Please be warned that magical spoilers spells do ‘possess’ this review of the latest Marvel blockbuster – due to its many moving parts.
And while that’s mostly a good thing, it’s definitely a bit ‘messier’ than the extremely impressive last entry Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Once again – as more coherently in that movie – the potentially game-changing ‘multiverse’ is the main plot device in this Dr Strange sequel.
After Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to this inter-dimensional universe – that includes alternate versions of himself – the threat to humanity could be too great for even him and his Sorcerer Supreme colleague Wong (Benedict Wong) to remedy.
That leads to Strange attempting to enlist the help of old Avengers pal Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) – which also follows on from her role in the acclaimed TV series Wandavision (which if not crucial, would be helpful if you’ve viewed) – but he soon realises she has been corrupted by a dark magical power known as the ‘Darkhold’.
To make matters worse they cross paths with ‘dimension jumping’ teenager America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and have to defend her from Maximoff’s evil alter-ego The Scarlet Witch – after the youngster had met other versions of Strange across the multiverse.
Along the way there’s a giddy ‘fanboy’ moment when Strange and Chavez are apprehended by Strange’s former friend Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and the iconic group known as the ‘Illuminati’ – Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Reed Richards (John Krasinki) and an alternate version of Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch) – are introduced.
Which could lead to them being featured at a later date – or it could simply be a ‘one and done’ as it’s in a different dimension. So, whether Krasinski’s Richards is going to be Mr Fantastic for the next iteration of Fantastic Four will remain to be seen.
But while – for the most part – this is still competent Marvel fare, it doesn’t seem to make as much use of the premise as it could, and it’s a little bit ‘all over the place’ at times – including the use of Strange’s-ex Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).
The comedic interludes don’t always come off, the chemistry between Cumberbatch and Gomez doesn’t really seem to fit, and the ‘horror elements’ from director Sam Raimi (The original Spider-Man trilogy and Evil Dead franchise) – while differently noteworthy – don’t always quite work.
Which would leave this as only a middling (maybe even a touch below) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe pantheon – despite it introducing several intriguing doorways for future entries to walk through.
Don’t get me wrong, this is without doubt solid stuff, but is arguably – after the very high bar that has been set – a tad disappointing.
And well, erm, at times a bit Strange.
ESP Rating: 3/5
Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Patrick Stewart, Hayley Atwell, John Krasinski, Anson Mount, Lashana Lynch, Julian Hillard, Jett Klyne, Bruce Campbell & Charlize Theron
Running Time: 2 Hrs 6 Mins
Director: Sam Raimi
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