A couple weekends ago I went out and saw the newest addition to the MCU. An introduction to a new and different character that is unlike what has been introduced before. His ability is not based on technology, mutations, or by being godly progeny but magic. Hello Doctor Strange.
The world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange, full of ego and bravado, damages his precious hands in a horrific car accident. After the medicine he knows fails him he goes on a quest to find another means of fixing himself and getting back to the life he knows. In his journey he is told of a place, Kamar-taj, where extraordinary feats of healing have occurred. He finds this sacred place and while there a whole new world is opened up and with it its dangers.
Doctor Strange is another one of those Marvel characters that I know very little about so walking into this movie I had no expectations as to the story that would unfold on the screen. What I learned is that he is a rich, egocentric, genius, who believes he is above it all until something horrible happens to him and he must find the good within. Sound familiar? This had a real chance of being another Iron Man/Tony Stark but it isn’t. They manage to make the character funny in a different way, smart in a different way, narcissistic in a different way. This makes the movie seem fresh and new not just a rehash.
The thing is he is technically not a genius. In the film he admits he owes his level of expertise to his eidetic memory. Everything he sees, he can retain and recall for further use. He is smart to a genius level because he can apply all the knowledge that he has garnered. He also has high level of curiosity and a crazy work ethic. If he has a goal he reads and practices adding to his bank of know-how. Technically he got his power by reading a bunch.
At first Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent threw me for a loop. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t that good either. But since he did a really good job as the title character – he was fun, witty, and entertaining, without seeming too ridiculous (despite the goatee) – I got over the voice thing pretty quickly. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great as usual. He always brings substance, gravitas to his performances no matter what the role entails. Rachel McAdams was fine. I mean I have always liked her, I find her likeable, charming even, but I never really think her performances are particularly great; nothing noteworthy just enough to pull off the character. Mads Mikkelsen is back playing the bad guy. He is so good at it. There is something about his face, gravely voice, and swagger that makes him perfect for eliciting fear and causing destruction. The casting of Tilda Switon as the Ancient One was controversial but this “white-washing” gets a pass from me. Apparently she was cast as a strategic move to ensure the studio would not lose out. The character is supposed to be Tibetan but that may/would have gotten the movie banned in China. That is a huge market to lose out on. Whether you believe that or not she is so uniquely androgynous that her weirdness fits the role very well. Her soothing voice combined with her robotic yet fluid actions really brings the character to life.
There are some very cool effects in this movie, so much so that I question not seeing it in 3D (apparently there are also 4D theatres now. Whaaaat!). Due to the magic element and lets call it “world bending”, very reminiscent of the stuff seen in “Inception”, there is a lot surreal imagery. But even in regular 2D it was quite mind-bending/awe-inducing. In this kind of movie you expect a lot of CG so I don’t think it was too much or overdone. How it was used was pretty seamless and cool.
Doctor Strange has a lot more humour in it than many of the previous Marvel films. Yes they all have jokes but like with Ant-Man this seems to be more of a comedy with some action, than an action with some comedy. There are one-liners, sight gags, even prat falls that are really funny. It is good to see that there is still some levity in the ever darkening MCU.
The overall story of the film is good. Starts with a cool battle, then there is some origin stuff, then there is some cool stuff, and then the whole final battle. The usual coolness that Marvel has been pumping out for some time now. They manage to keep the movie going at a brisk pace including all elements that would be crucial to the story and characters without any part of it seeming like a waste of time. They also manage to retain an ebb and flow to the action and the sequence of events that lead up to the climactic scene. This keeps the audience engaged and allows for specific scenes to retain their significance. This is important as it allows the movie to elicit the correct emotion from its audience; they fear at the right time, are excited at the right time, helps a punchline land better. But as with Ant-Man the movie is good, not great. There is nothing wrong with it really as all aspects are good but there is just something missing that would put it over the top. This may just be a comparative problem but it is still a problem, or is it?
I must mention the post credit sequences, there are 2 and they are very important. I am not 100% sure when, in the MCU, this is taking place but I can speculate from what is presented. I think this takes place parallel to Thor: Ragnorok. I know this isn’t out yet but based on what is said in the first PCS that seems to be true. And with the second PCS I am very interested in seeing what is going to happen with this character. I assume we will find out in the sequel.
Overall Doctor Strange is enjoyable. Like with all the Marvel movies it is a good addition the the MCU even though it is not my favourite. He is a cool, interesting character that I look forward to learning more about.