Leading up to the release of Doctor Strange, the next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I was equal parts excited and nervous.
Doctor Strange is another addition to the obscure titles that Marvel has adapted into a movie, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man. While I was hyped to see a new Marvel movie, there’s always the risk that this movie wouldn’t turn out well because of how little known the character is. Luckily, this movie turned out to be highly enjoyable, even though it wasn’t the most consistent movie in this series.
Doctor Steven Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a highly skilled, arrogant neurosurgeon with an on-and-off relationship with his colleague Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams. While driving in the middle of the night, Strange gets into a car wreck and damages the nerves in his hands, making him unable to perform surgeries.
After Western medicine fails him, he travels to the East for help. While there, he comes across a secret society of sorcerers led by The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton, and Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Strange joins the group to learn about magic, attempt to regain the use of his hands, and unveil a secret invasion that could wipe out all of mankind.
One point that I most appreciated about Doctor Strange is that it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie. As much as I love this franchise, I know what to expect with each one: lots of action, quips and a light tone. While Doctor Strange does have all of these, the film has a mystical quality that separates it from the Marvel productions. This movie seems to take itself more seriously than the other ones in the franchise and it works to the film’s advantage. It makes the comedy, action, magic and drama all stick out well and gives every scene a necessary impact.
The performances are all Grade A. Cumberbatch acts with his usual high standards and he manages to give some strong comedy that hasn’t been seen from him. McAdams does a great job in playing the love interest, even if her screen time is brief. Ejiofor proves once again that he’s one of the best actors in the industry right now. Swinton plays a great Ancient One, even though her character was initially supposed to be Asian. The acting is certainly up to par with the other Marvel movies.
The best parts of Doctor Strange are the visuals. This film could easily win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. The amount of creativity the special effects team had to create the magic around the characters is astounding. Every shot with CGI is beautiful, trippy and sometimes terrifying. There are certain scenes where the world looks like an optical illusion. If you combined the visuals of Inception and The Matrix, you would get Doctor Strange, and it’s a spectacle to behold. This makes the action scenes some of the best of the Marvel franchise. Every fight is booming with gorgeous CGI, great choreography and some of the most creative set pieces for action I’ve seen in a while.
However, several elements prevent Doctor Strange from being great. For starters, the humor is hit-or-miss. Some jokes are pretty funny, but some don’t work at all. The film is up and down in the comedy department, which is a shame, because the Marvel Comic Universe has been consistent with its humor. Still, the comedy works a lot better than Thor: The Dark World, so Doctor Strange has that going for it.
The biggest problem Doctor Strange has is how it tells its story. There’s a lot happening in this film, especially with its mythos, and, because of this, multiple parts of the movie are rushed. The film skims through major plot points at a fast rate with no indicators on how much time has passed. For example (don’t worry, there are no spoilers), in one scene, Strange struggles to use his newfound magic; two scenes later, he has it mastered. There’s no way of knowing how long it’s taken him to get to that point, and we barely see the process of reaching his full potential. This makes the film hard to follow along because of how hurried the plot is at times.
As a whole, I enjoyed Doctor Strange. It it the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film? In terms of visuals, yes, but in terms of an actual movie, no. Is it one of the worst? Definitely not. If you’re a fan of this franchise, then you should definitely give it a watch. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of superhero movies, you might get some enjoyment out of the special effects. Doctor Strange is yet another solid addition to the Marvel Comic Universe and I can’t wait to see where this franchise goes next.