After a long six years since the initial release of Doctor Strange (2016), Marvel fans can finally go to theatres to enjoy the highly anticipated sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Since it’s opening night release on May 6th, the film has already earned approximately $700 million worldwide. It’s fair to say fans are rushing to theatres to see this movie, but the real question is, how are they enjoying it? The movie currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 74%, so while it’s definitely not a bad rating, it’s not as high as we’re used to seeing for a Marvel film. But hey, that’s just what critics are saying, what does a real fan think? Just a warning – if you’re planning on watching the movie and want to avoid spoilers, please note this review is not spoiler free. But if you’ve already seen it (or if you just don’t care!), here are my thoughts as a genuine Marvel fan:

Doctor Strange and Wong watching Scarlet Witch arrive at Kamar Taj

Being a fan of the first film, I was pretty excited when Marvel first announced this sequel. I was interested in seeing what they were going to do with the Multiverse, but I was even more curious as to how they were going to tackle their first ‘horror’ movie. Yes, you read that right. If you didn’t know, at Comic-Con in 2019, director Scott Derrickson (later replaced by Sam Raimi) stated that this was to be “the MCU’s first scary film”. And so, as a certified scaredy cat, did I think this movie was scary? As a whole, no. However, they did do a good job incorporating horror elements to the best that a PG-13 family movie could do. There are one or two jump scares that might catch you off guard, but I would argue most of the horror comes from how deaths were shown on screen. Compared to most Marvel movies, there were A LOT of deaths and they weren’t afraid to make them as gruesome as possible. Did I see someone get shred to bits? Unfortunately, yes. Did someone fall off a building only to be impaled and skewered onto a fence? Yep, that did happen. So if you’re not a fan of seeing that kind of violence, maybe this one’s not for you (or you can do what I did and close your eyes). While I could personally do without seeing these extra bits of blood and violence, it is nice to see Marvel trying to explore other genres and branching out.

Aside from the horror elements, you could say this followed the typical Marvel formula – full of big action sequences, comedy to ease the tension, and a lot of CGI. It was refreshing however to see Marvel explore some darker, more mature themes in this movie like grief, betrayal, and morality. They ask big questions like “is sacrificing one life for the safety of everyone else okay?” or “how far does experiencing grief and loss justify one’s actions?” It’s thought-provoking scenes and questions like these that make Marvel movies unique from one another and I think this movie in particular did a good job in this aspect. Thanks to the actors being able to draw out so much emotion in these scenes, there were some real tear jerkers and heartbreaking moments.

Doctor Strange, Wong, and America Chavez running from the Scarlet Witch

I was happy to see most of the cast returned to reprise their roles and that Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/the Scarlet Witch) had joined this film. Finally, the two magic users in their own movie! But to my surprise, it wasn’t the magical superhero team up that I expected, it was more of a Harry Potter vs. Voldemort situation. If you’ve been waiting (like me) for Marvel to come up with better villains, you won’t be disappointed with the Scarlet Witch in this one. While Benedict Cumberbatch was great as Doctor Strange per usual, I have to say, Elizabeth Olsen was the one who really stole the show for me. Olsen’s performance as the Scarlet Witch was equally terrifying and mesmerizing; she really embraced the gothic horror genre and nailed the role. Watching her as the villain, I found myself reminded of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – both are incredibly menacing and powerful villains, but they are also complex characters with understandable motives. Trust me, you’re going to wonder how you feel sympathy towards someone who just killed a bunch of people on screen, but she manages to do it. You might want to note though that if you haven’t seen WandaVision (2021) yet, you’ll want to check it out before seeing this film since her story builds directly off of the show.

So while I didn’t have a problem with the actors themselves, I did have a problem with the writing in this movie. That’s not to say there weren’t some great one-liners (mostly belonging to the Scarlet Witch) but overall the writing just felt rough. There were multiple times where I found myself thinking certain lines felt really cheesy and out of place; I would even go as far as to say some lines were downright cringey. If you don’t know, one of Strange’s struggles in this film focuses on him getting over his past relationship with Christine. While it was nice getting to explore their history since we didn’t see much of it in the first film, their interactions and conversations felt like a borderline rom-com or soap opera. Come on Strange, is your ex’s wedding really the best place to confront her about your regrets and feelings? While Marvel is sometimes able to make cheesy remarks laughable or charming, it missed the mark in this movie as the dialogue just seemed rushed and lacked substance. Let’s just say the writing left a little more to be desired.

The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

But my issue with the writing stems from an even bigger problem – the pacing. While this movie has a runtime of 2 hours and 6 minutes, which by no means is a ‘short’ movie, it is still shorter than most Marvel films and I feel like the delivery and explanation of events suffered because of it. Look, there’s a lot to unpack in this movie. I mean for one, it’s the first time the Multiverse is being properly introduced and explored in the MCU, which is a big enough task on its own. I was hoping for a good explanation of how the Multiverse works, but all I got was some superhero girl who can create portals to other universes (how convenient) and that supposedly dreams are real events happening to some alternate you. Great. At times I felt like I was just being thrown along and expected to agree with however things were unfolding on screen. Turns out, the director’s cut has a runtime that’s 40 minutes longer which could explain why the plot felt so choppy at times.

But it wasn’t only the storyline that suffered from the pacing, it affected characters too like America Chavez who is being introduced to the MCU for the first time. Instead of getting any form of character development or arc, her role essentially gets reduced to exposition. Sure we hear about the tragic incident of her accidentally throwing her parents into some unknown universe, but if they don’t build anything off of that, it becomes easily forgettable. As a result, her character felt one-dimensional and to be honest, I didn’t care much for her. And that’s saying a lot given she’s like a 14 year old girl running for her life from an evil witch trying to kill her but hey, I guess you can’t love every character.

And so, this film’s biggest error revolves around focusing on the wrong things, making the story feel rushed. By the ending, I was left with way more questions than answers. Like what’s with Doctor Strange’s new third eye? Is the Book of Vishanti and the Darkhold permanently destroyed in every universe? Aren’t there supposed to be consequences for jumping across so many different universes? Because so many questions are left unanswered, the ending was very abrupt and left me feeling unsatisfied. There was so much more to be explained!

Doctor Strange in another multiverse

Despite my criticisms, I still enjoyed this movie. Is it in my top 5 from the MCU? Nope, but it’s still an entertaining and visually fun to watch movie. I’m a big fan of seeing magic in the MCU, so while it is all CGI (and sometimes it is quite clunky), I do enjoy seeing the spectacle of big fights between magic wielders. Getting to see all the different universes and how wacky and unique they all were was also a good bonus and nice addition to the movie. While they didn’t do the best job at explaining the Multiverse, it’s clear that there are so many possibilities down the road and that’s always incredibly exciting for a fan. Given some time to review, my final rating for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is 7/10. While it wasn’t the best Marvel had to offer and I definitely had some gripes, it’s still worth checking out especially if you’re a Doctor Strange or Scarlet Witch fan. This movie is a bit of a mish mash of genres, and while it sometimes collapses in on itself, it does succeed in creating a fun ride for the audience.