The last thing Marvel needs after more than a decade and dozens of films and television series is for things to grow more confusing. Despite this, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is currently in cinemas, creates a headache-inducing jumble of background you may or may not recall, different genres and tones, and a slew of new characters — including alternative versions of old ones.

The Multiverse of Madness is a magnificently skilled balancing act of odd weirdness and moving human drama in the hands of filmmaker Sam Raimi.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

From beginning to end, director Sam Raimi’s whole gamut of oddity and spookiness is on full show. Fans familiar with Raimi’s oeuvre will be able to identify plenty of instances bearing his stamp, whether it’s through the monsters, Raimi-specific appearances, or just the feel.

That signature usually works. Even the greatest Raimi fans may find themselves quirking an eyebrow from time to time as a result of some sequences that are unusual for the purpose of being weird and others that are hampered by screenwriter Michael Waldron’s often cheesy language. Nonetheless, the film succeeds considerably more than it fails.

For Multiverse of Madness, the horror element was a major sticking point. Scott Derrickson, the film’s original director, left the production because he couldn’t complete it the way he envisioned it, causing some fans to assume that the new Doctor Strange film wouldn’t be as frightening as promised. But, for the most part, such concerns may be dispelled. You’ve already encountered Zombie Strange in What If (and the teaser for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), but he’s far from the only thing that goes bump in the night in the MCU’s newest installment. There are plenty of creepy scares hiding around every corner, especially as the third act progresses.

The popularity of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is due in large part to the performances. There isn’t a terrible actor in the lot. Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff reminds us how quickly she can transform into a capital-a-Actor. Meanwhile, Xochitl Gomez did an excellent job introducing America Chavez to the MCU and left us yearning for more of her character in the future, while Rachel McAdams did her best with a Christine Palmer who was once again underutilized. Benedict Cumberbatch, as always, was fantastic.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

And the music, whoa, It’s an incredible banger of an album, from the notes of individual themes that come in as undertones as characters come into action, to an orchestral tone that follows the whiplash of Raimi’s narrative one, to an actual musical war.

To be sure, Raimi’s first attempt into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is flawed, but it still has a tone. Is there anything in Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that you think might be improved? Definitely. The screenplay can be a little cheesy at times, and there are a few strange sequences that don’t add much to the broader story or character development.

Read why Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man exposes Marvel’s flaws

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