enemy runs below him upside down, transformed into a gravity-defying doppelgänger. And, as with the dreamscapes in “Inception,” the special effects in “Doctor Strange” serve beauty and meaning rather than the grimly tedious destruction that drains energy out of most contemporary superhero movies. Here, you remember the wit, not the rubble.

The space-and-time warping and mirrored realities in “Doctor Strange” are a blast. They’re inventive enough that they awaken wonder, provoking that delicious question: How did they do that? At the same time, Mr. Derrickson resists the temptation to loiter. Drawn-out set pieces have become endemic in effects-driven vehicles and can stop a movie dead as filmmakers show off their cool toys (and budget) and ignore everything else, the story and restive audience included. In the modern-era superhero movie, this kind of grandstanding has nearly assumed the level of a genre prerequisite, especially in finales that never seem to end, but end and end and end (then die).

Mr. Cumberbatch’s affable screen presence works up a strong, steady counterbeat to his character’s narcissism. As is the case when he plays characters like Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Cumberbatch comes across in this movie as at once supremely capable (it’s easy to accept him as a neurosurgeon) and more than a little goofy, with the kind of lopsided beauty and spring-loaded physicality that seem ready-made for silly faces and walks. Dr. Strange’s arrogance ruins his career, but Mr. Derrickson makes sure that it doesn’t weigh down the story. The character’s conceit is a mask that’s always in danger of slipping, which complicates his heroism with moments of bluffing, comedy and doubt.

Mr. Derrickson does a lot right, including with his lineup of strong actors (the cast also includes Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen) who hold your attention even as the ground shifts below their feet. They help elevate the more generic beats in “Doctor Strange” because, for all the phantasmagoria and time-skipping, there is also much by the book, including the vaguely Christ-like, fallen and risen savior. The movie’s more lysergic sections are followed with carefully aligned narrative bricks and mortar and sometimes sealed with a quip, as if to reassure you that there’s nothing too far out about any of this. That’s hardly unexpected, and it also scarcely matters because when a good fantasy fiction like this opens that door of perception called imagination it’s a total trip.

“Doctor Strange” is rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned) for supernatural violence. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes.

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Movie Review: Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

by David Mumpower · May 6, 2022

movie review dr strange

In 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) introduced a new character, Dr. Stephen Strange.

Since then, the character has appeared in five other films, but he hadn’t gotten a sequel…until now.

movie review dr strange

Yes, several years after its announcement, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has finally entered theaters. Here’s my review of the latest Marvel movie.

What Is Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?

First and foremost, the film is a (long overdue) direct sequel to 2016’s Dr. Strange.

movie review dr strange

After that story, Dr. Strange demonstrated his abilities as the Sorcerer Supreme in Avengers: Infinity War. He used his powers to calculate the only method to defeat Thanos.

Then, Strange gave his Infinity Stone to the one person who shouldn’t have it, Thanos, to ensure that the Avengers won in the end.

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For his troubles, Strange blipped out of existence for five years after Thanos’ Snap. Then, the Sorcerer Supreme returned in time to help defeat the tyrant/mass murderer.

However, a few things changed while Strange was dust. For instance, Master Wong replaced him as the Sorcerer Supreme.

Marvel Avengers Infinity War

Also, Dr. Christine Palmer moved on with her life and met someone else. Oh, and his former friend, Mordo, despises him now.

So, we have a lot in play for a sequel. Perhaps the most intriguing change takes place behind the camera, though.

movie review dr strange

(Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage)

Horror veteran Scott Derrickson dropped out of the project, only to be replaced by Sam Raimi.

Derrickson is one of the few horror filmmakers to dabble in the realm of superheroes. Raimi was the first. His hiring is an absolute masterpiece.

movie review dr strange

Also, let me be clear on this point. No matter what you’re expecting with Multiverse of Madness, it IS a Sam Raimi film in the best possible way.

The scare tactics here fluctuate between harrowing and hysterical. Raimi’s having fun in what he expects to be his final superhero movie.

What’s the Story of Multiverse of Madness?

This story plays out as a direct sequel to a movie AND a Disney+ series, but it also ties into the events of Avengers: Endgame.

