Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen
This review is spoiler free, and reveals no more than is seen in the trailers/some character details.
A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts. (Source: IMDb)
I’d count myself as a big Marvel fan, albeit not excessively versed in the comic books, and have found with previous experience that the properties I have known less about prior to the films, have ended up being the films that have pleasantly surprised me. I knew about as much about Doctor Strange as I did about the Guardians prior to watching Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and that movie now sits firmly in my top 3 from the MCU so far.
Doctor Strange doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of my top 3, but it is absolutely in the top tier of MCU movies, and is easily one of the most impressive origin stories Marvel have given us to date. If the trailers tickled your tastebuds for some Inception style reality bending, mixed with superheroes, then boy are you in for a treat. Doctor Strange is possibly the most visually impressive Marvel movie to date, and it really does have some stiff competition. The effects are totally mind-blowing, dizzying, and rather than just being cool stuff exploding, they are surprisingly beautiful. It really demands a second watch just to appreciate everything fully, and you’ll rarely hear me say this, but it is probably worth checking out in 3D as well. It’s the sort of movie which really lends itself to that format, and it makes the visuals really pop. They’d be impressive in any format though, which is testament to how good they are.
I thought the cast on the whole were really great, and Benedict Cumberbatch makes a great hero! He nails the smug, arrogance of Strange initially, but also the humanity and vulnerability of him post-accident, and he’s totally believable in the fish out of water situation he finds himself in when first tackling the mystic arts. I thought Tilda Swinton was absolutely delightful as The Ancient One; I was expecting her to be really monotone and austere, but her characterisation was unexpectedly dynamic and varied. McAdams and Ejiofor were good in the roles also, but didn’t have as much to do in order to make them stand-out as much.
For a score in a film to be one of the noteworthy things for me, it has to really stand out, and I absolutely fell in love with Michael Giacchino’s score, right from the start. It was distractingly good in places at times, and managed to combine a memorable motif with, classic superhero movie score goodness, and some well-placed psychedelic influences; it was amazing. Also all the kudos in the world for using a gloriously obscure Pink Floyd track “Interstellar Overdrive” very early on into the film. My inner Floyd fan was positively screaming in delight!
What I really loved about this film was how seamlessly it mixed the trademark Marvel humour and quips, with a storyline which could’ve seemed quited stuffy and alienating. With all this talk of spells, books, and levitating capes, it not only could’ve bordered on the ridiculous, but it could’ve bordered on the boring, but that is never the case. The trailer has a great example of this where Strange enquires whether “Shambhalla” is some kind of mantra, before being informed it is the Wi-Fi password. The humour seems unexpected given the story and the themes, but it completely works, is quintessentially Marvel, and I loved it. Didn’t think a film about magic could have a reference to Beyonce and Adele? Think again!
As with so many of the MCU films, the only thing that let this film down for me slightly was the so-often-seen “weak villain syndrome”. Now I don’t necessarily think the villain here was weak, and Mads Mikkelsen is amazing at everything he does, but for me, it was lacking that really clear antagonist vs protagonist struggle, and without this, it was less engaging in places as the stakes didn’t feel super high. There’s a thing which I don’t want to spoil, and it is a thing which I think will play a much bigger part in films to come, but it didn’t do enough to elevate the threat level when it was really needed, and didn’t quite leave the final act with the punch that was required.
That being said, there was enough moral ambiguity with the heroes and villains, making it a lot less clear cut than some other movies, which I appreciated for the fact it was doing something a little bit different to the normal superhero formula.
I saw this movie and you should too. I was incredibly impressed by this film, and the visuals alone make for an awesome watch! The storyline was compelling, the characters were interesting, and most importantly, it is a film which I feel is able to breathe new life into the MCU. It brings with it an exciting new element which will be interesting to see play out more as the films progress. The mid-credits scene in particular raises all kinds of questions about Strange’s role in the universe going forward, and this is something I cannot wait to see play out. Visually stunning, exciting, beautiful to look at, Doctor Strange delivers the magic and oh so much more…an absolute must-see!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments below!