‘Doctor Strange 2’ is the best-directed MCU movie of all time – here’s why
Sam Raimi is one of cinema’s most distinct artists. Since he made 1981 diabolical death, Raimi marched to the beat of his own drum, and he produced some of the most unique and best-directed mainstream films of the last 40 years because of it. However, it’s also why many moviegoers were both excited and nervous when Raimi originally signed on to lead Marvel Studios. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
On the one hand, Raimi’s style has always made him an attractive choice to lead the strange doctor after. On the other hand, Marvel has a reputation for rolling its artists and flattening their visions to fit the studio’s brand and storytelling model. With that in mind, one of the biggest questions fans had before the movie was whether it would truly look like a Sam Raimi movie or another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The answer, fortunately, is that Multiverse of Madness looks and feels like a Sam Raimi movie for the majority of its runtime. In fact, it features several of the most stunning and stylistically inventive sequences in Marvel movie history, including one that could very well rank as the best-directed scene of any MCU film for a simple yet surprising reason.
During the second act of Multiverse of Madness, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) uses the Darkhold to “dream” in another universe. The process sees Wanda possessing her variant’s body and using her alternate self to briefly reunite with her twin sons, Billy and Tommy. Later, she uses the same process to attack the Illuminati of Earth-838.
But as bloody and visceral as Wanda’s attack on the Illuminati is, it’s the first dream walk sequence in Multiverse of Madness that leaves the most lasting impression. It is perhaps strange to say because very few Actually happens in the scene. It’s basically a two-minute sequence in which Earth-838 Wanda walks to one side of her house and comes back.
Nonetheless, it may be the best-directed movie Marvel Studios has ever produced. That’s because Raimi takes the Dreamwalk sequence and shoots it with as much style, verve, and ingenuity as possible.
The sequence opens with one of Raimi’s “evil” shots, which puts us in the perspective of Wanda Maximoff as she watches and stalks her alternate self around the banister of a nearby staircase. The shot is composed at an extremely steep angle, immediately establishing the sequence’s disorienting intent, with the heightened noises of floor creaking and wind further aiding the scene.
From there, Raimi abandons Wanda’s point of view to follow her other self as she makes her way from her living room to her kitchen. Along the way, Raimi speeds up and slows down time and flashes and swings lights above Earth-838 Wanda’s head until she trips and drops a few bowls – which fall horizontally rather than vertically on his kitchen counter nearby. In the same sequence, Wanda sees a photo of her turn to look at her, and a cup of tea turns into an ocean.
Wanda looks up at her kitchen window and sees the Scarlet Witch staring at her instead of her reflection. Her eyes close, her body tenses, then she relaxes. Moments later, Wanda opens her eyes again, they very briefly glow red, and in one of the most ingenious visual moments in MCU history, she turns and looks directly into Raimi’s camera lens. It’s an ominous and surprising moment that signals the completion of Wanda’s possession.
It’s also a moment that doesn’t rely on visual effects or dialogue to make its point.
It feels like only Raimi, a filmmaker who made a name for his ability to do a lot with very little, could have created. It is, after all, the same director who must have established the presence of a demonic entity in evil Dead without effects or costumes and, therefore, shot a sequence from the perspective of the being as he rushes through the woods towards a cabin full of unsuspecting victims, soon.
There are, of course, many nuances to Raimi as a filmmaker. Aside from being a virtually untouchable visual stylist, he’s also a die-hard comic book fan, absurdist horror writer, and open-hearted romantic. However, his defining trait has always been his ability to do more with camera movement than almost any other filmmaker. This has been the case in each of his films so far, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
the Reverse Analysis – Several sequences in Multiverse of Madness feel like all-time cinematic highs for the MCU, including Wanda’s attack on Kamar-Taj and Doctor Strange’s third-act musical note fight with Sinister Strange. However, none of these scenes are as straightforward on the page as Wanda’s first Dreamwalk sequence, and none of them utilize the essence of cinema as effectively (i.e. the movement of camera, cutout, subjective camera angles and practical effects).
In most Marvel films, the same scene may have been constructed from a series of static wide angles and medium shots. It would certainly have been easier to do so. But because Raimi fully invests in it, he manages to turn a scene of Wanda Maximoff walking through her house into a full sensory experience. It twists and twists reality until it climaxes with a silent break from the fourth wall like never before in the MCU.
It’s a masterclass in how a talented director can elevate even the most basic material into something spectacular when given the time and confidence. Marvel should do this more often because the studio’s faith in Raimi has translated into Multiverse of Madness emerging as the best-made MCU film to date.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness now playing in theaters.