Two characters from that film, Dr. Strange and Wanda Maximoff, have since played roles in different apocalyptic tales.

movie review dr strange

Source: denofgeek.com

Wanda has nearly destroyed the town of Westview as she lives out a sitcom fantasy about marrying Vision and having two kids.

Dr. Strange has broken the world by casting an ill-considered spell for Peter Parker, whom he may not even remember now.

movie review dr strange

Multiverse of Madness ties those premises together by forcing Strange to intercede for the first time in Wanda’s new life.

Before that happens, a new player takes the field. We meet America Chavez for the first time as she attempts to help her ally, Stephen Strange. No, not that one.

movie review dr strange

Yes, this film happily skips into the multiverse with several versions of Dr. Strange appearing. We witness more than one Wanda as well.

Chavez interacts with all of them, as that’s her thing. She’s a multiversal character whose ability ties the story together.

movie review dr strange

Speaking of which, Captain America: Civil War provides the baseline for the Dr. Strange sequel. In that movie, Avengers battled against one another.

You should prepare for the fact that Mordo isn’t the villain of this piece, as we’d expected for the past five years. Instead, it’s Wanda.

movie review dr strange

The Scarlet Witch’s driving goal in the film is a reunion with her children. Unfortunately, Dr. Strange and Chavez stand in the way of that. Never try to keep a mother from her kids!

For his part, Strange is trying to find his way in a world that can do just fine without him. It’s a hard thing for a narcissist to accept.

What Works in the Film?

Writing a spoiler-free review of this film is like talking about Hamilton without mentioning the lyrics. It’s possible, but the outline seems skeletal.

At one point, a massive battle occurs that is wildly satisfying AND utterly shocking in its outcome. And I cannot tell you a single participant who fights against Wanda.

movie review dr strange

Otherwise, I’d ruin any number of surprises, two of which caused my audience to stand up and cheer.

What I can say is that Multiverse of Madness works as a grand unified theory of Marvel comic book stories…and not just ones from the MCU.

marvel Cinematic Universe


One of the characters who fight in battle here comes from a television series nobody even remembers. Another is among the most beloved Marvel characters ever.

My suspicion is that many other cameos didn’t make the final cut, as the movie lost half an hour in the editing bay.

Marvel Cinematic

So, what I can say with complete sincerity is that every appearance in this film feels well-considered and satisfying.

Also, some of the trippier effects from Dr. Strange don’t factor as heavily into the sequel. I’m relieved by that, as I wasn’t really a fan.

movie review dr strange

Instead, the action here takes more of a Sam Raimi tone, with action and humor combined cleverly.

In fact, I want to explore that for a moment. Long ago, Raimi and his buddy, Bruce Campbell, came to my neck of the woods, East Tennessee, and filmed Evil Dead.

Multiverse of Madness features a shocking number of Evil Dead callbacks and related concepts. In addition, this story comes with a LOT more horror gags than you might expect.

What Doesn’t Work in the Film?

I’ll go ahead and tell you right now that I give the film an A. So, I obviously quite enjoy it, albeit not quite as much as Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Part of that stems from the subject matter, as No Way Home’s use of returning characters felt more organic and believable.

movie review dr strange

Source: Marvel Studios

However, some of the acting in Multiverse of Madness doesn’t quite ring true for me.

For whatever reason, Elizabeth Olsen’s acting rings false at times. And I’m saying that as someone who believes her performance in WandaVision was among the best of the past decade.

Raimi asks Olsen to be severe at times here, and it comes across as wooden. Meanwhile, some of Wong’s actions feel…dumber than Wong.

Marvel just faced the same problem with Moon Knight. Sometimes, characters must behave in idiotic ways to advance the plot to a final payoff.

movie review dr strange

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

The best Marvel movies don’t have that, but Multiverse of Madness does at times.

These are nitpicks in the greater scheme, though. Overall, Multiverse of Madness does what Marvel had promised. It concludes the story arcs of Strange and Maximoff, at least for now.

movie review dr strange

I may disagree with the methods, but Raimi himself anticipated that. He acknowledged that it’s probably not the story WandaVision fans wanted, just the one they needed.

