Growing up, the Marvel comic book series of Doctor Strange, created by the legendary Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, had a cult following.
My favourite superhero was Doctor Strange because of the meta-mystical context within which he operates as the supreme sorcerer.
I watched Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness recently in Nairobi. The show was advertised as one in which Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) tries to protect America Chavez, the young multi-verse weaver, (played by Xochiti Gomez) from the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). The witch wants to use the young multi-verse weaver to find her way home to her original universe.
The premise sounded promising, but like the juicy-looking chicken you see advertised in neon on billboards but once it’s on your plate looks like a cadaver of a creature that died of famine, the delivery is disappointing at multiple levels.
First of all, the casting of this film is amiss. The main antagonist, the Scarlet Witch, is sympathetic. She wants to kidnap America Chavez who can "multiverse" her back to another universe where her two sons live so that she can be a stay-at-home mom to them.
The Scarlet Witch, like all witches, needed to be scary, but comes across as a regular person.
And then there is Chiwetel Ejiofor, an otherwise very convincing actor (12 Years A Slave), but who fails to cast his usual spell as the supposedly villainous Baron Mordo.
The dialogue is under par, as scriptwriters Michael Waldron and Jade Bartlett have packed it with throw-away laugh lines in tense moments, flushing down all the necessary tension.
Without a doubt, the cast is talented, only totally miscast.
And then the film seems to be a Hollywood experiment in diversity, tolerance and political correctness, which would be a wonderful thing, if it wasn’t so painfully obvious that it is.
It’s like the film is shouting, "We have made it a point to pair up the old white man hero with the young Mexican girl, and oh look, here is the Chinese Wong with the girl from Sudan, and the LGBT couple that has adopted a young girl where one mommy is actually daddy. Aren’t we a tolerant lot?"
Speaking of which, half an hour into the film, a young girl said loudly in the theatre, ‘’Papa, this film is boring and confusing; can I go to the skate rink?’’
Boring and confusing – that’s it.
With a plot line meandering all over the place, other Marvel superheroes (like Captain America, who is now female, thumbs up) drop in for cameos that fell like adverts for future Marvel films — coming soon, shortly, to movie screens near you.
Director Sam Raimi, with a $200 million budget, tries to make this film a spectacular visual spectacle, but it still comes off as bland.
The 126 minutes of this film seemed to pass in slow motion, and I caught myself nodding off behind my 3D glasses several times, only to be startled alert by loud onscreen explosions.
Outside, a woman, turning to her friend, summed it all up saying: "What was that madness that we just watched?’"