Doctor Strange Review: The Best and Most Unique Marvel Movie Yet!
Marvel’s Doctor Strange tells the story of a brilliant yet arrogant neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Stephen lives the good life with lots of money, fancy cars, and a beautiful girlfriend named Christine (Rachel McAdams), who he takes for granted. One evening while driving to a party, Stephen gets a call from one of his co-workers asking for help. Stephen requests that his co-worker texts him the documents for the procedure so he can look them over. While looking down at his phone, another car crashes into Stephen causing his car to loose control and nose dive off a cliff.
Stephen wakes up in the hospital and learns that the accident has caused his hands to have permanent nerve damage. After several medical treatments, Stephen still can’t control the shaking in his hands. While slowly becoming more and more reclusive, Stephen begins to seek out other healing options. He learns of a man named Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), who states that the answer he seeks can be found in Kamar-Taj. Determined to get his life back, Stephen sets out to Kamar-Taj and he finds the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who can hopefully help him regain control of his hands and his life.
Marvel movies and I have a love/hate relationship. I love the big budget spectacle and characters yet always feel rather underwhelmed by the story, villain, and the repetitive nature of the films in the MCU. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like the Marvel films because I honestly do enjoy the vast majority of them, even if it isn’t nearly as much as my colleagues.
Marvel Studios, who along with their partner Disney, has become an unstoppable force in Hollywood. Every Marvel film receives high praise and draws big money at the box office. Marvel films are big business, and critics and audiences love these films and the characters which they bring to life on the big screen. For me, however, it has been quite some time since I truly loved a Marvel film. I think the only time I came out of a Marvel film and felt that “WOW” feeling was when I saw the original Iron Man back in 2008…until now.
Doctor Strange is hands down the best and most unique Marvel film to date. Doctor Strange could very well be Marvel’s Masterpiece. After seeing every film in the MCU so far, I really don’t think you can get a better Marvel film than this one. Doctor Strange has well-crafted characters, real emotion, a great villain, and visuals that will blow your freaking mind. This is the Marvel movie that I have been waiting for since 2008, and it comes delivered as a full surprise because the marketing for this film did very little to peak my interest.
The opening sequence, which shows Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) fighting The Ancient One, sets the visual expectation bar very high right from the get-go. We live in the age where almost every big budget movie is visually stunning yet somehow Scott Derrickson, his production designer Charles Wood, cinematographer Ben Davis, and the film’s entire effects crew managed to make a film that rivals Avatar as one of the most visually breathtaking films in cinematic history. Simply put, what Derrickson and his crew did in regards to the visual aspects of this film, had me at a loss for words when exiting the theater.
The script, which is written by C. Robert Cargill, Jon Spaihts, and Scott Derrickson, is so well-written and structured in such a way that there is the perfect balance of storytelling, action, and drama. The story has a lot of layers and is more complicated than what audiences might be used to in their comic book films. The elements regarding magic, time, and different dimensions intrigued me and kept me interested throughout. This isn’t a film that is all about the big action moments although when they occur, they are astounding. The film’s finale is one of the most memorable action scenes in any comic book film of the past ten years. It works so well because Derrickson wasn’t afraid to push himself to the limits. Not only did the scene have plenty of built up of the story but it also incorporated the element of time, fighting, and remarkable visuals. It’s beyond incredible and seems almost impossible that it was captured on camera.
When it comes to the cast, I think it goes without saying that this is the best cast of any Marvel film. That includes all the non-Disney associated Marvel film franchises such as Spider-Man and X-Men. While all the other Marvel movies do have a fairly solid cast, I feel this one is different because all these actors have proven themselves to be great actors way before becoming superheroes. Benedict Cumberbatch is the perfect choice to play Stephen Strange. He’s handsome, snarky, and believable. He becomes this character so seamlessly, and I cannot wait to see more of Doctor Strange in this universe.
Tilda Swinton is pure perfection as The Ancient One. Swinton, who is so underrated as an actress, embraces this role and brings her own personality to the character. I loved her no-nonsense approach to dealing with Stephen and his ego. Swinton stole many scenes from the rest of the cast and in a lot of ways, was the film’s backbone. Without the Ancient One, Doctor Strange wouldn’t exist so it was so refreshing to see a very quality actress take on this important role and do justice to it.
Unlike most of the other MCU films, Doctor Strange has a well-rounded villain with a real backstory and reasons behind his actions. Mads Mikkelsen is the man responsible for bringing a great villain to life. He plays his character Kaecilius with such conviction and somehow even manages to make the audience think about his actions. This isn’t the standard cliched villain that we have grown so used to in most of the recent Marvel films.
Kaecilius is portrayed as a man with real reasons as to why he is angry and when the audience is required to listen to what he is saying, it doesn’t sound like total nonsense. I don’t want to say that this hasn’t happened before because there are definitely great villains in comic book films, i.e., Magneto (the X-Men franchise), The Joker (Batman & The Dark Knight), and The Penguin (Batman Returns), but they seem so few and far between nowadays. I am so happy to report that Mikkelsen will go down as one of the best villains in recent comic book film history. He nails this role and can’t wait to see how his character is fleshed out more in the MCU.
Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong do fine jobs are smaller supporting roles. The back and forth between Wong and Doctor Strange was great even if some of the jokes didn’t exactly hit as well as the script called for. Wong is a very likable character and one that doesn’t seem out of place such as Darcy Lewis in the Thor films. McAdams works well with Cumberbatch, and the two share great chemistry despite their limited time on-screen together. I liked seeing how McAdams played Christine because she didn’t seem like the type of woman who took bullshit and rather stood up for herself. I love the argument scene between Stephen and her early on in the film.
My only complaint in terms of the cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo. While I don’t think Ejiofor is bad in this role, I did find myself struggling to buy him as his character. I think in an odd way, it is very similar to how I initially felt about Don Cheadle stepping into the role of War Machine after Terrance Howard left. I feel like Ejiofor will work, but it will take a bit of time before he embraces and becomes Mordo. With everyone else being so incredibly grounded and perfect for their roles, I just found Mordo to be a bit distracting since Ejiofor never disappeared into the role like the rest of the cast.
A few other minor complaints about the film include the humor as well as a somewhat rushed beginning. The humor, just like many films in the MCU is so hit and miss. The wi-fi password joke found in the trailers is just as cringeworthy in the film. The whole “just Wong” scene which as Stephen naming off people like Adele and Beyonce was pretty bad as well. I think the problem with a lot of the humor is that it felt out of place. It’s kind of like the jokes are written to appeal to a younger demographic rather than the die-hard comic books fans. There are a few that do work because they fit the tone of the scene.
As for the beginning, I felt like, after the accident, Strange is up and moving about very quickly. Yes, we see that he is struggling with the loss of being able to use his hands but there isn’t much time spent showing him stuck in the hospital and transiting back into his day to day life. I guess it was cut down so that the film’s runtime didn’t become bloated but an additional 5-10 minutes of him recovering would have added to his struggle accepting the loss of being able to control his hands and his career as a surgeon.
All in all, Doctor Strange is everything a comic book fan could want from a comic book film. The casting, the story, the action, and the visuals are all around amazing. This is a great introduction to Doctor Strange and I can’t wait to see more of this character in the future. This is the first time in a very long time that I actually want a superhero sequel and one with the same cast and director attached. I think this team worked magic together and I can only hope that the continued stories will be just as good, if not better than this one.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Doctor Strange is a 9 out of 10.