Movie Review Doctor Strange
Movie Review Doctor Strange
It seems like every time a new Marvel movie comes out nowadays, there’s a looming question: Will this one finally be the bad one? For while they’ve dipped into mediocrity from time to time with the likes of Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, most folks would agree that Marvel Studios has yet to release an out-and-out failure up to this point. With Doctor Strange, though, the studio is once again going out onto a new limb, introducing not only a fairly obscure character (to most of the audience at least), but also mysticism into the MCU. So how did they fair? Well, I’m glad to say that this is not the MCU’s first failure. In fact, it’s pretty darn good, though probably not in the studio’s top tier.
Starting off with an introduction to talented but arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange, we follow our hero as his life falls apart after a car accident leaves him unable to use his properly. In his desperation, he turns to an obscure person known as the Ancient One for healing, but who instead introduces him to the world of magic, changing his life forever. From there, the movie shows us his training and ultimate confrontation with magical threats that threaten to consume the world.
With this as our backdrop, director Scott Derrickson and a highly talented cast take us on a stunning and at times mind-boggling journey through the MCU’s hereto unexplored magical side. And the filmmakers use this mystic flavor to its full potential with both jaunts into bizarre dimensions and physics-bending fight scenes. Between the cities bending around themselves, the fights between astral projections pushing each other through walls, the combatants bounding through the thin air, and the rapid transitions between portals and dimensions, the movie is spectacular in the truest sense of the word. In fact, against my usual inclinations, I would recommend seeing the movie in 3D if you can, because it would definitely be worth the investment this time around.
As far as the acting goes, it should come as no surprise that this cast of highly talented actors comes together to deliver strong performances. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job portraying several phases of Strange’s life, showing us the brash but affable arrogance of his surgeon days, the bitterness and self-destructive rage from his life post-accident, the ravenous curiosity of the man who just discovered magic, before eventually becoming one of earth’s mystic protectors. Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelson also deliver strong performances, giving their characters esoteric gravity and forceful presences.
There are, however, a few things that hold the film back from being truly great. The most pressing of these is the feeling that the movie is trying to fit too much in at once. Since this an origin story for a character that not a lot of people know, it was perhaps unavoidable for there to be a lot to fit in, but one still feels that they moved too fast with a lot the big character moments. When Mordo or the Ancient One have confrontational moments with Strange, for example, it doesn’t feel like they’ve earned the drama they’re trying to get across. It is, after all, hard to feel much weight after they’ve only had about an hour screen time since they first met. The movie puts in just enough that these interactions don’t feel contrived (they make it clear that Strange spends months training over the course of the story), but it’s not enough for us to feel the impact that later scenes should have. The movie also leans pretty heavily on some very familiar tropes and story beats, so the plot is pretty bland underneath all the flamboyant set dressing. I also think that it’s always asking for trouble to introduce elements of time manipulation into the story as this movie does. While I do appreciate the imagery and choreography this allows for, and how Strange uses it in a clever way during the final confrontation, being able to turn back time takes the tension out of just about any situation.
At the end of the day, though, none of these issues felt like major distractions. While the plot doesn’t have a lot of depth, it isn’t shallow either, and strong acting and breath-taking imagery more than justify a trip to the theater. Doctor Strange isn’t among the MCU’s elite alongside Guardians of the Galaxy or the Captain America sequels, but it is yet another worthy addition to that world.
VERDICT: 3.5 out of 5. Go see it.