Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, is the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it tells the origin story of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), an arrogant, neurosurgeon who loses the ability to use his hands after a horrific car accident. He then goes on a search to heal his hands through traditional medicine, but when that doesn’t work, he seeks the help of the magical Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and he discovers more than what he set out to learn.
This film was one of my most anticipated films of the year because I am a massive fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Coming off the previous film that was released in this universe, Captain America: Civil War, which also happens to be my favorite film of the year in general, I was expecting another great film. I didn’t get the absolutely amazing film that I was hoping to see, but it was extremely enjoyable regardless.
The main draw of this film definitely was the visuals that were displayed in all of the trailers and promos. I thought that those that were showcased in the previews were going to be the extent of the visuals throughout this film and I was mistaken. This film is absolutely insane when it comes to its effects. There is honestly no way to describe it other than saying Inception-like. However, I feel that by saying that, it is a disservice to the complete visual madness that is displayed throughout. Everything is leaps and bounds greater than any other film when it comes to how it looks. It honestly felt that Derrickson took Steve Ditko’s, the artist who created Doctor Strange, original art and made it into something that moved. There is no other way to describe it or say how fantastic the visuals are. You just have to see them to understand. I saw it once it a normal theater and once in IMAX and, while the IMAX is worth it, if 3-D isn’t your thing, see it in 2-D, it’s still outstanding.
The performances by the entire cast were almost as good as the visuals were as well. Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong had smaller roles, but they played those roles extremely well and added a lot to the scenes that they were in. Tilda Swinton, despite the white-washing outrage over her casting as The Ancient One, played the role as best as probably anyone could have. She was just the right amount of snark and wisdom that made her the right foil for Strange when he first introduced to the world of magic. Chiwetel Ejiofor was also really solid as Baron Mordo. He is able to play the complex character that he is so well and when he and Cumberbatch are on screen together, they are electrifying.
The star of the film though is Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange though. If he didn’t fit the role well, then this film would have fallen apart. Thankfully though, Cumberbatch is the perfect embodiment of Stephen Strange. His character arc is really interesting and Cumberbatch is able to play the arrogant jerk that Strange originally is to the person that he is at the end of the film; no spoilers. Cumberbatch is perfect for the role and I can’t wait to see him in more films as this character.
I do have a couple of gripes about the film though. First off the overall story of the film is a paint by the numbers superhero origin story. While this doesn’t cause the film to be terrible or anything like that, it just seems that all of the creativity in this film went into the visuals and none when into crafting the story. Also, as is the case with most Marvel films now, minus Loki and all of the villains through the Captain America trilogy, the villain, Kaecilius, was wasted. Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Kaecilius, is a fantastic actor, and he’s good in the role, he just really isn’t given much to do. This is a common thread amongst Marvel because they focus more on the heroes than the villains, but it just seems like there could’ve been much more to his character. Also, there were several times where intense, dramatic scenes were interrupted by a joke that just interrupted the flow of the scene. It felt that Marvel didn’t want this film to get too “dark” and therefore, felt the need to throw in jokes so that the tone was still the fun, “Marvel” tone that audiences have come to know. While I enjoy that tone, I felt that it would’ve been better to go darker with this very different film.
Overall, Doctor Strange is a good film that, despite some flaws, is extremely enjoyable with great performances and insane visuals that you need to see in a theater in order to fully appreciate them.