• by Wes Singleton

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness -B+

Rated PG-13, 126 minutes

Wild, wacky and vastly entertaining, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is a solid entry in the MCU and a better film than 2016's "Doctor Strange." This outing is a visual spectacle, which helps move along a dense storyline that MCU enthusiasts will appreciate most.

Dr. Stephen Strange (recent Oscar-nominee Benedict Cumberbatch) casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, excellent here) as well as Dr. Strange's colleague and love interest, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).

The enjoyable, fast-paced "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is not a mindless film by any means, but you're going to have to trust your instincts and just go with it and have fun. The multiverse concept is not a foreign one to Marvel, featured prominently along with Dr. Strange in the recent blockbuster "Spider-Man: No Way Home,“ but here it's turned on its head and literally spun around a few times. Director Sam Raimi of the original "Spider-Man" trilogy (and for horror film fans, the "Evil Dead" franchise) directs a script from "Loki's" Michael Waldron, a dense, backstory-rich tale that gathers some inspiration from other MCU projects.

Speaking of that, with Olsen's Wanda Maximoff taking one of the leads here, as well as chief protagonist the Scarlet Witch, a familiarity with the Emmy-nominated "WandaVision" from Disney+ could be helpful here, but not required. Olsen is terrific in both roles and seems to especially enjoy playing the Scarlet Witch, who kicks a lot of tail here, taking down some prominent figures from a totally separate Marvel universe who cameo here.

Wong, Gomez and McAdams, along with Chiwetel Eijofor as Karl Mordo, all get in a few good scenes, but it's really a showdown between Dr. Strange and the Scarlet Witch in a finale that doesn't disappoint. The visuals and special effects are first-rate, adding excitment and visual flair to the story, which is occasionally bogged down in emotional Wanda backstory, and also unsurprisingly setting the stage for future Dr. Strange installments.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is colorful and enjoyable and occasionally wacky in a trippy, multiverse way. It's a great kickoff to the summer movie season and a terrific way to get audiences back to the movie theater. A must-see for MCU fans.