The new movie “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” seems to have been anxiously anticipated by some fans of the caped hero genre. But viewers should be warned: if you haven’t seen or don’t remember the 2016 film “Dr. Strange,” you should see it before you go to the new movie.
If you don’t, you’ll find yourself trying to explain a bi-ped wildebeest with a female voice, wearing robes and fighting both kung fu style and by magically throwing off projectiles and force shields.
Those up-to-stardate readers who continue to be fans of superhero comic-book movies, take comfort in the return of Benedict Cumberbatch as sorcerer and defender of our world Dr. Stephen Strange.
The second movie brings back the bulk of the strong cast from the first film.
Rachel McAdams again plays Christine Palmer. Believe it or not, an actor named Benedict Wong plays Wong. Chiwetel Ejiofor again plays Baron Mordo.
Then there are stars associated with other Marvel Comics film projects: Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor Charles Xavier, the X-Men head, and John Krasinski plays Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four.
The new film is colorful and moves almost continually. Not many fans of the Batman movies, the Spider-Man movies, or the X-Men movies will like “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” as well as they do the more conventional super-powers flicks.
But they’ll like it well enough. And they should leave off reading this now.
If that was a “spoiler alert,” do we also all recognize the concept “jumping the shark”?
It may be that one of the reasons Marvel hasn’t been able to keep a Dr. Strange comic book going is that the audience for revenge and law enforcement isn’t the same crowd that goes for endless apparatus.
In fact, surely the crowd that likes The Punisher will hate the requirement that we learn and relearn dozens of utterly random laws, rules, and paradigms in the reality of Dr. Strange.
The poor Sorcerer Supreme must visit two dozen different settings in “The Multiverse.”
Yet we are told early on that what’s special about the girl America that he is protecting is that she can travel between these parallel universes.
If not all the other characters can do that, then the existence of their parallel beings in the other universes seems to make the question moot.
Is that confusing? Well, imagine the issue coming to you in a noisy IMAX auditorium.
And as soon as the viewer thinks she has grasped the significance of that fact, three other equally baffling distractions occur.
The real problem with this movie (and maybe with the comic books on which it is based) is that events in it are “inconsequential.”
They don’t prepare us for later events. So they make no difference. They are without consequences.
The events in “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” could end in exactly the same way they do here, with the same spell-down between Doc and Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen returning) continued villainous turn as The Scarlet Witch”, at virtually any point in the story.
What happens with Charles Xavier doesn’t matter to the ending. Neither does what happens at the monastery. Nor does anything that happens in the Wong subplot.
The film could retrieve some good will if it weren’t both dowdy and chilly. Cumberbatch and Olsen are both known for projecting no human warmth.
And the clothes and perhaps especially the multiverse of wigs and false facial hair would kill off any sex appeal any of the characters had, even if the film seemed cognizant that sex appeal exists.
So if you must see “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness,” see its 2016 predecessor first. But if you aren’t actively hungering for the next super-hero movie, give this confusing mess a miss.