Like a good magician Doctor Strange focuses on the spectacle rather than the substance giving us a visual feast that lacks much depth. follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Based on the classic Marvel character, Doctor Strange was created by Steve Ditko in 1963 first appearing in Strange Tales #110. Known for its trippy visuals, the movie is a basic adaptation of the character focused on special FX as opposed to the story itself.
After having watched the film, it struck me that the movie and character is very much a mystical Iron Man sharing a lot with that character’s first movie and its main character Tony Stark. Both characters are narcissistic womanizers who live fast and play hard, each with their own god complex and only accepting perfection. Each character is injured and seek help to heal themselves eventually getting a suit of armor to help them survive and fight their battles. In Iron Man’s case it’s a literal suit of armor and with Strange it’s an armor of spells… and a cloak. So, Iron Man, but with Christopher Nolan’s aesthetic from Inception.
Directed by Scott Derrickson the film bends reality literally as buildings shift and characters jump around space as if it’s a game of Portal on acid. All of that is impressive and the strongest part of the movie. It distracts you from a main character that doesn’t grow a whole lot and generally unlikeable as a person and a supporting cast that doesn’t have a ton to do.
The content of the film remains pretty faithful for the character hitting the right moments and keeping the basics. Magic is given a bit more of a scientific explanation, and characters and locations are changed a bit as well (which is a whole other issue).
Benedict Cumberbatch does a fine job in the lead role. Lets face it a lot of the film is him being a dick and the rest is his waving his hands and arms in the air casting spells. But, we see a little growth for the character, but there’s still issues that make him generally unlikeable. An example is his inability to take responsibility for the results of his actions. He’s right and do what he wants, then maybe apologize later. It’s a similar role Tony Stark plays, but Stark has a deeper back story and has absolutely grown through his films (and that is a difference, one film from a half dozen).
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, and a wasted Benjamin Bratt are all in supporting roles and generally their talent isn’t used enough. Ejofor is used the best and his Baron Mordo will be a character that should be very entertaining in films to come. Swinton’s role is the mystical guru and her line readings are like a child telling you there is no spoon. McAdams plays flustered or confused for most of the film while Benedict Wong stands out among the bunch. Mikkelsen’s villain is rather boring and he’s a step up and change from the usual evil businessmen that populate previous Marvel Cinematic films. There’s line readings, but the acting isn’t there. I rarely felt realy emotion.
The story itself we could debate if there’s a bigger meaning involing religious extermists, but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.
The movie is amazing visually as the world shifts and turns and 3D is a must. This is the first film I think I’ve seen where the 3D is an absolute and you should skip the 2D. And it’s the visuals you’re going for. They are the draw of a film that feels like it suffers from Marvel’s usual first movie blues. It’s entertaining, but we’ve seen so much better.
Overall Rating: 7.65