This week, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was released to theaters. The latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the film largely centers around the characters Doctor Strange and Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, as well as America Chavez, a mysterious girl from an alternate universe who is able to traverse the multiverse itself. The characters explore the mystical corners of other universes as they encounter other versions of themselves and people they know and come face to face with heroes of other realities — all as Doctor Strange must overcome impossible odds to save a life.

The thing that definitely can be said about this movie is that it starts and keeps going, even if this isn’t necessarily for the best. From the first scene, you are dropped right into the action and it never stops. There are a few moments where it slows down and it just keeps going until the end. This is almost a double-edged sword, both pulling the viewers in and keeping them engaged but also feeling exhausting at points as you are thrown from major plot point to major plot point. The film clearly had a lot it needed to do and establish and not enough time to do it, feeling like a three-hour movie they were forced to drastically shorten, jerking the viewer from scene to scene rather than flowing as smoothly as some may like.

The performances by the actors were by far the best parts of the film. Benedict Cumberbatch proves once again that he is perfect for the role of Doctor Strange and Elizabeth Olsen plays Scarlet Witch with incredible nuance and emotion as the character is explored and reestablished in the MCU after the events of “WandaVision.” Xochitl Gomez, although a newcomer to the MCU, holds her own and makes America Chavez one of the best characters of the film. Fan-favorite character Wong, played by Benedict Wong, also gets to shine in his supporting role. These actors all gave great performances that help ground and focus this, at times, crazy story.

While fans are likely going into this movie expecting countless cameos and appearances that will set up certain groups or characters within the MCU, that might not be the case. While there are several appearances that fans will definitely enjoy as they make their MCU movie introduction, they don’t necessarily set up future appearances — no, there was no teaser for an “X-Men” movie, going in expecting that will only disappoint you. These are cameos and not much more, something to be surprised by but not likely leading to anything major on their own as they all take place in a different universe. They are fun though and as long as people understand not to expect too much, they’ll be pleasantly surprised and excited about what they get.

Overall, the movie feels like a filler episode in the decadeslong television series that is the MCU. It’s fun, but it was clearly intended to set up future projects and establish the multiverse that television shows and movies over the last year have introduced. It is definitely worth watching and you’ll likely enjoy it, but it might be best to have seen “WandaVision” and the first “Doctor Strange” film at the very least or you could possibly get lost at points, especially with how quickly everything happens and keeps happening.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars