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REVIEW: Doctor Strange sequel proves to be a crazy romp in ‘Multiverse of Madness’

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With hints of horror in its DNA and pure superhero craziness, the return of Benedict Cumberbatch and co. – new characters in tow – is weirdly fun and cumbersome at the same time. But mostly fun, as our reviewer opines.

By Abdukareem Baba Aminu

It’s stating the obvious that ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ has a lot resting on its shoulders. After all, it is coming after the highly successful ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, the last Marvel movie wherein the titular sorcerer had a major role. That movie, starring Tom Holland and Zendaya, went on to gross well over $1.8 billion, becoming the sixth-highest grossing movie of all time. Set in several universes at once – and regularly ricocheting into deeper and more spiraling dimensions of alternate realities – the plot for Dr. Stephen Strange’s second solo film begins with fully-formed chaos.

It opens with America Chavez and an alternate version of Dr. Stephen Strange fleeing through the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti to stop a demon chasing them. Strange is killed, and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that sucks them all in. Meanwhile, on our Earth, Strange is at the wedding of his ex-fiancé, where a tentacle monster wreaks havoc chasing Chavez, but Strange saves Chavez and kills the demon with help from Sorcerer Supreme Wong. Chavez explains that the demons are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the Multiverse, and it is at that exact point it becomes clear that this will be a crazy romp of a movie.

There is a lot at stake in the film, and at the same time, there isn’t much, as it’s leaning heavily into the whole Multiverse shtick, which makes long-lasting consequences spare and far between.

Strange finds traces of witchcraft on the demon and alternate-reality Strange’s corpse, and he consults Wanda Maximoff, finding out secrets that send the story spiraling into the dark story it becomes. There is a lot at stake in the film, and at the same time, there isn’t much, as it’s leaning heavily into the whole Multiverse shtick, which makes long-lasting consequences spare and far between. Like when a major character is in danger and you know somehow that the whole alternate reality situation will ensure he or she comes out unscathed. But if that sounds like a complaint, forgive me, it’s not: Because that’s where some of the biggest, sweetest goodies in this film lurk.

After a ton of magical battles pitting sorcery against witchcraft and giving us some really heartfelt performances from a notable Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda, we (and Strange) end up in the courtyard of this reality’s version of the Illuminati, which in the comics is a collective of some of the most powerful and brilliant characters in the Marvel universe. The theatre I watched the movie in exploded in cheers at this point, as member after member of the shadowy super-group was introduced. It goes without saying that some of the surprise appearances are truly jaw-dropping.

This movie is probably the most important one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to hardcore fans) since ‘Avengers: Endgame’, continuing the shared continuity’s foray into an exploration of parallel universes. Theoretically, this should make it even more compelling and fun, but I found myself exhausted at the end, even when what’s played out is saying I should be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a very engrossing movie, but one which presents the irony of being interesting and at the same time feeling like a walk through 10-inch snowfall. Or mud, depending on where your geographical idioms rest.

(Continued after break/poster)

It’s a very engrossing movie, but one which presents the irony of being interesting and at the same time feeling like a walk through 10-inch snowfall. Or mud, depending on where your geographical idioms rest.

Of course, there will be stellar performances galore, led by the perfectly-cast and always on-point Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong as stoic Sorcerer Supreme Wong, and brilliantly precocious Multiverse-hopping teen America Chavez played by equally brilliant Xochitl Gomez. Elizabeth Olsen, too, shines as she does in all her MCU appearances, giving layers and nuance to the tragically heartbroken (or just broken) character of Wanda Maximoff, whose spiral into all shades of darkness needs to be seen. After all, she’s had enough revving time in the absolutely perfect Disney+ series ‘WandaVision’.

We are, as the movie title posits, treated to a variety of alternate universes, some of which will have you cheering. But by the end of the film, all two hours-plus of it, you will find yourself wanting more. Almost like wanting a whole meal for a snack after a full dinner. But I forgive director Sam Raimi since he is making his first movie in nine years. Only he could cook up a gloriously inventive fight scene fought with literal musical notes. And yet I couldn’t help but feel there’s an ‘anything-goes-ness’ to all of it, similar to his over-the-top campy offerings of the past like the ‘Evil Dead’ films, or ‘Drag Me to Hell’.

