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JUSTIN TANNER REVIEWS

DOCTOR STRANGE
IN THE
MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS


by Justin Tanner

 


Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Watching “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is like being at someone else’s family reunion and hearing people you don’t know talking about other people you don’t know. “Remember when your Uncle Stephen gave the time stones to Thanos? Wasn’t that cool?”

And you stand there and smile and nod politely, not having a clue who Thanos is, and wondering if a time stone is anything like a FitBit.

They really ought to hand out a user guide at these things, because even with a plot as simple as a Dick and Jane book, trying to follow the action is almost impossible unless you’ve seen all twenty scrillion Marvel Comic Universe movies — a pleasure to which I am taking a hard pass.

Perhaps, if you’ve done all your homework, you might get excited by all the stunt cameos that make up the vast menagerie of expendable characters, including the appearance of Anson Mount as Black Bolt (from your favorite cancelled ABC comic book spinoff “Inhumans,” which lasted all of eight episodes).

And Mount really nails his three lines of dialog and six minutes of screen time before his head explodes. Messy! Sorry for the spoiler, but don’t worry: we’re dealing with the multiverse, where if somebody croaks, you just grab their counterpart from the next universe over.


Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

It’s funny; with all the lip service to grief and loss doled out by the narrative, when an actual death shows up it seems just about as inconvenient as a hangnail.

Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch flaps his arms in an interesting fashion as a somewhat dour and uncharacteristically confused-looking Doctor Strange. And Elizabeth Olson alternately glowers or pouts as serial killer Scarlet Witch.

But these movies aren’t about acting. They aren’t really about writing either. The dialog scenes are as expository, flat as an industrial film and as overwrought and unconvincing as a telenovela.

And though Director Sam Raimi’s oddball sense of humor shows up every now and then, the studio’s myopic truncheon effectively neuters any chance he has of getting on a roll. The resolutely prefab design of the franchise is simply not built for modification.

In one scene, however, as Doctor Strange and a teenage superhero named America (groan), run from the villain, they frantically morph from universe to universe, becoming fragmented, pixillated even liquified.

It’s a delightful acid trip of a sequence that highlights what Raimi can do when let off his leash; It’s the best forty seconds in the movie.

Elsewhere, there’s plenty of grunting and chasing and being chased. And people shooting lasers at each other from their fingertips. There’s even a cool-looking, giant bug-eyed octopus that wriggles around smashing things.

It’s just not compelling enough to take seriously or cheeky and knowing enough to laugh with (or even at).

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” will likely be lapped up by the already converted. It’s designed to delight by purposefully not testing the limits of controlled expectation.

To those unfamiliar with the world or the rules or not instantly seduced by the sight of adults in spandex grimacing at each other while flying around the room, closing the deal might be more daunting.

Ultimately it just lays there looking amazing, showing us very expensive sights, all the while defiantly refusing to turn us on.

IN THEATERS

 

 

An LA-based playwright, JUSTIN TANNER has more than twenty produced plays to his credit, including Voice Lessons, Day Drinkers, Space Therapy, Wife Swappers, and Coyote Woman. His Pot Mom received the PEN-West Award for Best Play.

He has written for the TV shows Gilmore Girls, My So-Called Life and the short-lived Love Monkey. He wrote, directed and edited 88 episodes of the web series Ave 43, available on YouTube.

Tanner is the current Playwright in Residence for the Rogue Machine Theatre in Hollywood, where his two plays Minnesota and Little Theatre will premiere in the summer of 2022.

 

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Gordy Grundy

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