Final Thoughts

I’m resisting every urge to gush about this movie. I presume you’ll watch it for yourself soon, at which point you’ll know what “music fight” means.

Dr Strange

For now, all I can say in a non-spoilery way is that this scene is brilliant. I also love the Lovecraftian monsters, although I wish they’d played more of a factor.

That’s my immediate, lingering thought about Multiverse of Madness. I wanted more of everything, which is always a good sign.

Dr Strange

In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, I would rank Dr. Strange 2 well above Eternals and Black Widow and on a par with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Fists.

So, we’re talking about upper-tier MCU…but not top tier. That’s plenty good enough, right?

Seriously, go see this movie asap! That way, we can talk about [redacted] dying because of [redacted] by their own [redacted]! Who saw that coming?!

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movie review dr strange

  • DVD & Streaming

Doctor Strange

  • Action/Adventure , Drama , Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Content Caution

movie review dr strange

In Theaters

  • November 4, 2016
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange; Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo; Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer; Benedict Wong as Wong; Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius; Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One

Home Release Date

  • February 28, 2017
  • Scott Derrickson


Movie review.

You know what they say: When life gives you lemons, conjure an interdimensional portal and chuck those lemons right through it.

Well, all right, maybe that’s not a common saying; not this side of Kathmandu, anyway. And it took Dr. Stephen Strange—a recognized master at interdimensional portal creation—some time to embrace its essence.

Before he started wearing a semi-autonomous cape, Dr. Strange wore surgical scrubs. He was a medical doctor, and a dandy one at that. Blessed with a photographic memory and gifted with a set of preternaturally steady hands, Strange could fix all manner of brain and spine ailments better than anyone else in the world. People marveled at his skill even as they tired of his preening arrogance. And few could argue with his spotless success rate—even as he refused to take cases that might blemish it.

But you know what they say: Pride comes before a horrific car crash in your Lamborghini. And so it is with Strange. On a dark, rainy night, on his way to accept more applause at a black-tie gala, his sports car flies off the road, flips through the air and crashes. When he comes to, Strange finds his stitched, swollen hands are held together by wire and pins. Eleven steel rods have been inserted under the skin in an effort to stabilize their structure.

Yes, he kept his hands. But he lost their magic. They’ll never work their medical wizardry again.

That’s unacceptable to Strange. He tries every option available through Western medicine. And when that doesn’t work, he turns his eyes toward the rising sun. He learns of a man who suffered a severed spinal cord injury and somehow learned to walk again. That man suggests that Strange should travel to Nepal and seek Kamar-Taj: The folks there are pretty good with lost causes.

Desperate, Strange heads to Nepal, discovers Kamar-Taj and meets the Ancient One—a bald-headed woman who looks surprisingly spry, given her name and all. She admits to helping the man. “He couldn’t walk,” she says. “I convinced him he could.” She shows him diagrams showing chakras—supposed energy points in the human body connected with yoga, meditation and Eastern mysticism. Have you seen anything like this? the Ancient One asks.

“In gift shops,” Strange sniffs. Inside, he’s as crushed as his damaged hands. He was looking for a miracle cure. Instead, he finds a rinky-dink New Age commune peddling feeble-minded hokum.

Suddenly, the Ancient One knocks Strange out of his body and sends him hurtling through unimagined realms, galaxies and dimensions. He flies through the universe and finds another and another. He spins through time and matter—soaked in color, drenched in image, places pregnant with beauty and horror.

And then, just as suddenly, he’s back, with the Ancient One gently looking at him.

“Have you seen that before in a gift shop?” she asks.

Well, you know what they say: You can’t judge a book by its cover.

(Well, except for those books locked in chains in the Kamar-Taj library with strange, glowing symbols on their jackets that we’ve not yet gotten to in this review. Yeah, those books you can judge.)

Positive Elements

Dr. Strange may be a great surgeon when the movie begins, but he’s also a big, smirking jerk. He’s reckless, selfish and often tries to embarrass less-talented doctors when he can.

When Strange invites ex-girlfriend Christine to a speaking engagement, he suggests such outings were always fun for the both of them. “They weren’t about us,” Christine says with a smile. “They were about you. Everything’s about you.”

