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.
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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.
Actors’ strike ends: The SAG-AFTRA deal, what happened, and what’s next
In July, Hollywood’s actors joined writers on picket lines for the first time in 63 years. After nearly four months, the actors’ strike ended after SAG-AFTRA’s leadership approved a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Nov. 8.
Members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists who work under the union’s film and TV contract with companies that belong to the AMPTP, a group that represents all the major producers in Hollywood. Members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike on May 2 but reached a tentative deal with the AMPTP on Sept. 24.
While the writers came to a tentative agreement with the studios in late September and ratified a deal in October, SAG-AFTRA remained on strike. SAG-AFTRA resumed talks with the studios but the strike dragged on as the two sides negotiated.
The negotiating committee of the performers’ union approved a tentative deal on Nov. 8. It will still need to be ratified by the members. Additionally, the actors who work under SAG-AFTRA’s interactive contract, including those who provide voice work for video games, are considering a second SAG-AFTRA strike.
How did the actors’ strike happen? SAG-AFTRA, a 160,000-member performers union, voted in favor of a strike authorization by 98% before negotiations began with the studios in June. After they couldn’t reach an agreement by the contract expiration on June 30, they extended talks for two weeks until July 12. Then, a federal mediator was brought in before the extension ended with no new contract.
On July 13, the SAG-AFTRA board voted to approve the strike. Actors joined the picket lines July 14. Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA and former star of “The Nanny,” delivered a fiery speech when the union announced its strike plans.
SAG-AFTRA proposed that a third-party company measure the success of shows and that residual payments be tied to how they perform. AMPTP companies rejected that idea, arguing that many streaming platforms are not yet profitable. Other sticking points were over self-taped auditions, contributions to the union’s health and pension plan and a pay increase.
Artificial intelligence also emerged as a major issue in negotiations.
Some high-profile projects already in production, including “Deadpool 3” with Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman and “Gladiator 2,” starring Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal and Denzel Washington, have shut down because of the strike.
SAG-AFTRA has granted waivers to some independent films and television shows. The projects allowed to continue filming are not affiliated with the major studios and streaming giants that are members of the AMPTP.
Projects with big names attached, including Mel Gibson, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd and Jenna Ortega, are among those allowed to continue filming.
The work stoppage does not apply to performers who work under other contracts, such as actors who work on commercials, soap operas and talk shows. Broadcasters who are in the union also are not affected. Actors (and writers) cannot attend promotional events.
SAG-AFTRA specifies that actors cannot act, sing, dance, perform stunts, pilot on-camera aircraft, puppeteer or do performance capture and motion capture work in front of the camera. Impacted events include San Diego Comic-Con and the London premiere of “Oppenheimer.”
MJ biopic director ‘blown away’ by Jaafar Jackson’s resemblance to late uncle
Director Antoine Fuqua is teasing ‘Michael’, the Michael Jackson biopic he is set to work on and says he’s “blown” away by the “uncanny” resemblance between the lead star and his real-life uncle, the King of Pop.
Jaafar Jackson, who is the son of Michael’s brother Jermaine Jackson, will play the iconic singer in the Lionsgate biopic.
“It’s uncanny how much he’s like Michael,” Fuqua told EW in a recent interview. “Sounds like him, dances like him, sings. It’s really uncanny. Graham King, who is a fantastic producer, found him, and introduced him to me, and I was blown away.”
Although the film is on hold due to the writers and actors strike, Fuqua said the biopic will retell Michael’s story “as we know it” and would tackle some of the controversies the singer was involved in during his lifetime.
“Just to tell the facts as we know it, about the artist, about the man, about the human being. You know, the good, bad, and the ugly,” Fuqua added.
‘Michael’ will be directed by Fuqua with a script from John Logan. Graham King is set as a producer, who was behind the Freddy Mercury Queen story of Bohemian Rhapsody. GK Films will produce alongside the co-executors of Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain.
#QuickReview: Is ‘Justice League: Warworld’ worth a watch?
One thing longtime fans of DC have come to count on is that while the company spent the last ten years floundering around in a pool of confusion, their animated films rarely, if ever, miss. Justice League Warworld continues to lend credence to this argument, though not in a particularly new, unique, or memorable way.
Here’s the premise: The big three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) are scattered across time by some phenomenon they do not understand. They have no memories of who they are or how they got there, but they know they have to consistently ‘keep moving’.
Wonder Woman visits a wild western town in which a distinct DC anti-hero rules with an iron fist. Batman is stuck in a prehistoric world, complete with dinosaurs and warlords and warrior women. And then, the big three reunite at the end for what starts as a ‘mystery-in-a-diner’ noir-esque story that sort of explains what’s been happening but does nothing with that revelation.
The big three reunite at the end for what starts as a ‘mystery-in-a-diner’ noir-esque story that sort of explains what’s been happening but does nothing with that revelation.
But there’s a lot to root for in this film: the voice cast is splendid, with Jensen Ackles playing Batman, Darren Criss as Superman, Stana Katic as Wonder Woman, Troy Baker as Jonah Hex, and so on. Somehow Ackles has avoided the Conroy comparisons (probably because he started voicing Batman before Conroy passed) so far, and in a good way.
The art style stays within the confines of the Tomorrowverse comfortably, and the animation looks great and fluid. The action sequences leave quite a bit to be desired, though, with Batman going through the motions and forgetting what makes him such a much-revered hand-to-hand fighter. The heroes also act out of character a number of times, Batman leaving someone who just freed him to die, and Superman being quite thick-headed and missing several obvious clues.
The heroes also act out of character a number of times, Batman leaving someone who just freed him to die, and Superman being quite thick-headed and missing several obvious clues.
Still, the biggest letdown is the fact that the movie ends, but there’s no resolution. It rather spends the climax setting up a sequel, which may be the just-announced Crisis on Infinite Earths. The movie skimps on the emotional satisfaction that comes with a perfectly-landed climax and instead jerks the audience away on the ‘something-bigger-approaches’ segue. It feels as though the ending was changed just before it left the cutting room. Still, ‘Justice League: Warworld’ is worth a watch.