But I forgive director Sam Raimi since he is making his first movie in nine years. Only he could cook up a gloriously inventive fight scene fought with literal musical notes.

With all its contradictions, however, ‘Multiverse of Madness’ proves itself a continuation of MCU tradition, that which satisfies long-waiting fans with a strangely satisfying ending, prompts multiple viewings and inspires speculation about the future direction of the franchise. This is more so, after the Illuminati encounter, and at the end of the movie in a mid-credits scene, when a major character in the Dr. Strange comics makes her debut, played by a surprising actress. It was a genuine surprise, really, as much as it was a pleasant one that holds strong promise. So strong that it warrants repeated viewings to take it all in. Nothing strange about that.

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ is showing now in cinemas.

MOVIES

I’ve seen ‘Spawn’ movie concept suits – Jamie Foxx

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A Spawn reboot may finally see the light of day, with actor Jamie Foxx saying that he has seen concept suits for the comic book character. He was asked in an interview if he has seen a costume for the film, leading to a surprising answer. “I’ve seen a lot of concepts,” he reveals. “Because Todd, what he does it, every single day he’s doodling and he’s fixing and he’s doing some things that, to me, I think is gonna be like way out when you see it. And how he crafts that cape and how that cape becomes almost like – I’ll say this – as big as the screen that you’re watching.”

A live-action Spawn reboot seems to have been talked about for decades since a sequel to the 1997 release was cancelled. Creator Todd McFarlane has teased the film on multiple occasions throughout the years, with actor Jamie Foxx recently sharing news that may mean the film is much closer to a release than anticipated.

MacFarlane has said he wants the reboot to be rated R, which would be reminiscent of the 2019 R-rated release ‘Joker’, which went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.

Foxx thinks those working on the film are ready for their turn. “But it starts in a way that is so cool. And it’s not big budget, you know? And that’s what I love about it. It’s sort of like how when they did the Joker. And so, we’re just like, just getting this right, cooking it right, but staying in contact, keeping the energy going and when we lay it on you, there’s gonna be some moments where you go ‘oh man’.”

More developments are expected at New York Comic-Con in October. Regarding an announcement, McFarlane told CBR at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, “We were debating whether to make a big announcement because we’ve been adding pieces to it here at San Diego. So all the parties that were involved, we had the conversation: ‘Do we make the announcement here or do we wait and keep our gunpowder dry until New York Comic Con?’ And we eventually said we’ll do it at New York.”

Fingers crossed!

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‘WandaVision’ director in talks to direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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Marvel Studios appears to be one step closer to finalizing plans for the highly anticipated “Fantastic Four” reboot, with news that “WandaVision” helmer Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the project, Variety has confirmed.

At the San Diego Comic-Con in July, Marvel boss Kevin Feige teased the movie, which is currently slated to debut on Nov. 8, 2024, revealing that “Fantastic Four” would kick off Phase 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jon Watts, who helmed all three of Sony and Marvel’s “Spider-Man” films, had previously been announced as the “Fantastic Four” director, but exited the project in April. Rumors that Shakman had been tapped to take the job hit the internet earlier this week, with the choice heralded by fans given the director’s successful piloting of the Disney+ series.

For his work on “WandaVision,” Shakman landed an Emmy nomination for outstanding directing for a limited or anthology series or movie, as well as a nod in the outstanding limited or anthology series category as an executive producer on the series. Shakman is also an Emmy nominee for his directing work on Hulu’s “The Great.”

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DC’s troubles continue as ‘Aquaman 2’ and ‘Shazam! 2’ shift dates

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Surprising only a few, ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ and ‘Shazam!: Fury of the Gods will land in theaters later than planned. Per a Variety report, Warner Bros. announced a slew of release date changes on Wednesday, pushing the ‘Aquaman’ follow-up from March 17, 2023 to Dec. 25, 2023.

The ‘Shazam!’ sequel will open on the date previously occupied by Jason Momoa’s undersea hero. The story about Zachary Levi’s Billy Batson was originally set for Dec. 21, 2022. This means ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ will debut a few days after Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ spinoff ‘Rogue Squadron’ (Dec. 23, 2023).

Meanwhile, ‘Shazam!: Fury of the Gods’, initially set to face off against James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, is now top dog over its new opening weekend.

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