Boasting dazzling visual effects, “Doctor Strange” is the cinematic equivalent of a kaleidoscope; everything might not fall into place, but when viewed from an alternate angle, you can’t help but be charmed by its ingenuity.
When Dr. Stephen Strange [Benedict Cumberbatch] loses his ability to operate due to a disastrous car accident, he seeks enlightenment from a being known as the Ancient One [Tilda Swinton]. Endowed with otherworldly abilities, Strange accepts his newfound responsibility as the Sorcerer Supreme. Alongside his fellow masters, Karl Mordo [Chiwetel Ejiofor] and Wong [Benedict Wong], the mystical doctor vows to defend the planet from such interdimensional threats as Kaecilius [Mads Mikkelsen], a rogue master of the mystic arts.
For those who haven’t been keeping track, “Doctor Strange” is Marvel Studio’s 14th feature film in their ever-expanding cinematic universe. As an avid follower of the MCU, I view every new feature as a pay-per-view event. They show no signs of stopping, and with “Avengers: Infinity War” looming on the horizon, the universe as we know it, is about to turn topsy turvy.
But before the purple space God known as Thanos wreaks havoc upon our beloved heroes, it’s time to get a little mystical, debuting the art of magic to the MCU. Similar in vein to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange is an arrogant, yet conscientious playboy who’s plagued by a catastrophic event that helps him unlock his true potential. If Cumberbatch’s American accent seems odd at first, give it a couple of minutes and it should blend in quite nicely.
“Doctor Strange” presents a unique dilemma where most would ask themselves – how would I cope with losing the ability to perform my life’s work? In that sense, Strange is a sympathetic protagonist despite his varying bursts of impatience. Whilst unlocking a path unlike anything the world has ever seen, he’s eager to rise to the occasion, a familiar narrative within the realm of any origin story.
There’s a reason why Marvel Studios has succeeded with most of their properties; they excel at translating the bizarre and outlandish nature of their comic properties through a very simple formula. At this point, Marvel is almost a genre within itself, complete with its own set of tropes and then some. Unfortunately, “Doctor Strange’s” biggest detriment lies in its generic narrative.
Earlier this year, “Captain America: Civil War’s” Zemo brought an intensity to such a powerful, yet powerless antagonist that single-handedly tore the Avengers apart from the inside.
However, the addition of yet another underwhelming Marvel baddie manifests itself in the form of Mads Mikkelsen who falls victim to the MCU villain curse. Unlike the multilayered protagonist, the character of Kaecilius doesn’t have much to offer that hasn’t already been seen before in other lackluster MCU antagonists.
Marvel’s greatest victories involve them thinking outside the box and exploring new themes, ideas and visuals.
As a purely visual experience, “Doctor Strange” is absolutely majestic, beautifully translating Steve Ditko’s dazzling artwork to the screen. One sequence in particular honors the colorful and trippy Star Gate sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s space epic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Tearing at the very seams of space and time, the psychedelic contortion of New York City allows for one of the most original and creative action sequences in any superhero flick.
Without the masterful visual effects, “Doctor Strange” is perfectly harmless; you pretty much know what you’re in for once you enter the theater.
Marvel carefully introduces a slew of fun and exciting new characters that’ll soon play a larger role in the future of this established universe. Until then, “Doctor Strange” works perfectly well as a fun, yet flawed stand-alone feature in Marvel’s expansive library.
Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org