MCU

Doctor Strange 2 is the best-directed MCU movie ever — here’s why

When Marvel actually trusts its filmmakers, great things can happen.

Sam Raimi is one of cinema’s most distinct artists. Ever since he directed 1981’s The Evil Dead, Raimi has marched to the beat of his own drum, and he’s produced some of the most unique and well-made mainstream films of the past 40 years because of that. However, it’s also why many moviegoers were both excited and nervous when Raimi initially signed on to direct Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

On the one hand, Raimi’s style always made him an appealing choice to direct the Doctor Strange sequel. On the other hand, Marvel has a reputation for steamrolling its artists and flattening their visions to accommodate the studio’s brand and storytelling model. With that in mind, one of the biggest questions fans had heading into the movie was whether it would truly feel like a Sam Raimi film or just another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The answer, thankfully, is that Multiverse of Madness does look and feel like a Sam Raimi film throughout the majority of its runtime. In fact, it features several of the most stunning, stylistically inventive sequences in Marvel movie history, including one that may very well rank as the best-directed scene in any MCU film for one simple but surprising reason.

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) prepares to dreamwalk in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.Marvel Studios

During the second act of Multiverse of Madness, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) uses the Darkhold to “dreamwalk” into another universe. The process sees Wanda possess the body of her variant and use her alternate self to reunite with her twin sons, Billy and Tommy, briefly. Later, she uses the same process to attack the Illuminati of Earth-838.

But for as gory and visceral as Wanda’s attack on the Illuminati is, it’s the first dreamwalk sequence in Multiverse of Madness that leaves the most lasting impression. That may be strange to say because very little actually happens in the scene. It’s essentially a two-minute sequence in which Earth-838 Wanda walks from one side of her house and back.

Nonetheless, it might just be the single most well-directed piece of film that Marvel Studios has ever produced. That’s because Raimi takes the dreamwalk sequence and shoots it with as much style, verve, and ingenuity as he can.

Elizabeth Olsen as an alternate reality version of Wanda Maximoff in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.Marvel Studios

The sequence opens with one of Raimi’s trademark “evil POV” shots, which puts us in the perspective of Wanda Maximoff as she watches and stalks her alternate self from around the banister of a nearby staircase. The shot is composed at an extremely canted angle, immediately establishing the sequence’s disorienting intent, with the heightened sounds of creaking floorboards and wind further aiding the scene.

From there, Raimi abandons Wanda’s POV to follow her alternate self as she makes her way from her living room to her kitchen. Along the way, Raimi speeds and slows down time and has lights flicker and swing above Earth-838 Wanda’s head until she stumbles and drops a few bowls — which fall horizontally rather than vertically onto her nearby kitchen counter. In the same sequence, Wanda sees a photo of herself turn to look at her, and a cup of tea transforms into an ocean.

Wanda looks up at her kitchen window and sees the Scarlet Witch staring back at her instead of her reflection. Her eyes close, her body tenses, and then she goes slack. Moments later, Wanda opens her eyes again, they glow very briefly red, and, in one of the most ingenious visual moments in the history of the MCU, she turns and looks directly down the lens of Raimi’s camera. It is an ominous and startling moment that signals the completion of Wanda’s possession.

This might just be the most chilling moment in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.Marvel Studios

It’s also a moment that doesn’t rely on visual effects or dialogue to make its point.

That helps make it feel like something only Raimi, a filmmaker who made a name for himself for his ability to do a lot with very little, could have come up with. This is, after all, the same director who had to establish the presence of a demonic entity in Evil Dead without any effects or costumes and, as a result, shot a sequence from the being’s POV as it rushes through the woods towards a cabin full of unsuspecting, soon-to-be victims.

There are, of course, many shades to Raimi as a filmmaker. In addition to being a practically untouchable visual stylist, he’s also a diehard comic book fan, absurdist horror auteur, and open-hearted romantic. However, his defining trait has always been his ability to do more with camera movement than almost any other filmmaker. That’s been the case in every one of his films up to this point, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) looks up at her kids in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.Marvel Studios

The Inverse Analysis — Several sequences in Multiverse of Madness feel like all-time filmmaking highs for the MCU, including Wanda’s attack on Kamar-Taj and Doctor Strange’s third-act music note fight with Sinister Strange. However, none of those scenes are as simple on the page as Wanda’s first dreamwalk sequence, and none of them use the bare essentials of filmmaking (i.e., camera movement, cutting, subjective camera angles, and practical effects) as effectively.

In most Marvel movies, the same scene might have been constructed out of a series of static wide angles and medium shots. It certainly would have been easier to do it that way. But because Raimi invests in it entirely, he manages to turn a scene of Wanda Maximoff walking across her house into a complete sensory experience. He twists and distorts reality until it climaxes with a silent fourth-wall break, the likes of which have never been seen in the MCU before.

Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) reaches for her kids in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.Marvel Studios

It is a master class in how a talented director can elevate even the most basic material into something spectacular when given the necessary amount of time and trust. Marvel should do it more often because the studio’s confidence in Raimi has resulted in Multiverse of Madness emerging as the most well-directed MCU movie to date.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.