Thanks to Marvel’s want and need to continue expanding their roster of superheroes, Doctor Strange has finally his theaters. The movie has been shaping up nicely with a cool director and great cast, but the character and setting is very unlike anything that’s been in the MCU before which questions how many people will gravitate to the weird supernatural side of Marvel. With Benedict Cumberbatch leading the way, Doctor Strange seems like it has gotten everything it needs to correct in order to be a successful film; yet, there’s always that looming worry of traditional MCU structure getting in the way. Doctor Strange is a unique character and the movie has a mixture of good and bad aspects, but visually, it might be the best Marvel movie to hit theaters yet.
One of the many things that Doctor Strange handled well was the casting of the movie’s characters. Benedict Cumberbatch was obviously a fan favorite choice for the role so there wasn’t much surprise to see him thrive in the role and really nail the character. Cumberbatch works well because he has sort of played characters like this before where they are intelligent and arrogant as a result of their intelligence. A big conflict with this character is the similarities he shares with Tony Stark and how much this feels like a different take on the same base story that Iron Man had, but where Tony’s humbleness only lasts for so long, Doctor Strange’s feels like a life long change. Cumberbatch really excels in the role here and does a nice job with the wide variety of emotion his character goes through; whether it’s the recovery scenes, training scenes or sadder points of the movie, Stephen’s emotions feel authentic because of Cumberbatch’s talent.
The rest of the star studded cast really brought their best performances as well. The choice to have Tilda Swinton play the Ancient One was phenomenal because she is one of, if not, the best part of the movie. The character has a bunch of incredible fight scenes but her deep knowledge and mysterious background are a lot of fun to watch unfold with the story because it adds a neat aspect to things. Chiwetel Ejiofor also nails his role of Mordo and plays off the rest of the cast well; Ejiofor is a lot of fun and shows his ability to say a lot through distinct facial expressions, but what makes Mordo more interesting is the emotional path his character travels in Doctor Strange. The film’s events really change everything for Mordo and Ejiofor really gets to explore a nice amount of different feelings throughout the duration of the movie.
While the acting and characters are really awesome in Doctor Strange, the biggest thing everyone will be discussing is the visuals and stepping into the mystical realm that Marvel has to offer. When people claim this is unlike anything viewers will have seen in a Marvel movie before, they aren’t wrong. The visuals take Doctor Strange to the next level and do completely set it apart from anything that has been done in the MCU before. Scott Derrickson shows that he has no fear when it comes to incorporating his horror roots into this movie and making it weird. The reality warping aspects of this movie are what make it unique but they also really enhance the fight scenes and bring lots of new ideas to the MCU and how reality works. Derrickson does a nice job with the visual effects and utilizing them in ways that bring a new flare to the MCU and keep Doctor Strange fresh through the whole movie. The mystical aspect of the character and his story bring in a lot of neat relics and items that have specific lore and powers but are such nice small additions to different sequences because they just add a sense of wonder to reality and what viewers think they know.
Although Doctor Strange nails a lot of things correctly, it once again suffers from feeling like a repetitive Marvel movie and origin story. Going into any superhero origin movie, there are a ton of ideas and aspects that will be present by default. Viewers have to realize at this point that, yes, there is a shared theme in all of these origins of someone turning their life around to benefit a greater purpose. Doctor Strange is a character who feels extremely similar to Tony Stark, but the two only really share the fact that they were jerks before realizing how to not be selfish. The origin in Doctor Strange stays fresh and interesting but feels a little off with it’s pacing. The first act of the movie is very interesting and shows the development of Strange’s learning well; the training scenes are cool and getting to explore this new mystic side of the MCU is tons of fun. Yet, the middle portion of the movie starts to bring things back to reality a little more and advance the film’s conflict in different ways. By the third act of Doctor Strange everything felt like it had less of an impact for some reason, or like everything rushes to a final moment.
As for the movie’s villain, Kaecilius, he comes off as an improvement from traditional bland bad guys of the MCU, but still lacks the depth of villainous greats like Loki, Kingpin or Kilgrave. Mads Mikkelson is absolutely awesome as Kaecilius, but the movie pairs his story up well with Stephen’s. By no means is Kaecilius a great villain, but his representation of what Doctor Strange could become if he became greedy for power is a nice parallel to have for once. Stephen is clearly a powerful sorcerer who quickly picks things up because he is intelligent and knowledgeable, but his quest for knowledge stems from a need to learn, whereas Kaecilius has a need for power. It’s a nice balance that gets explored on a minor subconscious level, but still, in the end, Kaecilius is just acting as a story vehicle and not much past that.
Doctor Strange really brings a completely new side of things into the MCU and was another great display of how diverse Marvel properties can be. Scott Derrickson really nailed the direction of this movie and was another great choice to bring a more niche vision to life and to the character a justice. The writers absolutely nail Doctor Strange and succeed in making a weird character easily accessible to the MCU, and it definitely brings something different to the universe and landscape of superhero movies. Benedict Cumberbatch carries the film because he is perfect as Stephen Strange and displaying the reasons the character is complex and interesting. The humor in Doctor Strange is good for the most part, and while not all of it lands well, it never takes away from the movie in the end. The biggest thing that Doctor Strange accomplishes is how unique it is compared to the rest of the Marvel films and the fact that it opens up the door to a completely new storytelling landscape. The introduction of the mystic side of things as well as getting a peek at the infinite dimensions out there is a game changer for the MCU. It sets up for a lot of fun interactions like the MCU scientists such as Bruce or Tony trying to rationalize Stephen’s powers and the concepts that magic introduces to them. Doctor Strange is a really nice inclusion into the MCU; yes, it has it’s flaws and is by no means a perfect movie, but it continues to be different and open up the door for lots of great new opportunities in the MCU.