But once he starts hanging out with the Ancient One, Strange begins to see the world in a different way—and not just because it’s constantly twisting into a Picasso painting.

The Ancient One heads a powerful, secret organization tasked with protecting the world from magical, mystical attacks. She tells Strange that while the Avengers safeguard the planet from physical danger, the group she’s a part of is all about spiritual threats. To be a part of the organization requires courage and a willingness to sacrifice your all for others. And she encourages Strange to become one of them.

“It’s not about you,” she says flatly. And eventually, Strange sees that she’s right.

The Ancient One drops wisdom elsewhere, too. Mordo, another of the Ancient One’s star pupils, says that he’s managed to conquer his demons during his stay in Kamar-Taj. The Ancient One corrects him: “We never lose our demons,” she says. “We only learn to live above them.”

Spiritual Elements

When the Ancient One tells Strange that the secret to healing his hands is getting in touch with his spiritual side, Strange pushes back hard. “There is no such thing as spirit!” he bellows. “We are matter and nothing more!” He soon sees otherwise.

Doctor Strange is a deeply spiritual movie, predicated on there being a reality unseen and untouched by science. But everything here is also blanketed by vague Eastern mysticism, magic and the occult.

There’s an effort to make the magic here sound vaguely naturalistic. The Ancient One says that she and her acolytes pull energy from the “multiverse” (an infinite number of universes) to do their thing—comparing it to, say, a mystical, computer-like operating system that works on nature, not silicon circuits. No one prays to any foreign gods here or conjures any actual demons (unlike what apparently sometimes happened in Marvel’s Doctor Strange comic books).

But these energy manipulations are still called “spells,” and their practitioners are called sorcerers. Indeed, the Ancient One is known as the Supreme Sorcerer, a title that’s been passed down for generations. Arcane ceremonies are written in ancient tomes and loaded with mysterious symbols—all trappings of what we cinematically understand as sorcery. And when Kaecilius, the movie’s villain, and his “zealots” try to open a portal (in a Christian church) between our universe and the hellish Dark Dimension ruled by a being known as Dormammu, the ceremony is filled with magical chants as if calling forth a dark, demonic entity.

The library of Kamar-Taj is filled with works of grim arcana: One book Strange studies is the Key of Solomon , a grimoire used centuries ago to allegedly cast spells and call forth dark powers. (Many of the glowing energy signs conjured by the Ancient One and others resemble pentacles published in such books.) Staves, capes and other objects can, we’re told, be imbued with their own magic. Strange and others can also exit their physical bodies and wander around the astral plane.

Kamar-Taj feels a bit like I’d imagine a Buddhist monastery would, full of robes and Nepalese trappings. Some of its teachings have a tang of Taoism—such as when the Ancient One tells Strange that when in a river one should not fight the current but submit to it instead, figuring out ways to channel its natural power.

Before reaching Kamar-Taj, Strange wanders around Kathmandu, running his hands over Buddhist prayer wheels and seeing signs for “Holy Tours.” We see diagrams depicting chakras. Christine refers to Kamar-Taj as a “cult.” When Strange tells her it’s not, she tells him that that’s just what a cultist would say.

Sexual Content

Strange asks Christine if she and another doctor are “sleeping together.” (They’re not.) The two talk about their own former relationship occasionally, with Strange insisting they were “barely lovers.” He later kisses her cheek.

Violent Content

A man is suspended by ropes of energy, groaning in pain. Kaecilius lops off his head. (Audiences see the act only as an indistinct shadow.) People die after falling from great heights. (We see their bodies lying lifeless on the pavement below). People are stabbed with semi-transparent blades of energy and presumably crushed by unfolding, moving buildings. Part of Hong Kong is destroyed: Many are presumably killed, buried in rubble or victims of some of the car crashes we see.

