Kevin Feige promised that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness would be Marvel’s first foray into the horror genre. Placing the reigns firmly in Sam Raimi’s hands bolstered those statements. The result is a Marvel movie unlike any other. In short, it's Army of Darkness meets Marvel.
From the first moment, we can tell the tone is different. This one doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. Instead, it feels strange. Doctor Strange and a young heroine flee a villainous monstrosity that has designs on kidnapping her. But the good doctor has other ideas.
Sam Raimi goes into his bag and pulls out horror tropes galore that set the tone for this one. Enter one wicked witch that would have Dorothy shaking in her ruby, red slippers. But it doesn’t stop there. It's demons and zombies and evil, oh my! It’s even a young heroine, who lets go of shrill cries that harken back to the scream queens of yore.
Anyone who’s a fan of Raimi can find his fingerprints all over this one. Even the makeup and the way certain characters move look like something out of Evil Dead or Army of Darkness. In fact, the irony of Raimi’s involvement with another universe that possesses a Darkhold is enough to make nerds all over the world chuckle with glee—this one included.
Raimi handles the story deftly, playing with the horror elements in front of a Marvel backdrop. He leaves bread crumbs for the Marvel and Evil Dead faithful. He’s so magnanimous that he even drops something special for Disney fans. One fight scene even calls back Fantasia: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
While we’re on the topic of fights, the action is genuinely imaginative and unique. It has to be. The villains aren't super-powered aliens or automatons with AIs that run amuck. No. These creatures are the stuff of nightmares. The weapons are demon cloaks, tentacled arms, magic and, in one instance, Beethoven. The latter sets the stage for a dissonant battle, which the audience has never seen in the MCU before.
Aside from the tone and the action, the acting was another plus. Both Benedict Cumberbatch and Ashley Olson had tough jobs. And anyone who doesn’t think it's tough to play different versions of the same character, go back and watch an episode of Orphan Black. Though they aren't playing as many roles as Tatiana Maslany, it still has to be difficult to nail those variations. Xochitl Gomez didn’t have to play multiple variations of her character. But given what was required of her, Gomez held her own against the likes of Olsen and Cumberbatch.
The tone and action sets the stage early for Marvel’s first horror movie. In Raimi’s masterful hands, it takes on unique qualities that the casual fan can enjoy. But it turns out to be a true treat for Disney, Marvel and Raimi fans alike.