“Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” is a mouthful of a title.
It’s also a lot for a film.
I liked it.
I’m inclined to like Marvel Studios movies because I grew up reading comic books.
I never imagined big-time Hollywood blockbusters headlined by characters once as obscure as Doctor Strange, played by the genuinely terrific Benedict Cumberbatch.
Now there’s a whole generation of people who’ve grown up knowing nothing but movies and TV shows about superheroes.
What a time to be alive.
Still, I wonder how much continuity Disney can pile on movies before they collapse back into a secret language for nerds.
To understand the events of “Madness,” one needs to have at least a sense of movies dating back to the 1990s and maybe comic books back to 1962.
At a minimum, one should have seen the “WandaVision” series on Disney+ — or at least read the Wikipedia description — and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” to even be slightly clued into the underpinnings of the plot.
Oh, yeah, and you should probably watch the cartoon series “What If,” also on Disney+.
I am not cynical enough to say entertainment moguls Disney and the comic book culture are designed to suck you in with one or two good stories and then empty your wallet for the next decade with associated and often lesser associated intellectual property.
But it is a lot of characters and events to keep track of.
The middle of the film is filled with cameos of characters that go back to mediocre-to-terrible movies with Marvel heroes once owned by Fox beginning in 1999.
I’ve seen all these movies.
I get a rush.
But is the rush just for people like me?
“Madness” feels like a tipping point for Marvel movies.
How much will Disney ask the casual moviegoer to know before they show up for their movies will make any kind of sense?
This is the 27th Marvel film. I’m too lazy to count the pre-Marvel Studios movies at Fox, Universal, and other studios.
And I’ve no interest in counting all the TV shows and cartoons.
Is it possible to enjoy “Madness” without all the backstories?
I don’t know.
I’ve watched all the backstories.
I had fun.
That’s all I ask out of a movie.
Director Sam Raimi added all those weird background tricks he does to make his movie’s aesthetics spooky and odd.
“Madness” could be considered a horror movie. There are lots of gross monsters, evil doppelgangers, and at least one zombie.
I don’t want to get into where it ranks against all the other Marvel movies.
There are podcasters and YouTube influencers galore to do that.
I’ll just say this: If you’ve enjoyed all or most of what’s come before in this unprecedented string of cinematic continuity, you’ll likely enjoy this.
But if this is a movie you walked into cold, having only heard about the pop culture phenomenon, it may feel like you got a Twinkie without the cream filling.
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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