Hands and feet fly during frequent fights. Strange and Mordo spar, catching each other in various holds. Strange is attacked by would-be muggers who punch and kick him until Mordo arrives and fights them off. Strange and a zealot fight in their astral forms, Strange nearly dying in the process. When Christine uses electrical paddles to zap Strange’s physical body back to life, the charge hurts his astral opponent. Strange asks Christine to give him another zap: The subsequent electricity kills his astral foe. (It’s the only person that Strange kills in the movie, and it impacts him deeply. He expresses a disgust for killing, even as Mordo insists that it’s the only way to deal with these evildoers.)

Strange’s car crash is jarring and violent, and we see his hands impact the dashboard. We later see him rushed to surgery, his face bloodied and one eye swollen shut. When he awakens after the operation, he doesn’t look much better … and his stitched hands look horribly swollen and mangled. Operations feature bloody gauze and painstakingly stitched stitches.

[ Spoiler Warning ] Strange is killed several times in a potentially never-ending time loop (a clever way to keep Dormammu from destroying the Earth). He’s blasted, vaporized and impaled several times on screen, each time returning to demand a bargain from Dormammu. “You can’t win,” Dormammu tells him. “No,” Strange admits. “But I can lose. Again. And again. And again.”

Crude or Profane Language

Three s-words, a couple of uses each of “a–hole” and “h—.

Drug and Alcohol Content

After the Ancient One sends Strange on his introductory journey to spiritual parts unknown—the scene mentioned in the introduction—Strange immediately asks whether there was something in his tea. We see a character quickly drain a large mug of beer.

Other Negative Elements

Strange frequently stretches or breaks the rules he’s supposed to be submitting to, from stealing books from the Kamar-Taj library to bending the laws of time and nature. He manipulates time to save innocent civilians and to prevent a massive cataclysm, but a cohort tells Strange that breaking those laws will have consequences. “The bill comes due,” he says. “Always.”

Doctor Strange features something called the “mirror dimension.” In this dimension (which you’re familiar with if you’ve seen the trailer), sorcerers can bend reality with impunity: Buildings fold in on each other and the world becomes a gigantic M.C. Escher picture.

And in a way, the movie itself exists in a fold-’em-up mirror dimension of its own.

Look at, say, the first fold, and Doctor Strange feels a lot like most other movies that take place in the Marvel cinematic universe. In terms of its problematic content, it might even be a tad better than most. It doesn’t feature the sometimes grim violence of a Captain America movie or the frenetic destruction of an Avengers flick. (Indeed, it’s interesting that it’s most spectacular action sequence features buildings being pushed back together , not being pulled asunder.) There’s very little sexuality to speak of. Language is relatively restrained.

But fold it in on itself again, and you see that Doctor Strange is not like anything else in Marvel’s stable up to this point, what with its overt mysticism and surrealism. I’ve mentioned Picasso and Escher already in this movie, so let me throw out one more artist for you: This feels like a Marvel movie tossed in a painting by Salvador Dali, melting watches and all.

Let that fold again, and we see that there’s a lot to be cautious of. Sure, the content is minimal, but Doctor Strange’ s occultish trappings—absolutely inescapable elements of the Marvel character—are everywhere . And unlike a lot of other fantasy stories where magic plays a key role (like, say, Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter ) , Doctor Strange’ s magic points real-world viewers in some potentially dangerous directions, spiritually speaking.

But then the story folds once more, and we see that underneath these ever-present occult elements, there are some curiously Christian themes in play, too. Consider that our good doctor doesn’t start off being so good in the beginning: He’s a selfish sinner—an atheist who believes that this material world offers the only meaning and happiness possible. Then he gets a glimpse of possibilities beyond scientific comprehension, beauties and mysteries that he can only unlock through submission to something greater than himself. He’s asked to die to the person he was and become something better. He’s asked to sacrifice his own whims and wishes for something higher. Thus, in Doctor Strange , we hear the echo of many a Christian testimony, and we see a hint of Jesus’ own sacrifice for us.

Aesthetically, Doctor Strange is a good movie, one of the strongest in the Marvel canon thus far. But is it a good movie? A movie suitable for you or your family? That depends on where you see the fold.

The Plugged In Show logo

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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Original Doctor Strange Director Has A Blunt Response About How Different His Sequel Would Have Been Compared To The Multiverse Of Madness

In this Universe, it just wasn't meant to be.

