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Doctor Strange 2 Reviews Have Arrived, See What Critics Think Of Marvel's Multiverse Of Madness

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange 2.
(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still days away from its premiere, and anticipation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe sequel is so high that the movie’s already setting records. Ticket presales outsold every 2022 movie thus far in just the first 24 hours, and the numbers continue to go up as the premiere date gets closer. While we civilians have to wait until Thursday night for our first chance to see Benedict Cumberbatch back in his leading role, critics have already screened the movie, and the reviews are in.

The movie takes place a few months after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, with Dr. Stephen Strange traveling into the multiverse to face a new adversary. Following the magical  Disney+ series WandaVision, fans are excited to see more of the Scarlet Witch, as well as all the things the movie could set up in the MCU. So what did the critics think, and what about all the Marvel characters who are rumored to be in the movie? Don’t worry, we won’t spoil anything here!

Let’s start with CinemaBlend’s review of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Eric Eisenberg rates the blockbuster 3.5 stars out of 5, calling it an exciting new addition to the MCU canon, but not exceptional, as there are some frustrating flaws:

The blockbuster has a lot of fun with the multiverse as a concept, but those hoping to experience a lot of reality hopping 'madness' may feel misled by the promise in the title (the number of alternate timelines can be counted on a single hand). Benedict Cumberbatch’s magical eponymous hero is obviously well qualified for the spotlight in the sci-fi plot, and his abilities generate plenty of spectacle, but the film doesn’t ultimately provide the character with any kind of substantial arc or cover new ground emotionally.

Susana Polo of Polygon says Doctor Strange 2 packs as many characters as possible around the titular doctor, but the strong supporting cast only underscores the weakness of Strange's own evolution. This review says Elizabeth Olsen gives the film's most arresting performance as Scarlet Witch:

Multiverse of Madness repeatedly invites Stephen Strange to learn that he isn’t always right, and that all magic comes with a price. It suggests that he’s foolish to be so certain that the dark paths that have corrupted others won’t also corrupt him. It feints at the evolution he needs if he’s ever going to be a hero, rather than a particularly flashy, fancy detail in other people’s stories. But the film’s thoughts on Doctor Strange’s deals with devils (metaphorical ones, at least) remain open, and its refusal to answer its own questions remains frustrating. In the end, it’s his name on the poster, so he gets to break all the rules and still claim hero status.

David Ehrlich of IndieWire grades the film a B, saying director Sam Raimi may have just saved the MCU from itself by telling a story about what happens after you open Pandora's box:

That’s not enough to make Multiverse of Madness a great movie, but it is enough to make it a real Sam Raimi movie. Slowly, gradually, and then with great enthusiasm, what begins as a staid tale of people hurling CGI at larger pieces of CGI while yammering on about whatever new thing is threatening all existence evolves into something less familiar: A violent, wacky, drag-me-to-several-different-hells at once funhouse of a film that makes good on the reckoning Chiwetel Ejiofor promised at the end of the original by cutting away the safety net that previous installments of the MCU have tried to pretend wasn’t there.

Multiple critics point out that Sam Raimi has left his distinct mark on the movie, with Rosie Knight of Nerdist saying it's dripping with his signature style and tricks, and this review calls Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness the MCU's first horror. She rates the film 4 out of 5:

Fans have been waiting for [America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez] to arrive in the MCU and Gomez does the fan fave character justice. She’s powerful, funny, and appropriately in control of her own story. Cumberbatch expands on his guest roles in other MCU movies, crafting someone funnier, less hateable, and with a heart beating deep under that blue costume. Benedict Wong is back as the rightful Sorcerer Supreme and he once again steals every scene he’s in. When America arrives, the pair realize there’s only one person who can help: Wanda Maximoff. As expected, Elizabeth Olsen brings her WandaVision chops in another powerhouse performance.

Alonso Duralde of The Wrap, however, argues that the characters suffer from all of the plot and magical doodads. This review says Doctor Strange 2 hits the "ooh-and-aah" marks we expect from a well-crafted Marvel adventure, but even with Sam Raimi at the helm, this entry goes heavy on the spectacle but light on the humanity:

Raimi die-hards will enjoy his puckish sense of amusement at the liberties he’s allowed to take with ground rules and with gravity (not to mention his fleeting shout-outs to classic films like Spellbound and The Defiant Ones), and Marvel fans will come away thrilled with hints as to where this mega-franchise might go next (and who it might include as it does so). But there’s a level of human drama missing from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness; the surface of this Everything Bagel is loaded with ingredients, but it lacks a certain flavor.

If this sounds like a multiverse you want to be a part of, you should probably look into reserving your seat in the theater, because the premiere is just around the corner on Friday, May 6.

To stay on top of every Marvel Cinematic Universe film set to arrive in 2022 and beyond, head over to our Upcoming Marvel Movies guide, and if you’re planning to do a big MCU rewatch, our Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline is a feature you should read (and you still have a little time to work through the seven specific titles you should watch before Doctor Strange 2.) Also be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what other films are coming soon to theaters. 

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.