Bennett Fort ’19
Quick Note: This review has mild-spoilers regarding one of the inciting of the film (It’s part of his origin story in the comics, so it isn’t really a spoiler, but yeah, proceed with caution if you want to not know anything about the character of Stephen Strange)
I’m going to start this review off with a story. Earlier this week, I was purchasing the tickets to see this movie. After having printed them out, a thought creeped into my mind: “Do I really want to see this movie?” “No,” I thought to myself. As soon as I thought that, I began to think that I had started to get tired of superhero movies and was no longer going to enjoy them. However, sitting here, writing this review one week later, I can honestly say, I’m glad I saw Doctor Strange, because I think it’s the best Marvel movie released so far.
Let’s start with the characters: Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect for the role of the arrogant Steven Strange. Being someone who has enjoyed the Doctor Strange comics, I think it’s cool to see such an amazing actor nail a character so well. His arrogance is something that, at first, reminded me of Tony Stark from the original Iron Man, but Strange quickly sets himself apart because his arrogance is what destroys him; Stark ultimately abandons some of his arrogance. The other cool thing about Strange is how he actually grows over the course of the film instead of just being the same, arrogant guy that he was at the beginning. One bad thing about Cumberbatch’s performance is the American accent that he puts on. It just sounds weird when Cumberbatch enunciates certain words. Other than Strange, most of the other characters are pretty good. Chiwetel Ejiofor is pretty good as Mordo, but his part is not so large that he makes a difference for the overall plot. Benedict Wong as Wong serves mostly as comic relief for the entire film. However, Tilda Swinton’s role as The Ancient One is actually pretty good, and she has her fair share of memorable moments. Also Mads Mikkelsen serves as a decent, and developed, villain, yet his cause isn’t anything we haven’t already seen before. Oh, I forgot Rachel McAdams as Christine, and I’m sure you will too! So, the characters are good, with a few underdeveloped roles overall.
In term of plot, the story is amazing, even though it has its problems near the end. The narrative revolves around Strange’s arrogance and constant desire for attention. However, this desire eventually leads to his downfall after a car accident that causes terrible nerve damage to his hands. Wanting to continue his career, he searches for a monastery in Kathmandu that he believes will give him the ability to use his hands to their full potential again. He begins to train in the mystic arts until he feels he has learned all he can. After this point, it is evident that the studio wanted to get to ending at break-neck speed. Everything seems to occur so quickly that you can’t exactly focus on each thing with the amount of focus it deserves. The fast pacing towards the end of the movie is really the only problem I have with the movie itself.
The special effects are sensational, with the craziest of them being involved in the mind- bending battles that occur at certain points. They feel a little like some of the scenes from Inception, if those scenes were even more mind-bending and confusing. There is also a very funny battle involving an AED and an operation room that has some innovative special effects in it as well. The movie itself also has a darker look to it that sets it apart from the rest of the Marvel movies. Now, with the introduction of magic into the MCU, there was always the chance of it not turning out well and allowing you to wonder why a character doesn’t use a certain power at a point it would seem useful. For instance, the people who harness the magic are able to remove their astral forms from their physical bodies–meaning moving your “soul” out of your body. There are a number of situations in which they can use this power, and just to make sure that the audience can’t say “why didn’t he just go into his astral form and stop the guy,” the filmmakers have a number of battles take place exactly when one would make the excuse of using the astral form. Also, the final battle is amazing and dazzles with how Strange confronts the big bad of the film. The final battle is probably one of the main reasons that you should see this movie in IMAX 3D.
The comedic aspect of this film is also noteworthy, even if a joke pops up here and there when it really does not belong in the scene. The easter eggs to both the rest of the MCU and the comics themselves are few and far between, but when they do show up, they make some of the best moments of the entire movie. Also, I don’t know if you could really call this movie a “superhero movie,” just because of how Strange goes about saving people and how he doesn’t actively seek out fighting off villains. The movie even explains how the group that Strange is a part of protects the world against more “spiritual threats.” I also appreciate how disconnected this movie is from the rest of the MCU. Even though there are a few references here and there, the film largely refrains from focusing on the other heroes. I find I like the stand-alone Marvel movies better than the team-up ones and the ones focusing on the larger heroes. I mean, my favorite Marvel movie before I saw this one was Ant-Man, and that was entirely separate from the rest of the universe.
In conclusion, Doctor Strange is an overall great movie, even if it doesn’t seem like it from this review– mostly to avoid spoilers. Even with the fast pacing towards the end and a few underdeveloped characters here and there, I still feel that it’s the best out of all the Marvel movies. I would highly recommend going to see it in IMAX 3D just because of the mind-bending scenes and a few other ones I don’t want to talk about just to refrain from spoilers. Oh, also, stay through the entire credits. Even the scrolling ones. You’ll thank me later.