Scott Derrickson , the visionary horror movie director and the mind behind the first Doctor Strange movie, stirred the superhero fan community with a candid reveal about how his version of the sequel might have differed from what audiences saw in Scott Raimi's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness . The Exorcism of Emily Rose filmmaker, who departed the Marvel project over creative differences , has occasionally hinted at his distinct vision for the mystical defender's continued adventures. Now, his latest comments come as a more explicit affirmation of a divergent creative path that never came to fruition.

In a recent post to X (formerly Twitter) , the Sinister creator shared a rare piece of memorabilia. It was a Marvel-issued blacklight poster from the Sorcerer Supreme’s original big screen outing, noting its unique place among his personal collectibles:

This official Marvel blacklight #DoctorStrange poster is 1 of only 100 made. It’s the only poster of my own film that I’ve hung in my house.

This seemingly innocuous sharing of his film memorabilia set the stage for a deeper revelation regarding the potential sequel the director had planned. Responding to a fan's question about how his sequel would have compared to the relatively well-received Multiverse of Madness , the Deliver Us From Evil filmmaker gave a succinct and revealing answer. Known for his passion for darker themes, his response hinted at a significantly different direction for the sequel, much like insights recently shared by a Strange 2 screenwriter about two different versions of the script. Scott Derrickson responded:

While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness may not be the highest-ranking Marvel movie or the best Sam Raimi film , it was still a lot of fun. And, as cool as it is to imagine what could have been if the Sinister helmer had been able to see his vision through for a sequel, selfishly, I’m sort of happy the director stepped away from the project. 

If you’ve seen all the Marvel movies in order , you know the franchise has been facing some uphill battles with audiences seemingly growing board with the properties, resulting in several less-than-stellar box office performances. For my money, I’m happy Scott Derrickson stepped away from the MCU to focus on more original fair, like the adaptation of Joe Hill ’s short story The Black Phone . The director behind one of the best Blumhouse movies is better served, in my opinion, by making stories he has more control over. And, as we know, playing in the Marvel sandbox means playing by the committee rules. 

Although Scott Derrickson may not have helmed the Master of Black Magic’s sequel, he does have another one in the pipeline. The Black Phone 2 screenwriter recently revealed that horror hounds should expect the follow-up to hit theaters in 2025. I’m not entirely sure how the team plans on bringing the Grabber back following the first BP movie's perfect ending , but either way, I’m pumped! All the while though, I'm sure MCU fans will continue to imagine what Derrickson had in mind for the Sorcerer Supreme. 

Both Doctor Strange films are available for streaming with a Disney+ subscription . Additionally, don't forget to explore our 2024 movie schedule to discover the exciting films coming soon to a theater near you, including upcoming superhero flicks .


Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing. An expert in all things horror, Ryan enjoys covering a wide variety of topics. He's also a lifelong comic book fan and an avid watcher of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon. 

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Doctor Strange Reviews

movie review dr strange

"Doctor Strange" follows the formula of success with structural similarity and goofy joy, but some of the same regrettable MCU flaws exist.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Apr 7, 2024

movie review dr strange

Mindlessly entertaining, but even with Cumberbatch, it's the epitome of the formulaic Marvel machine.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | May 12, 2023

movie review dr strange

The names have changed and the powers are different, but it's more or less the same Marvel formula.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Aug 20, 2022

movie review dr strange

Though Doctor Strange may represent little more than the latest piece in an expansive series, it presents a familiar story in a hallucinatory and playful way.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Apr 9, 2022

movie review dr strange

If Iron Man kicked us off into the MCU, Doctor Strange kicks us off into the MC-Did-You-See-That?

Full Review | Feb 11, 2022

movie review dr strange

There hasn't been a blockbuster that grapples with faith on this scale since The Matrix.

Full Review | Original Score: A- | Aug 28, 2021

movie review dr strange

Doctor Strange is a lesser-known figure in the Marvel universe and compared to films about the Avengers, Doctor Strange, as a film, comes out lesser, too.

