Benedict Cumberbatch Brings The Magic To “Doctor Strange”; Mind Blowing 3D Visuals Highlight The Newest Addition To The MCU
I’m going to get right to the point. Marvel and Benedict Cumberbatch fans will not be disappointed with this film. As far as movie goers unfamiliar with Doctor Strange, it might be a bit out there at times. It should still be a fun and enjoyable movie for most, just not as much fun for some as it will be for Marvel fans. I will say though for as strange as the material in the comic book can be at times, it is quite an accomplishment what a great job they did making the character of Doctor Strange both relatable and likeable to the movie going audience.
Before I get to the review, I want to point out some similarities with the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Doctor Strange. Back in 2008, “Iron Man” was released and it was the first in a line of epic movies to come that would help build the MCU. “Iron Man” also resurrected Robert Downey Jr.’s career and made him the wealthy man he is today. Downey was originally paid $500,000 for his role in the first “Iron Man” movie and he will be making $200 million for the “Infinity War” movies. Hard to believe, right?
“Doctor Strange” is the 14th movie in the MCU and it has a lot of similarities with the 1st MCU movie. You have a very wealthy, intelligent and arrogant man that cares only about himself until a terrible accident puts him on a path to reexamine his life that leads him to his true destiny. He is given a second chance on life and uses that chance to dedicate himself to the protection of others.
There are many that believe that Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange might be taking over for Downey’s Iron Man as the focal point of the MCU going forward. No matter how much money Disney keeps throwing at Downey, at some point he is going to have enough. It’s kind of a weird coincidence that both Downey and Cumberbatch’s MCU characters look very similar to each other. In the comic books, Doctor Strange and Iron Man are referred to as “the beard bros”. Another coincidence is both actors played Sherlock Holmes. When these two finally meet expect some beard and Sherlock humor.
OK, onto the review. Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is basically the rock star of surgeons. He is great at what he does, and he knows it, and let’s everyone else know that too. Strange will only do surgeries that will propel his image even further in the spotlight. One night while driving recklessly during a stormy night, Strange gets into a horrific car accident. The next day he awakes in a hospital to find that his hands and fingers, his bread and butter, are terribly mangled and the odds of him ever being a surgeon again are slim at best. Strange hears of a patient who was once paralyzed from the waist down that some how miraculously recovered. This leads Strange on a quest to Nepal to find the person responsible for doing the impossible. Strange finally meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and she convinces him that the spirit is much more powerful than one thinks and is capable of healing the body. Strange is taken on as a student of the Ancient One and with the help of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), he slowly learns the mystical arts. A former student of the Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), has now turned to, basically, the dark side and he must be stopped before he can bring about total devastation to our world. Strange begins to see what his true destiny is that leads to a final confrontation with and even much more darker power than anyone he has confronted before. I think that is enough. Any more and I will get into spoiler territory.
There is a ton of things to like about Doctor Strange. First up is Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance. He is excellent as both Dr. Steven Strange and in the final form of the Master Of Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange. It’s like they pulled him right out of the comic book but made the character even better. At first you dont like his arrogance but you eventually sympathize with the character. I was worried at first when I found out that he was doing an American accent for the film but his American accent is very good! Without a doubt, Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice for the role and I cant imagine anyone else ever playing him.
The supporting cast does a fine job with the roles that they are playing. Tilda Swinton is the standout by far but the other actors do their job well. I was surprised that Rachel McAdams’ character was not more prevalent in the story, but also a bit relieved that we didn’t have a drawn out love story either. Thankfully, there is not one annoying character in the film.
The cinematography is just so well done. No shaky cam effects, just the camera pulls back so that you can enjoy every fight scene and every spell cast.
The score is done by Michael Giacchino (“Star Trek”) and it is one of the better scores done for a MCU movie. This is no generic action music used as filler for almost all of the MCU movies, this sounds like Giacchino actually put actual effort in trying to match the music with what was happening on the screen. Giacchino is also doing the score for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and after hearing his work for “Doctor Strange”, I cant wait to hear his take on the Star Wars Universe.
If you have a chance to see this on the big screen and in 3D, do it. The scenes where Strange and other characters are talking show your average depth shown in most 3D movies, but when Strange goes into the Astral Plain, it is one of the most amazing uses of 3D you will ever see. The 3D also excels during the fight scenes where the buildings are being altered in different dimensions, very “Inception”-like. I would say that you get about 20 minutes of really impressive looking 3D and maybe 10 minutes of absolutely mind blowing 3D. The rest is average at best but if you can afford it, you dont want to miss those 10 minutes of really exceptional 3D. And if you opt to watch it in 2D, at some point you will probably say to yourself, “I bet this is the part he was talking about that looks mind blowing in 3D.”
Doctor Strange gets a lot right but it is not a perfect movie. Like so many Marvel movies, the villains leave a lot to be desired. There are basically two villains and neither one of them makes you say, “Now that was a great villain!” Mads Mikkelsen is better than most of the MCU villains that we have seen so far, but not memorable at all. And the other baddie is a CGI mess that I hate to say reminds me of how Fox used Galactus in “Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer”. Sadly, the MCU still doesn’t have a villain like Doctor Doom, Magneto, The Green Goblin or even The Joker. Well….Thanos is coming. Let’s hope he fixes things.
