Marvel just loves to introduce new characters to the cinematic universe, doesn’t it? To the ever-expanding roster of characters, Marvel adds Doctor Strange, the mystical Sorcerer Supreme whose job it is to protect Earth from far less physical threats than those faced by the Avengers. Let’s open a portal to the Review Dimension and see what this film is all about.
Doctor Stephen Strange (played by
Smaug British actor Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant and talented neurosurgeon whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he is forced to look for healing, and hope, in an unlikely place—a mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj. He quickly learns that this is not just a center for healing but also the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying our reality. Before long Strange—armed with newly acquired magical powers—is forced to choose whether to return to his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
The breakaway brilliance of the film is in its visuals. If you thought Inception was trippy, your mind is going to frizz on some of the visual effects in Doctor Strange. Cityscapes twist and bend maddeningly. Floors and walls ripple and deform in ways your mind has trouble keeping up with. It’s AWESOME. I imagine it’s the kind of visuals that are best enjoyed while under some kind of substance. Interestingly, the visuals are strikingly true to the original vision set out in the comic books by Steve Ditko. Hunt a few down and check for yourself. The screenshot below here does nothing for just how insane this particular scene is, and it’s just one scene in the entire film with similar mind-breaking effects.
Benedict Cumberbatch in the starring role was an excellent casting choice. He not only looks the part, but plays it well, even disguising his British accent well enough. The love interest, played aptly by Rachel McAdams, is a vastly underused character in this film, although given that this IS an origin story for Doctor Strange, it’s understandable that the focus is more on his antics than his feelings. Swinton’s performance as the Ancient One is commendable, and fits the role well. If you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll know that the Ancient One was originally an Asian male. Character dialog lampshades this in a way by mentioning that she’s Celtic, but offers no further explanation for the change. The villain role of Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen, felt a little ineffectual, without that feeling of menace that one expects of a villain. In fact, a lot of it felt like a massive set-up to both the upcoming Infinity Wars and Doctor Strange 2 films.
Doctor Strange was filmed in London, New York, Nepal, and Hong Kong, and even though the action takes place over several locations in a single scene, the editing work and post production makes it feels seamless. Once again, the visual effects are nearly indistinguishable from physical effects while you’re watching, and there’s so little that breaks your immersion into the film. Nothing ruins a film faster than breaking that immersion, and for all the fantastical nature of Doctor Strange, the effort on behalf of the post production teams shows.
One mention I must make here that I don’t normally comment on is the film’s soundtrack, scored by multiple-award winning composer Michael Giacchino. For the first in a long series of films, I actually enjoyed the score and it was simple to pick out Doctor Strange’s leitmotif (take a listen here, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment). It may not be as iconic as, say, the Harry Potter theme, but for a Marvel film it’s definitely something new. The entire soundtrack has a more mystical feel to it than the usual blares of trumpets and the jarring “bwaaaah!” Inception-esque horns that so many directors seem to have taken a liking to in recent years.
With every successful Marvel film, I find myself always asking “is this the one that sucks?” (in the same way I keep asking of DC films “is this the one that’s going to be amazing?”). I’m glad to say that Marvel are still on a winning streak here. The character an unlikely superhero and definitely doesn’t feel the same as the rest, making the film feel fresh and entertaining. Doctor Strange is a fun, fast-paced adventure into the origin of an exciting character, and should be fairly high up on your “must watch” list, especially if you’ve been following the MCU up until this point.
Doctor Strange stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt and Scott Adkins, with Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton. Scott Derrickson is directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Stephen Broussard, Victoria Alonso, Charles Newirth and Stan Lee serve as executive producers. Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill wrote the screenplay.
Join Strange on his dangerous, mystifying and totally mind-bending journey when Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange opens in S.A. theaters on November 4, 2016.