Full Review | Aug 26, 2021

movie review dr strange

Rote storytelling and pesky politics aside, the film does offer its rewards, particularly in Cumberbatch's fine performance, some twisty visuals (many cribbed from Inception), and the occasional dabs of gentle humor.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4 | Aug 18, 2021

movie review dr strange

I'll leave it to others to make sense of the Marvel-y details in Doctor Strange, like Infinity Stones and other superhero cameos. But, as a stand-alone origin film, it more than fits the bill for blockbuster entertainment.

Full Review | Aug 5, 2021

movie review dr strange

Something different, visually and thematically.

Full Review | Jun 24, 2021

movie review dr strange

It isn't without flaws: some humorous moments feel shoehorned in and MacAdams is wasted in a disappointingly two-dimensional role. But if you're looking for an antidote to comic book movie fatigue, Doctor Strange could be the one.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Jun 9, 2021

movie review dr strange

Some stunning visual effects and well-choreographed fight scenes add to the fun, and the cast is all served well, though Mads Mikkelsen's villain is somewhat undercooked...

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | May 26, 2021

The inventiveness tops itself when Doctor Strange brings us one of the best endings in any Marvel film.

Full Review | Apr 13, 2021

movie review dr strange

Perhaps all the storytelling shortcomings and unexplained phenomena could be overlooked more easily with compelling characters and potent emotional exchanges.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/10 | Dec 4, 2020

movie review dr strange

...casting decision was excellent and there is no doubt that Cumberbatch owns the character now...

Full Review | Original Score: 8.5/10 | Nov 20, 2020

movie review dr strange

Doctor Strange is a Marvel home run with a bat flip...

Full Review | Nov 10, 2020

movie review dr strange

There's very little that Swinton can't do and she's absolutely sublime as The Ancient One.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4.0 | Sep 6, 2020

movie review dr strange

The problem with Doctor Strange comes down to the narrative. As this is an origin story, it does take a while to get going. It's again a 'paint by the numbers' and formulaic storyline.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Jul 17, 2020

movie review dr strange

After getting a boatload of superhero stuff for years now, a 'fine movie' doesn't really warrant much of a reaction anymore.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Jul 11, 2020

movie review dr strange

Despite a rote, familiar superhero origin story, Doctor Strange delivers a dazzling mystical blast.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Jul 2, 2020

movie review dr strange

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Doctor strange, common sense media reviewers.

movie review dr strange

Mysticism, humor, and action surround unique Marvel hero.

Doctor Strange Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

The ultimate lesson is one of humility -- i.e. "It

As Marvel heroes go, Doctor Strange is closer to T

Lots of mass destruction of buildings and property

Two characters have had an intimate relationship,

One "s--t," plus a couple uses of "a--hole," "ass,

A character buys Kettle chips from a vending machi

Parents need to know that Doctor Strange is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but focuses on sorcery rather than more traditional superhero powers. At the start, the main character (Benedict Cumberbatch) is arrogant and selfish, but he slowly learns humility: to better himself and to think of others…

Positive Messages

The ultimate lesson is one of humility -- i.e. "It's not about you." Arrogance and selfishness are limited, unfulfilling paths; learning to better yourself and following a path that isn't always easy provide greater rewards. Perseverance pays off. But rather than fight against a current, it can sometimes be better to surrender and use the current's power to your benefit. Argues that sometimes breaking the rules a little is necessary to get a job done. (And don't text and drive!)

Positive Role Models

As Marvel heroes go, Doctor Strange is closer to Tony Stark/Iron Man than he is to Steve Rogers/Captain America. He starts the story as arrogant and afraid but slowly learns humility -- to see a greater good outside his own wants and needs. He enters the battle even though he doesn't want to and even though he hasn't yet mastered his powers.

Violence & Scariness

Lots of mass destruction of buildings and property. A beheading (no gore shown). Frequent martial arts fighting, with some "magical" weapons (swords and whips made of light). Scenes on an operating table, with some bloody parts shown. Bloody scratches on the main character's face. Brutal car crash (character was texting while driving), with bloody hands and face. A terrible fall from a height, crashing through glass. Arguing. Some scary sequences (a brief nightmarish "journey" with grabbing hands).