There was a lot of controversy with the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. The Ancient One has always been an old Asian man in the comic books. I heard the reasoning behind this casting choice was because Marvel was worried about offending those from China and Tibet. If one of those cultures was representative of The Ancient One, one of them would be upset. There best option was to not to offend either group and go with an actress like Tilda Swinton. Don’t get me wrong, Swinton is a great actress and I love her in everything she does, but it seems so out of place for Doctor Strange to travel to Nepal and have it revealed that The Ancient One is not Asian. I’m not a fan of switching the ethnicity of original comic book characters in movies to appear more diverse and I am not a fan of whitewashing either. And Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One just seem like the later to me.
This next complaint is kind of minor. The whole thing that drives Doctor Strange is that he has lost the control of his hands and that they can’t stop trembling, but if you watch, it’s not consistent. There are times when he shows us his hands to demonstrate that he has no control over them and then during the next scene they are perfectly fine. I dont know if it was just me, but I noticed it a lot.
Another negative for me is that they spent an ample amount of time developing Doctor Strange’s character, but I felt like some of the other cast members needed more character development, especially the villains.
I felt there was too much humor in this. One thing Marvel always gets right in their movies is the humor. It’s never forced and rarely corny. It just fits and the laughs are genuine. Doctor Strange is no exception. But as a fan of Doctor Strange in the comic books, he was never really that funny. He was more of a serious guy and I felt, as I mentioned before, they are trying to make Doctor Strange be like Downey’s Tony Stark. Also, dont make your villain comical to the point that he is almost likeable.
While watching this film, I thought, “Is this really a film for kids?” It does get dark at times. There definitely are some graphic moments that occur when he is performing surgeries. I’m not sure how kids would handle the blood. There are some violent deaths. But most of all, the story is a bit complex. I guess when you think about it, a lot of the MCU movies are. Did the kids really care about Baron Zemos plan during Civil War, or were they just happy to see The Avengers fight at the airport? Most kids these days have no problems with the dark scenes in “Harry Potter”, so I should really give them more credit.
One thing that I feel is going to cause a bit of controversy with the fans of the comic book is the representation of Doctor’s Strange’s Cloak Of Levitation. The Cloak is Strange’s flowing red cap that gives him the power to levitate, duh, and sometimes fly. When I saw Cumberbatch first levitating with the Cloak on as he was about to take on an enemy, I got the same chills that I got when I first saw Spider-Man make his entrance in “Civil War”. They so nailed the essence of Doctor Strange with that once scene of Doctor Strange levitating and casting a spell. Possible SPOILERS here, but I have already seen clips of this on TV, and I guarantee in the coming weeks that you will see this in all of the TV spots. Big reveal: Doctor Strange’s Cloak Of Levitation behaves a lot like the Magic Carpet in Aladdin. Meaning that it acts independently from Strange. It has a personality. It saves Doctor Strange at times. It will pull Strange from walking in one direction to the direction it wants to go. Even though this strays from the comic book, I thought it was a nice touch. Kind of provided some light comic relief moments and definitely a lot of laughter from the audience. And this cape doesn’t just make him levitate, he flies, like on par with Superman flying, and looking just as intimidating.
I’m never a fan of most origin stories. I always want to see the hero in full costume and in his prime. Not stumbling to get to where he should be. If a movie is good, they can tell a character’s origin within the first 5 minutes of the opening credits. My favorite MCU film, “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, shows Peter Quill at his mothers death bed for a few minutes and then BOOM!, we get one of the most enjoyable scenes of an established Starlord on a hostile planet dancing to “Come And Get Your Love”. That’s how you do it and get the audience hooked right away. As far as an origin story goes, Doctor Strange is as good, or even better, than movies like “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Thor”, “Ant-Man” and even “Iron Man”. I’m just looking forward to the sequel because now he “is” Doctor Strange. And from the after credit scene, he appears to be more powerful than ever and has fit into his role as The Sorcerer Supreme.
Speaking of after credit scenes, there are two. The first takes place fairly early and might actually be my favorite to date. The second one is at the very end of the credits and is just OK.
As I mentioned in the beginning, if you see this movie and you say, “I didn’t get some of this stuff,” try reading earlier issues of the comic book. Marvel and director Scott Derrickson did a fantastic job considering the stories found in the original source, the comic book. I used to read Doctor Strange as a kid and at times the story got pretty freaky deeky to the point where I stopped reading what was going on and just admired the artwork. That Marvel was able to bring a character like Doctor Strange to the big screen is a huge accomplishment and I am really glad they did.
The next time we see Doctor Strange will be in Infinity War, but….we might see him even sooner than that. Regardless of when we see him next, I cant wait to see him fighting side by side with The Avengers.
I give “Doctor Strange” an 8/10.