Doctor Strange Review

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By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Few things in entertainment can one say will be absolute cash cows. Star Wars has proven so, with fans waiting in line a week prior to the release (do any of them have actual jobs?), as have films from Disney-Pixar. One of the other sure-fire, can’t-miss hits have been the films in the Marvel universe. Yet, after films like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Avengers, where would Marvel go with less popular characters? Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge hit, and Ant-Man turned out to be a low-key hit as well. But now we’re starting to dig a little deeper into the bench with films from smaller, maybe less known characters, like with the upcoming Black Panther, or the latest Marvel release, directed by Scott Derrickson: Doctor Strange.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the premier New York neurosurgeon: rich, brash, arrogant…all things we come to expect from neurosurgeons. The only person able to remotely keep his feet on earth is a former love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). After getting in a car crash, Strange becomes a shadow of the man he used to be when he’s no longer able to use his hands like before, leaving him with no purpose in life. Looking for cures, he travels to Kathmandu, Nepal, to seek out the wisdom from one called The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who offers to teach him to heal his hands and so much more. He quickly learns about powers he never thought imaginable, as well as dangers that thrive, not only willing to harm him, but the world all together. Led by zealot Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), their group hopes to bring in the destruction of the world by an all-powerful being. Strange will need to learn fast, forget who he was and adapt to the new reality if he hopes to even have the slimmest of chances, even with the help of the Ancient One and fellow master, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor)!

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When the Marvel films first hit theaters back in 2008 with Iron Man, it was something new and fresh. Now, eight years later, we have come to expect a certain quality and formula with the films. Iron Man will be fun and comical while Captain America will be more dramatic. Doctor Strange, on the other hand, isn’t quite what one would expect. The most notable contrast is his powers, which use more of the mystical arts, and are totally opposite of our current Avenger team, who use more strength and agility. With the mystical arts comes something new that was necessary in the Marvel universe, and that is an improved sense of CGI and fantasy. The world that Strange lives in mirrors that found in Inception, with the shaping and transmogrification of the world at the artist’s whim, and it’s done in such a way that we become mesmerized by the effects, the characters’ interaction with the manipulation, and the creativity that goes along with it. Add in the various locations around the world, and the way even those worlds are able to be distorted, manipulated, turned inside out, and you have something that is, once again, new and fresh to see. The only real downside, in terms of the effects, for me, was the ultimate baddie at the end. Maybe I’m just nitpicking, considering the grandness of the character, but still, I’m a critic and I’ll nitpick all I want!

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Initially I was leery of Cumberbatch playing the lead role. Not that I didn’t think he could do it, because Cumberbatch is an amazing actor and can probably play any role he is offered, but just because of the character and my lack of faith of delivering a story and the accompanied cinematics to make it worthy of today’s Marvel standards. Yet, here we are and Cumberbatch not only pulls it off, but shows us some aspects we usually don’t see in his other characters. He’s arrogant and self-entitled, yet, with some growth, we see a different side to him along with a few hilarious moments and quippy one-liners. Tilda Swinton is great in the role of The Ancient One, who many were ready to gather pitchforks and hoes to attack, because the Ancient One, by comic book standards, is an elderly Asian gentleman, which Swinton definitely is not. But she puts her own spin on the character and is a joy to watch, especially in her action sequences. So much fun! Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the more stoic master, who is Strange’s initial trainer and voice of reason and enlightenment as he progresses from the man he once was to the master he needs to soon become. Ejiofor’s Mordo is by the book and the teachings the Ancient One has presented, only to find his life at a crossroads as events play out. Rachel McAdams has much less of a role than Natalie Portman even had in the first Thor film, and is there as more of a person to help move along certain story elements, yet, she does have some great moments, especially after Strange is able to pull his astral self out of his body.

Doctor Strange is definitely a welcomed addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yet it isn’t quite on the level of many of the better Marvel films. There is plenty of action, some funny moments, quality acting, and great use of CGI, yet something still feels like it is missing. Maybe it’s because Dr. Strange is one of those characters that people do not know as much, or maybe it’s because we now have magic and mystical arts playing a role and we’re not quite sure how that will fit in with future Marvel films, as we know these character make cross-overs (as you’ll see in the end credit scenes, particularly the first one!). Some of the story gets repetitive, as he can control time, which also makes us want to yawn after the umpteenth time, it’s still a fun film and a nice entry into, what I’m sure will be, a Doctor Strange franchise.

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


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