Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness First Reviews: The Darkest, Weirdest, Most Horror-Inspired MCU Film Yet

Critics say Elizabeth Olsen steals the show and Sam Raimi reaches back into his horror bag to deliver a visually spectacular, surprisingly violent entry in the MCU.

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Sam Raimi returns to superhero movies with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and even more than with his Spider-Man trilogy, the legendary horror filmmaker has infused this Marvel movie with his scary movie sensibilities. According to the first reviews of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment, the Doctor Strange sequel is darker, weirder, and more surprising than most of the movies in the franchise. And also a Raimi movie through and through.

Here’s what critics are saying about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:

Where does this movie rank in the MCU?

The strangest Marvel movie yet. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

It’s refreshingly cornball in a way that Marvel rarely is. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is unlike any Marvel movie you have ever seen… definitely the most intense and scariest. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

Lacking the humanity — the heart and soul of Marvel that works so well when balanced with humor and spectacle… [but it’s] much better than the shallow fan service of Spider-Man: No Way Home. – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

The best MCU multiverse movie remains Spider-Man: No Way Home. – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Most of the action — extravagant, messy, so over-the-top crazy that it ceases to be amazing — is business as usual in the Marvel world. – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

How are the fan service cameos?

They are simultaneously less jam-packed than expected, enjoyable, fan-service-y, ridiculous, and quite well subverted. – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

It feels like Raimi acting in direct opposition to the fan service that he’s called upon to enact — you might even say that he kills the fan service in such a hilariously vicious way that it could only be intentional. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Anyone expecting Multiverse of Madness to be a carousel of every possible Marvel cameo that has existed (or could exist) is going to be left disappointed. – Jenna Anderson,

Fans may want to seriously temper their expectations in regards to the much-buzzed-about Illuminati as well as any other surprise cameos… They ultimately leave a lot more to be desired. – Rohan Patel,

While Marvel has usually provided fan service with a purpose, Multiverse of Madness does so in a way that is little more than giving audiences a moment to hoot and holler in the theaters, and little more. – Ross Bonaime, Collider

Will we be surprised?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has more twists than a bag of pretzels… The surprises are refreshing but with that said, some of them are hard to swallow. – Julian Roman, MovieWeb

Full of mind-bending moments, trippy twists, and a fistful of surprises so genuine that even Danny Elfman’s majestic score might not blot out the sound of millions of diehard Marvel fans’ jaws shattering as they hit the theater floor. – Don Kaye, Den of Geek

For better and (for some fans) potentially worse, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness doesn’t always feel safe. – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Elizabeth Olsen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)

Will it appeal to fans of horror?

As the film progresses, it ramps up the horror… building to the most macabre final battle you’re likely to see in a family-friendly blockbuster. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

It leans hard into the horror with an early eyeball-gouging setting the tone, followed by numerous impalings, charred corpses, and effective jump scares. – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

It’s something of a miracle that the film came in at a PG-13 rating, so thoroughly does Raimi test the limits of the MPAA’s tolerance of violence and gore. – Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

It teeters at times at the intensity of scary films such The Ring and The Exorcist. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

The giddy second half of Raimi’s carnivalesque sequel almost hits with the same undead thrill of watching Evil Dead II for the first time. – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

There are some gnarly kills. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

So should the kids stay at home for this one?

I strongly caution and urge parents to prescreen this movie just for the horror content alone… Beyond traumatizing for young kids, especially those who love Marvel movies and shows. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

It probably pushes the family-friendly vibe as far as the MCU ever will. – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Is this truly a Sam Raimi movie?

This picture has the auteur’s signature written all over it. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

It’s a return to form for the director and hopefully only a sign of things to come for Raimi in the MCU. – Rohan Patel,

He is the ideal person to offer Marvel the gentle gut-check it’s needed for so long… This is the first MCU movie in which many of the shots have legible fingerprints on them. – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

No MCU movie to date… has so thoroughly displayed the personality and artistry of its director than Multiverse of Madness. – Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

As muted as Raimi has ever been. But even at his most muted, Raimi gives us one hell of a ride. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Raimi is a great choice, and the sense of menace he injects into the movie is ace, but he’s never been particularly affecting with character instances. – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/©Marvel Studios)

How is the script?

