How do you compete with the scope of Avengers: Endgame? As the conclusion to a decade’s worth of Marvel Cinematic Universe storytelling and the second highest-grossing movie ever, much of the MCU’s fourth phase of projects has lived in its colossal shadow. Naturally, the answer to this lingering question is to go much bigger: If saving one universe isn’t enough, how about the fate of infinite ones? 

Such is the story of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the second installment in the Benedict Cumberbatch-led mystical, magical MCU franchise. The film opens breathlessly as America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) and Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch)—albeit one much different in appearance and demeanor—run from a massive, one-eyed octopus-like creature hunting Chavez. After this alternate Strange dies, Chavez and the monster crash into the primary MCU reality just as our Strange is watching his former flame, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) tie the knot. Strange, with an assist from the new Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), subdues the monster. The duo learn Chavez has the means to travel between realities—but is incapable of accurately wielding the ability. Strange, sensing the creature is not of magical origins, but instead, witchcraft, seeks out Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Still in isolation in the wake of WandaVision’s conclusion, deeper under the influence of the nefarious Necronomicon Darkhold book, and actively searching multiple realities for her lost children, she begins to make life for Wong, Strange, and Chavez a walking nightmare as the multiverse of Marvel comes to life. These strange yet familiar realities come with their own surprises, which are better left for audiences to discover in their individual viewings and won’t be spoiled here.

In addition to the promise of multiple realities is Sam Raimi’s return to franchise filmmaking, as the beloved cult director ushered in a new age of silver screen superhero icons with the first Spider-Man film (which, coincidentally, debuted 20 years ago the very same week as Multiverse is releasing). Raimi, who took over after the departure of Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, is a name who both Marvel stans and Film Twitter could both line up behind. Raimi’s work—especially in the Evil Dead movies—is distinctive enough that even MCU skeptics couldn’t help but be enchanted by the possibility of someone finally being able to break the long-established Marvel house style.