WarningMight contain spoilers.

An awful, boring movie, not helped by how much Doctor Strange himself has faltered as a character since Avengers: Endgame . I’m unsure whether this is better or worse than Eternals —although this has characters I know and cameos that had me cheering, it’s also gratuitously violent, gory, and steeped in poorly executed horror:

This is the most violent Marvel film to date, featuring the gruesome deaths of several characters. These include a character's head exploding, a character falling and getting impaled, a character who is painfully stretched and ripped apart until destroyed, a character whose neck is snapped, a character who is cut in half, and more. Most of these deaths are shown explicitly on-screen, but contain relatively little blood or gore.

As someone who doesn’t like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, I didn’t expect him to produce something very good, but I didn’t expect something so lacking in merit either. I can easily believe he didn’t know what he was doing:

Sam Raimi has observed that due the chaotic production process he and the screenwriters essentially figured out the movie during filming, with the ending being conceptualized about halfway through the shoot.

When it comes to the aforementioned cameos, Captain Carter was nice to see, the Maria Rambeau version of Captain Marvel was a pleasant surprise, Black Bolt was a bigger surprise, and Patrick Stewart’s brief return as Professor X made me gasp. I was also impressed that the studio managed to keep John Krasinski as Reed Richards a secret even amidst the Internet (inexplicably, to me) clamouring for him to play the role. Like Pajiba, I would personally have preferred someone more interesting:

In fact, the only unfamiliar face of the lot belongs to John Krasinski as Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, which is simultaneously the most basic-ass choice and also still better than bringing back Miles Teller. We know Marvel is going to introduce the Fantastic Four to the MCU, and this seems to confirm that Krasinski will be the star — though in a Multiverse it’s never too late to hire William Jackson Harper HINT HINT.

Unfortunately, the disgusting deaths of these Illuminati turn an exciting digression into a disturbing experience.

It’s sad that the connection to What If…? is ultimately so minimal, considering the promising early trailers. I thought the collapsed universe in the film was the one the evil Doctor Strange created there, but this one said he watched Christine marry someone else, whereas in the show he was trying to save her from dying. Perhaps the repulsive reanimated Strange is a closer tie, even though it has nothing to do with the show, simply on account of being a kind of zombie.

I will never not want to see Wong, but it’s a shame that, after the opening, he’s reduced to being beaten over and over. It’s an even greater shame that all the visual inventiveness and believable effects of the first movie have vanished. Who would have expected an entire first half of Wanda and the Kamar-Taj magicians firing unconvincing beams of light at each other? This is a shockingly unimaginative story mostly consisting of people moving linearly and punching, throwing objects at, or firing beams at each other. (The quick musical battle between the two Stranges is an enjoyable exception despite fitting some of those descriptions.)

There’s no good way to say this: Xochitl Gomez is bad as the ever-breathless America Chavez. Apart from her amazing powers, she has no character, no charm, no charisma, no depth, and a cookie-cutter history. In contrast, Rachel McAdams has slightly more to do here as Christine than in the first one. On a brighter note, I like Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo from a different dimension and particularly enjoyed Doctor Strange needling him about his presumed jealousy.

Wanda is transformed from a complex character who’s made terrible mistakes to an out-and-out villain, if one with tragic, understandable motives—a depressing and uninspired writing choice after everything she’s seen. It’s incomprehensible to me that anyone could come away from Multiverse of Madness seeing her as anything but a villain. It’s also mystifying that Doctor Strange dismisses her enslavement of an entire town by saying she made it right when she did nothing of the sort.

On an unrelated note, it saddens me to think we could have had Emily Blunt as Natasha Romanoff. And it breaks my heart to think of what a different world the first movie released in, seven years and a lifetime ago.

The second post-credits scene, showing Bruce Campbell’s character being freed from his loop, made me feel downright annoyed at myself for having waited for it.