What works best about this movie is its themes… [It] unravels these feelings and stitches them back together in a pleasing narrative that is ultimately satisfying. – Sherin Nicole,

It’s a surprisingly straightforward screenplay… If the same creative team returns for Doctor Strange 3, we’d surely hope Raimi is more involved with the writing next time. – Rohan Patel,

I definitely hope that the script is tighter on the next outing. I won’t spoil anything, but what I can say is that some of the dialogue is on par with the supremely cheesy Moonfall’s. – Amelia Emberwing, IGN Movies

The story lets it down and [it] could prove divisive for fans. – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Do you need to watch the MCU’s TV series first?

Fortunately you don’t need an intimate recall of either show to follow the action in Multiverse of Madness. The film wears its continuity lightly. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

It is firmly planted in everything you’ve learned about the MCU up-to-date. Most recently the What If…? and WandaVision series on Disney+. You’re going to need those in your repertoire in order to keep up. – Sherin Nicole,

If you haven’t seen WandaVision or some of the recent Marvel stories, you will be utterly lost. – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

How does it look?

The star of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Raimi’s gift for visual insanity. – Michelle Kisner, The Movie Sleuth

Visually, the film takes things to another level. – Mae Abdulbaki, Screen Rant

If you’re after two hours of spectacle, it won’t disappoint and the multiverse setting is exploited to its fullest, visually speaking. – Carlos Aguilar, The Playlist

Where Multiverse of Madness truly excels is in Raimi’s sense of spectacle, which is put on display to an astonishing degree from the first frame. – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/©Marvel Studios)

How is Danny Elfman’s Score?

It’s not really surprising that it ruled. But it freaking ruled… Multiverse of Madness is worth the price of admission just to hear the score and see it at work. – Amelia Emberwing, IGN Movies

It’s the most gleefully outrageous score Danny Elfman has put to film in recent memory. – Jenna Anderson,

Danny Elfman‘s score sees the composer on the same page with the director delivering an audible carnival ride when it’s not stuck trying to squeeze pomp and emotion from the screen. – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Is Benedict Cumberbatch still great as Doctor Strange?

This is Benedict Cumberbatch’s movie through and through…arguably his strongest performance as Doctor Stephen Strange to date. – Rohan Patel,

Cumberbatch is having some delicious fun this time in several incarnations of Stephen Strange including fighting opposite himself, and this actor makes all of them unquestionably his own. – Pete Hammond, Deadline

Cumberbatch is fine, but he’s a victim of a film that’s so plot-heavy that he’s mostly just running from one CGI sequence to the next. – Brian Tallerico,

But does Elizabeth Olsen steal the movie?

Elizabeth Olsen is the standout as the super-sorceress Wanda, continuing her journey from WandaVision. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

Olsen steals the show as Scarlet Witch (the film should have really been called Scarlet Witch in the Multiverse of Madness). – Brittany Murphy, Muses of Media

Olsen runs away with the film in her tortured, grief-stricken depiction of Wanda’s downward spiral. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Elizabeth Olsen is constantly reminding us how easily she can shift into a capital-a-Actor as Wanda Maximoff. – Amelia Emberwing, IGN Movies

Olsen’s performance generates an operatic fire even as she’s styled like a barefoot mom soaked in Carrie White’s blood. – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/©Marvel Studios)

Is Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez a great addition to the MCU?

One of the biggest highlights of the film is easily Gomez’s star-making turn… [She] brilliantly fits in alongside the veteran franchise actors. – Jenna Anderson,

It would have been nice to see Gomez have more to do as America Chavez. In that regard, it was a bit of a disappointment, but…if the Young Avengers team ever comes to fruition in live-action, Gomez will make a wonderful addition. – Brittany Murphy, Muses of Media

Are there any major problems with the movie?

The personal journeys are lacking… On an emotional level, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness leaves a lot to be desired. – Mae Abdulbaki, Screen Rant

It never settles down enough to locate its emotional core. – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

If you’re looking for good characterization, emotion, and feels, you might have come to the wrong place. – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

I know MCU movies aren’t generally places for deep character work — I’m just saying it’s even more shallow here than normal, especially considering how the typically reliable Olsen nailed this character in her previous outing. – Brian Tallerico,

Will we want more MCU movies like this?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is unpredictable, inventive, and undoubtedly mesmerizing — and the MCU is better off for it. – Jenna Anderson,

Is this the future of comic-book cinema? Let’s hope not. – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

The most disturbing part of this film is trying to figure out what the heck Marvel is trying to accomplish here and where they’re going to go next. – Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

It’s fun to imagine them giving Raimi a small fraction of the usual budget, authorizing an R rating for the third Doctor Strange and saying “go make a Sam Raimi horror film.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters on May 6, 2022.

Thumbnail by Walt Disney Pictures

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