Director Sam Raimi's signature love of adventure and the macabre makes this Marvel sequel darker, more twisted, and more exciting than many other MCU movies. Fresh off of his scene-stealing supporting role in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange here faces one of the MCU's most formidable and powerful beings -- and teams with one of its most intriguing characters. America Chavez is fascinating, but while she has a lot of screen time in The Multiverse of Madness, her backstory is less important than the urgent fact that she's being hunted across the multiverse. Gomez is a charming and expressive young actor, and her time with Strange brings out his softer, less brusque/arrogant side. She's one of three women characters in the film whose performances elevate the movie beyond the original. McAdams is sort of the opposite of most of the MCU women, who start out as friends, rivals, or colleagues and end up as lovers. Christine is the one who got away. She returns here in two incarnations, and she's just the no-nonsense, truth-telling partner Doctor Strange needs in the titular madness of the multiverse.
Then there's Olsen, whose Wanda seems to be in a perpetual state of grief over what she's lost since the battle against Thanos. She embodies the Walt Whitman quote "I am large, I contain multitudes." She's empathetic even when she makes unimaginable choices (like keeping an entire town under her control in order to live out her domestic fantasies in WandaVision). Of all the post-Blip Avengers, she's the one most unable to move forward, and there's an authenticity to her anguish that makes her storyline so heartbreaking. Raimi, working from a script by Loki writer-producer Michael Waldron, leans into darkness and horror that's both physical and psychological. Luckily for audiences, there's laughter to be shared, too, as well as top-notch cameos that may leave viewers gasping in surprise. This isn't the best, the funniest, or the most star-studded Marvel film, but it is memorable, melancholy, and good for a fright.