So thanks to watching some early reviews on YouTube saying this is more of a Doctor Strange and Wanda movie than a Multiverse movie, I adjusted my expectations and I enjoyed the movie thoroughly.
And you might say, "well it's literally called Multiverse of Madness, how do you expect me not to expect a Multiverse from this movie", which I agree with. I had the same expectation when I first heard about the name of the movie and saw the trailers. But trust me, the whole thing revolves around the Multiverse And there is a lot of Madness, but not in a way you're thinking of. Naming this movie Multiverse of Madness was a real double-edged sword and it really shows, by how people reacted to it.
First of all, I gotta say that this is probably the most different and unique movie of MCU, at least in the aesthetic department, or should I say the most different-looking. And you already know it's exactly because of Sam Raimi and the horror and creepy aspect he introduces in this movie. And I loved it!
About the runtime, I remember seeing people argue that 2 hours is not actually bad and Sam Raimi movies are always more or less 2 hours and we are the unreasonable ones to think 2 hours. And I and many others thought "well how is a movie about the multiverse is gonna be only 2 hours? We need at least 3 hours". Which weren't wrong, because after watching the movie I can say that it definitely needed at least 20 more minutes. The pacing is really on and off, it kinda lingers in some scenes and it fast-forwards in some scenes that needed more time, especially the ending. I think they just need to hire better writers because once again, this didn't "feel" a movie, it felt like an episode and a teaser to the real thing, but I still really enjoyed it and had fun with it.
And it is really weird too because the last movie they released was literally 2:28 hours and they've already seen that the longer runtime still sells like Infinity War and the 3-hour Endgame which are like in the top 5 of all time sellers in BoxOffice. I don't know why they cut scenes or why they didn't let some scenes linger more. Was it because of the writing? Then why not hire better writers or a team of writers like Markus and McFeely who knew what they were doing and gave us 4 decently written movies? I hope now that they're delving into the multiverse stuff, they actually get more creative writers and work on the script a lot more before releasing the movie.
It would be interesting to see a director's cut of the movie or even a Scott Derrickson version where he actually continued the first movie and not mainly WandaVision (which is an understandable problem people have with this), but we'll never see just like we'll never see Edgar Wright's Ant-Man. If I were in Feige's, I'd just go crazy with every movie and give 100% freedom to directors to make whatever tf they want and go nuts with it and have a different MCU next to the main one. And even now is the best time to do it, why not let Edgar Wright make an Ant-Man movie and call it something like What If Ant-Man...? This is the perfect opportunity for them to go crazy with the multiverse stuff, but I guess making movies is hard and expensive, but I doubt these movies won't sell. Just give directors full control and hire better writers and writing teams and the word of mouth and the good reviews do the rest, just like Everything Everywhere All at Once.
For people that are concerned about cameos and think this is gonna be a cameo galore and fanservice, don't worry. The cameos are fairly short, they are great and serve the plot, and are not just there just to be there, and they have some of the most brutal scenes I've seen from MCU. There was one particular scene that you know when you see it, that trod the line between PG-13 and R, and was so brutal that if you showed me the clip of it without context and without telling me anything, I would assume it was a scene from The Boys season 3. Yeah, that level of brutality!
Danny Elfman did the score and it fit the movie and the gothic vibe beautifully and there was a certain battle that I'm not gonna even hint at, but you'll know when you watch the movie, that was just audio-visual delight. I am a little disappointed and sad that they didn't use the amazing Doctor Strange theme Michael Giacchino did, and I think he would've done an amazing job if they kept him, but I guess Danny is Sam's blue-eyed boy. But the score is still good, just wish his iconic theme was used more in this movie.
The visuals were amazing too, although it still had some that looked really bad, and it seems like Marvel has been lacking with CGI in this phase more than before, even in the tv shows.
But the thing about the visuals is that even though they are great and a joy to witness, I kinda miss the reality-bending we got in the first movie and No Way Home, I wish they used it here too and went crazier with it.
And as for the direction, I gotta say it's pretty good and it's obvious Sam Raimi directed it as it has his fingerprint all over this movie and I loved it. It seems like Marvel is getting a little more open to having visionary directors take the helm and give them freedom. It's obvious that this movie is not given to Sam with 100 percent freedom, but I think they're getting a little bit better and I hope this freedom becomes bigger in the next projects. Sam Raimi does a great job with all the creepy, horror scenes, and the jump scares and this movie is more about witchcraft than it is about wizardry and spells. I really hope they keep doing these different genres and don't just stick to action-comedy as they've been for a long time. It's a breath of a fresh air seeing this being a different kind of superhero movie.
I also really liked that he actually used a good color grading and that the colors and environments are alive and that they don't look like another bland Marvel movie.
I don't think I need to talk about the acting because you already know they all do an amazing job. But surprisingly Wanda is the star of this movie and some people have a problem with that? I get that it's called Doctor Strange and this movie kinda lets Wanda outshine him, but did you also have a problem with Infinity War being more of a Thanos movie, or The Dark Knight is more of a Joker movie? I don't get that people say Doctor Strange had less things to do or even less cool things to do than Infinity War, because it felt to me that they both had more of or the same amount of screen-time and Doctor Strange had obviously more screen time.
And America Chavez is a really interesting and a great addition to the MCU and Xochitl Gomez did a good job of portraying her.
Some reviews said that Christine Palmer was again underutilized, which I guess? But I don't know what more they could've done with the fast pacing of this movie and I thought they did a decent job with Palmer anyway. Obviously, and as I said before, this movie could've benefited from some breathers and 20 extra minutes, but it was still fine.
We also get Ashley Williams of course! And Bruce Campbell is great as ever. You can't have a Sam Raimi movie without Ash!
I also heard some people say that they liked the first one better, which it's ok I guess? You could argue that the pacing of the first movie was better and Stephen Strange had a good development in there, but since the villain sucked in that movie, I cannot say that the first one is better. The villain and "their" motivation in this movie were far better in this movie, and I guess they had some movies and shows to get more development and it's kinda unfair to compare and say this one had more development because duh. But even if this was their first appearance, they still had a better motivation and were a better character anyway. (I'm using "they" to not spoil who the villain is but I think it's obvious for anyone who that is)
In conclusion, this movie might not be what you think is going to be, so manage your expectations. The acting is great, the direction and Sam Raimi's touch are great and so is the cinematography, the music is good but disappointingly there is little to no use of Doctor Strange's iconic theme, the villain is good, the visuals are great but it needed more visuals and reality-bending from the first one, the horror aspect is fine and gives a fresh look to the MCU, but it's ultimately rushed, the pacing needed some work and needed extra time. I also forgot to say that there are some loose ends left from the first movie that they didn't deal with for some reason and it's not really a continuation of Doctor Strange as it is more a continuation of WandaVision, and in that case, people are kinda right if they think this wasn't that much of a Doctor Strange movie and more Wanda's.
Maybe I'm just a little carried away and I'm giving it an 8 impulsively, and I am doing it as I've done times before, and watching it a second time will show me its flaws better, and yeah it's not a full 8/10 but more like a 7.5 leaning towards 8 and I liked this one more than the first one.