Anthony Lane‘s New Yorker review of Sam Raimi‘s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness delivers not just an explicit warning, but a confirmation of what I’ve been sensing from the get-go, and why I decided against attending last Monday’s all-media screening in Los Angeles.

Doctor Strange “may do temporary damage to your central nervous system,” Lane writes, “yet it’s not unenlightening. For one thing, it clarifies the purpose of a multiverse. (I was startled to find the word being used by the poet and critic Allen Tate almost a century ago, in 1923: ‘I suppose Keats was insincere in his letters because he exposes a multiverse.’ Don’t tell the Scarlet Witch.)

“This has nothing to do with astrophysical speculation and plenty to do with the special-effects teams, for whom the multiverse means party time. It gives them carte blanche—which never bodes well—to dish up anything they fancy. The one smidgen of wit, as opposed to visual overkill, is the sight of a storm in an actual teacup, complete with raging waves.

“Raimi’s movie could also be of interest to sociologists. What stirred the fans around me, causing them to levitate in their seats, was not the film’s emotional sway (for it has none) but the miraculous visitation of characters from other Marvel flicks, many of them played by embarrassed-looking British actors, whose every entrance was met with ejaculations of joy.

“The cinema, at such moments, becomes a place of worship. I sat there, strewn with popcorn rubble, lost in the liturgy, jealous of the true believers, and baffled by their incomprehensible gods.”