Let me start this review with an admission: I was quite worried about how Doctor Strange is going to do. Unlike Captain America: Civil War which came before it, this film is not a continuation of stories already established by previous films. Doctor Strange features a new cast of characters – ones that general moviegoers aren’t invested in yet. And it didn’t seem to have an “ace” up its sleeve like the previous films Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, Ant-Man (all comedy) or future films Black Panther (first MCU film with an African American lead) and Captain Marvel (first MCU film with a female lead). Doctor Strange seemed like a typical superhero movie – the type that we’ve seen several times before.
So how was it? I was pleasantly surprised. Let me go into detail.
- As always, the casting was very good. Benedict Cumberbatch did so well in portraying a gifted but arrogant character and differentiating it from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, I can’t picture anyone else in the role of Doctor Strange. Tilda Swinton was another standout as the Ancient One and I’m glad she got the role despite all the complaints about whitewashing. Mads Mikkelsen did great with what material he had to work with, and both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams made good use of their characters’ shining moments.
- The storyline was paced really well. This really shows how Marvel has perfected their storytelling formula, especially for superhero origin stories. They managed to cover a lot of ground with very little unnecessary fluff. I was expecting to experience a few moments of boredom because I’ve seen a lot of origin movies before, but I was engaged all throughout the film from beginning to end.
- The visuals were simply amazing. All the reality-bending effects played well on the big screen and gave us interesting action sequences. May I dare say that this is a big step forward from the likes of The Matrix and Inception? The visual effects and accompanying action sequences alone are worth the ticket price.
- The ending was awesome. One problem that recent superhero movies have is how to end all the escalating urgency that they’ve built up throughout the film. How do we stop the bad guy and his/her plans? Do we throw an explosive device into the villain’s portal/energy beam/tear in reality? Will we use a Deus Ex Machina all powerful character to simply disintegrate the enemy? Or do we simply beat the villain into submission? The way Doctor Strange ended was very creative, almost at par with the dance-off at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy in my eyes.
- Aside from Doctor strange and the Ancient One, all the characters feel underutilized in varying degrees. Some have very few scenes or very little to do in the movie, while most just have enough. This is probably due to the desire for really tight storytelling and it worked well in terms of the pacing, but I wish we had a few more character moments to highlight the supporting characters.
- The villain of Doctor Strange is, like most of the villains of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, underdeveloped. Kaecilius is effective in terms of giving Doctor Strange a threat to fight, and Mads Mikkelsen did well with what he had, but the character is nowhere near a Loki or a Doctor Octopus. He’s doing what he’s doing because he’s bad, and while the film does explain why he’s doing it, his motivations aren’t really sold well.
- As a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Doctor Strange adds a lot to the mythos: a new character who may even take on the mantle as the lead once Stark/Downey Jr. retires, and the entire mystical universe that has yet to be explored until now. But as a film itself, Doctor Strange is a well-executed but typical superhero film. It doesn’t have anything similar to that space opera feel that Guardians of the Galaxy had, or the 70s intrigue of Winter Soldier, or the heist film trappings of Ant-Man. Doctor Strange is a mystical superhero, with the emphasis on the superhero and not on the mystical.
The worst thing you can say about Doctor Strange is that it’s just another superhero origin film. It is, if you disregard the amazing visual effects and the introduction of magic and mysticism to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it’s a well-executed one at that. Doctor Strange is very entertaining as one can expect from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, and effectively introduces another superhero to Marvel’s growing stable of movie superheroes. Definitely worth watching on the big screen.
Have you seen Doctor Strange? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment or two below!