• 14 May - 20 May, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

We are back in the bizarre rococo world – or actually now worlds – of Doctor Strange, Marvel’s mindbending surgeon-turned-superhero who is played with sonorous conviction by Benedict Cumberbatch.

In this sequel, Strange has to get his formidable head around the multiverse, a universe of infinite alternative possibilities – and this idea, which other movies have treated with tiresome stoner-seriousness, is handled with cheerful humour and boisterously surreal melodrama.

Poor Dr Strange is nursing a broken heart; he is still poignantly carrying a torch for Dr Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), whose wedding to someone else he is attending as a silently lovelorn guest. But there is a ruckus outside: a huge single-eyed octopus thingy is crashing around in the streets trying to kill a teen called America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). Dr Strange realises that he has seen America in a dream – or was it an experience of alt-reality somewhere else in the multiverse? America has the ability to “dreamwalk” – to enter into other parallel universes – and it is an ability she can’t control and which has enraged this demon; Strange realises it is his destiny to protect her. But he makes the fateful decision to enlist the help of ex-Avenger Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who is haunted with her own lonely visions of an alternative existence in which she has two children, and she longs for motherhood above everything else.

The result is a freaky adventure, which brings Dr Strange face-to-face with how his own life and death might have been viewed by the superhero community in another life, and by what conspiratorial means the Avengers might be promoting their interests in a post-Thanos world.

The multiverse madness is treated with genial high-energy panache, though we have to say that this infinite profusion of realities does not actually feel all that different in practice from the shapeshifting, retconning world of all the other Avengers films. And infinite realities tend to reduce the dramatic impact of any one single reality, and reduces what there is at stake in a given situation. Nonetheless, it’s handled with lightness and fun.