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Two characters have had an intimate relationship, and they talk comfortably together. Mention of "sleeping together."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

One "s--t," plus a couple uses of "a--hole," "ass," and "hell."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

A character buys Kettle chips from a vending machine; sign for Yakult drinkable yogurt. This is also part of the Marvel franchise, which has vast quantities of tie-in merchandise.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Doctor Strange is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but focuses on sorcery rather than more traditional superhero powers. At the start, the main character ( Benedict Cumberbatch ) is arrogant and selfish, but he slowly learns humility: to better himself and to think of others. Frequent comic book-style action violence includes large-scale destruction, a brutal car crash (the result of texting and driving), bloody wounds and scenes at an operating table, and a terrible fall from a height, crashing through glass. There's also martial arts fighting, fighting with "magical" weapons, a beheading, and other brief, scary stuff. A couple is said to have been in a relationship, and there's a mention of "sleeping together." Language includes one "s--t," two uses of "a--hole" and an "ass." The doctor is an unusual, but very entertaining, member of the superhero club, and the movie's mystical elements provide food for thought as well as fun. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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movie review dr strange

Community Reviews

  • Parents say (40)
  • Kids say (177)

Based on 40 parent reviews

Sorcery and black magic

Not a kids movie, too much blood and disturbing imagery, what's the story.

In DOCTOR STRANGE, the title character ( Benedict Cumberbatch ) is a skilled surgeon who's both successful and arrogant. After crashing his sports car, he finds that his hands are useless, and medical science can't restore them. But he hears of a man who was able to walk again after a spinal injury and seeks the source of this rumor, an Ancient One ( Tilda Swinton ) in Kathmandu, Nepal. At first the doctor mocks the Ancient One's claims that healing his spirit can heal his body, but he finds her powers genuine and begs to be taught. His training goes better than expected: It even appears that Doctor Strange might be a natural-born sorcerer. But a villain, Kaecilius ( Mads Mikkelsen ), has stolen pages from one of the Ancient One's spell books and intends to use them to bring a dark dimension to Earth. Has Strange learned enough to stop this evil from happening?

Is It Any Good?

Marvel's 14th Cinematic Universe movie has all the usual action and explosions, but it also has a different type of main character -- one who's magical and appealingly flawed but willing to change. Chiefly known as a horror director, helmer Scott Derrickson unexpectedly adds plenty of playfulness and humor to a story that could have been steeped in self-serious exoticism and mysticism. It helps that Cumberbatch and Swinton, as well as Benedict Wong as the keeper of the spellbook library, bring so much personality to their roles.

Most of Doctor Strange 's seriousness is a burden carried by Chiwetel Ejiofor 's Mordo character, but comic fans will at least know the reason why. Unfortunately, the best character moments tend to cool down and fizzle out during the big action sequences. But some of those scenes, which have beautiful "folding" effects as the sorcerers change the environment around them, are quite impressive, especially as Strange learns his powers. As the movie's climax arrives, the action becomes bigger and less involving. Still, it's thrilling to see Strange embrace his inner spirit, finding power by going with the current, instead of against it.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about Doctor Strange 's violence . How does it compare to what you've seen in other Marvel movies? Is there a difference in the impact of hand-to-hand combat and catastrophic, buildings-collapsing type of explosions?

As the movie begins, how is the doctor selfish and arrogant? How does he learn to change these things? How does he demonstrate humility and perseverance ? Why are these important character strengths ?

Why do you think the Marvel comics have turned into such well-received movies? How does Doctor Strange fit in? How is he different?

What lessons does Doctor Strange learn from the Ancient One? Could you apply any of these lessons to your own life?

How does the movie address texting and driving ? Do the consequences seem realistic?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : November 4, 2016
  • On DVD or streaming : February 28, 2017
  • Cast : Benedict Cumberbatch , Rachel McAdams , Tilda Swinton
  • Director : Scott Derrickson
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors
  • Studio : Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Genre : Action/Adventure
  • Topics : Superheroes , Adventures
  • Character Strengths : Humility , Perseverance
  • Run time : 115 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence
  • Award : Common Sense Selection
  • Last updated : April 19, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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