This is a spoiler-free Doctor Strange review.
The Marvel universe can be polarizing. Fans who are in it are in it, but those who aren’t can take or leave the franchise. Comic book fans obviously get their fix every time out, action fans are entertained for the most part, and comedy fans will get plenty of laughs. The straight movie critic, however, could understandably have a tough time with heroes saving the world once a year using hi-tech suits and hammers and shields and magical powers. They’ve never really had a Marvel movie to get behind. Until now.
Doctor Strange is the Marvel movie that brings comic book fans and movie buffs together with a combination of stunning visual effects, a star cast, and a standalone storyline.
Let’s talk about the visual effects first. They are the first thing the viewer will notice and rightfully so. The first scene of the film sets the tone and puts you in a mind-bending world. A tribute to Inception comes to mind while watching Doctor Strange, which shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. I did have a Tree of Life flashback during one scene, but the overwhelming majority is fast-paced and entertaining. Don’t let my opinion of single scene deter you from seeing the film.
Doctor Strange travels through multiple dimensions and does it seamlessly thanks to the special effects. It’s a great movie to see in the theater because of the way you are immersed into an alternate universe with buildings bending and streets folding. The effects can and should be appreciated by any type of movie fan.
A star-studded cast
The cast involved with Doctor Strange is another reason all movie fans will enjoy it. For my money, this is the most previously-established group of actors to ever come together for a Marvel movie.
That obviously starts with Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Stephen Strange himself. You get used to Cumberbatch being your newest superhero once you get over the fact he’s speaking with an American accent. The English actor is actually a bit annoying in the beginning of the movie, but then it becomes obvious he’s just playing into his character. Strange himself is callous and arrogant to start, but due for a rude awakening. The doctor morphs into a worthy, although still very sarcastic, hero who realizes he is part of something much bigger. Strange is almost playing as a new-aged Iron Man in this sense. It’s a nice character development played well by Cumberbatch, which can be expected from his past work.
Strange’s rude awakening comes mostly from The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. Go ahead. Make all your Tilda Swinton jokes now so you’ll actually listen when I tell you about her performance. I’ll wait.
Go ahead. Make all your Tilda Swinton jokes now so you’ll actually listen when I tell you about her performance. I’ll wait.
Swinton, another actor from London by the way, takes on the role of teacher and master nicely. There’s something stoic about the way she performs as The Ancient One. It can be a challenging task, playing someone who is an all-powerful being leading a legion that protects the world from another dimension. Swinton brings the correct class and style to that role in a performance that is a pleasant surprise.
Mads Mikkelson takes on the role of villain in Doctor Strange as Kaecilius. Mikkelson has already proven he can be a star as an antagonist, and he does it again here. He’s not prominently featured in the film, but he’s a strong character during his scenes. He has moments of deception, power, and invincibility, which is what you want from any comic book villain.
Christine Palmer, who is played by Rachel McAdams, takes on the role of love interest. Not sure what to tell you here — you know going in McAdams is a good actress and you leave with the same opinion. More than anything it’s worth pointing out this is a great get for the Marvel franchise. Another strong female presence who is sure to reappear in multiple films.
For me Chiwetel Ejiofor is wasted a bit in his role of Mordo. It appears that will change drastically in the second Doctor Strange film however, which is made obvious by the end credits scene.
The standalone Doctor Strange story
I also believe any movie fan can enjoy Doctor Strange thanks to the standalone story the film has. There is a quick mention of The Avengers, but other than that no comic book references are in sight. Essentially the movie-goer can go into this film fresh and not get lost at any point.
That may be expected for an origin story, but combine this with the visual effects and star-studded cast and Doctor Strange becomes uniquely qualified to bring together comic book fans and movie buffs alike.
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Image credit: Screen Rant