You guys, I already love Marvel Studios and I generally love all of their films. There may be a few that fall flat compared to others but I don’t necessarily think any of their films were missteps. I don’t know much about Doctor Strange from the comics, I know of his involvements in certain large arcs, and I know a little about his origins but again, I am not an expert on this character from the comics so this review is strictly about the film. I may mention some of the controversy the movie faced in the beginnings but who knows what might happen.
Summary: Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
Cast and Characters: For the most part, I enjoyed all of the characters. Some obviously received more development than others but I think Scott Derrikson managed to make sure everyone received a nice amount of development.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange. To be honest, I remember thinking ‘wow, that’s some pretty good casting because he kind of looks like the comic book dude’, I think Cumberbatch is a great actor and I knew he would be fine in the role. In the beginning of the film, Strange is pretty much an arrogant douchebag who just happens to be brilliant at what he does. He’s such a snob that you can’t help but to laugh at the audacity at the things he says to people, but he’s so brilliant that you want to like him. Think Tony Stark just… maybe less likable. When he has his car accident, the nerves in his hands are ruined so he cannot perform surgeries anymore, he tries everything he logically can to fix them. So when he’s desperate Cumberbatch really knows how to push into those emotions, he manages to easily portray an arrogant jerk, with his delivery, putting on American accent helps with that too, but he seamlessly delivers humorous lines, and can really portray despair with just his face. Stephen’s growth as a man is handled well and coupled with the writing and the acting, it’s believable.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo. I do believe in the comics he’s a villain but here, he is a student of the Ancient One, he is one of her firmest believers and he’s great at what he does. He also takes the position as Strange’s “trainer” at times. It’s easy to tell there is a great respect between Mordo and The Ancient One and a growing respect between Mordo and Strange but I think what the film does with this character is interesting. I think Ejiofor is an excellent actor and the way he portrays emotions with his eyes, just kills me. When his character is emotional, or feels pain, or is angry, you know that he really gets it. Mordo is an interesting and “ambiguous” character as Ejiofor himself cites and I think his return will be a very interesting one. I do wish he had more to do though.
Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. I looooove Rachel McAdams, I think she is such a great actress. Her character here reminds me of Rosario Dawson’s character in the Netflix Marvel shows… just underused. She is a surgeon alongside Strange, but unlike him, she is kind and compassionate and while the two had a fling in the past, she seems to still care, and while it seems that he does, he’s a jerk about it. McAdams maintains a sweetness about her in this character, as well as someone who is just tired of Strange’s crap even if she wants to put up with it to be helpful. She’s by his side when he’s in his accident and it’s just so cute. She’s also very funny, without giving moments away, there are some great comedic moments with her in the beginning of the third act of the film. So, I think this is more praise for the actress than the actual character.
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. Now, there was a lot of controversy around this character, in this film, she is a Celtic woman whereas in the comics he’s a Tibetan monk and while I don’t mind the gender switch, I think it would have been nice to maintain a Tibetan origin considering where the character lives, the beliefs and practices of the character. I understand the reasons, they didn’t want to fall into the Asian stereotypes of “Dragon lady” with an older Asian woman, or “sexual” with a younger woman, but I still think that was a cop out.
With that said, I think Tilda Swinton is an excellent excellent actress and I really did like her in the role, she can easily be wise, enigmatic and funny as this character is. She is intimidating with the way she stares into the camera, she’s looking into your soul! But she can easily provoke a feeling of wanting to follow her, to understand her teachings and be her student. I think the fact that she can just disappear into her characters shows her strength as an actress. That’s all I can say about this character without spoiling her.
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius. This actor freaks me out, he seems to always play these kind of “villainous” or “scary” types of characters. His character was a Master who learned from The Ancient One but he basically defected. The best way to describe his character is similar to Saruman’s character from Lord of the Rings, where he is a villain but he’s there to help move the story and characters to facing their Sauron (I saw that analogy in an article lol). His makeup was really cool and he was a cool dude in general. That’s all. Praise for the actor more so the character.
Benedict Wong as Wong. I like that dude but ya know underused.
The Cinematography. Oh boy this film looks amazing. I can’t even. I think this is a film that you should definitely see in IMAX 3D if you can because it would probably be so worth it. I saw it Standard which is fine too but if you can, pay extra. The way the camera films the locations, how it pans over Kathmandu, Nepal, so beautiful. There is a steady shot where the sun is setting or rising and it was so beautiful. It’s very crisp.
The CGI/Graphics. Oh man, due to the fact that this movie dabbles in sorcery and magic, in a way the other MCU films haven’t, it allows for a different approach to things. When Strange first goes to find out how to save his hands, there’s a whole scene where the Ancient One talks to him while he’s experiencing things and it’s… quite amazing. Plus, the design on the magic/sorcery itself is pretty cool.
Strange’s Cape. Without giving too much away, Doctor Strange is easily recognizable due to his clothing, especially his maroon… red? lol cape. It’s very similar to how Carpet from Aladdin was presented. It’s great, hilarious and I want one.
The Humor. I can’t say it’s one of the funniest, because I mean Tony is pretty hilarious but Strange is funny in his own way and the way the dialogue is delivered here helps. Scenes with the cape, with facial expressions from the characters, The Ancient One has some great humorous moments, even the villains. So, I think everyone will laugh, or at least get a nice chuckle out of this film. It’s pretty lighthearted honestly.
The Ancient One. I still feel like she should have been Asian. It was jarring to see this pale Celtic woman in that world, in that position. Unlike other casting changes, I think this one actually does affect who the character is, what they represent and the location. I don’t think things would have fallen into stereotypical ideals with casting an Asian woman.
Christine Palmer. While I think Rachael McAdams is great, which she is, her character is in the same way as Jane Porter in the Thor films. Except Jane is considered a leading character, Christine has the potential to be an interesting character, the potential to be more like Claire Temple, who is written very well, but because of everything that’s happening, Christine shows up when she’s needed. So, I hope that if she’s future installments, they do better with her. I liked her enough to want her to be around more. I’m glad though, that while she’s the “love interest”, that’s not some of the reasons why Strange does things, it’s not superficial.
The Villains. Marvel Studios seem to have a hard time with their villains, Loki is still the best one, Alexander Pierce was intimidating and I think Zemo from Civil War will be great later on and no Winter Soldier is not a villain. But here we kind of have two. Just like I explained in the beginning with the LotR reference. Kaecilius is who we spend the most time with and while he’s interesting, I don’t think they really go there with him, I never found him intimidating as a character, the actor definitely is but I think the character could have been more intimidating if they fleshed him out more. We learned about him due to Mordo, Wong or The Ancient One talking about him but it wasn’t enough. Then the Sauron character… interesting but might become more important in later installments.
The Cape. This is really a nitpick but it was lopsided!! Oh my goodness, it bothered me the rest of the film. When it was on, it wasn’t balanced on both sides and I was thinking ‘am I the only one noticing this??’ not a hit against the film but O.O!!
The Storytelling. Kind of hard to label but by this mean, this story isn’t anything new. Ya know the one, arrogant dude is on top of the world, gets into an accident that ruins his life, he goes to seek out how to get his life back and ends up growing into a better man while probably now having to help save the world. So, at it’s core it’s a basic story and it’s really nothing necessarily NEW for Marvel but the package is fun which helps.
Magic Mastery. I wouldn’t necessarily use this against this film, but it’s an observation. The entire movie didn’t need to be Strange learning magic but I do think he mastered it quickly. He says he has a photographic memory (so jealous) which is fine but it just seems that he picked it up to fast. I understand that he’s smart, that he has a natural ability for magic, he’s “destined” and all that. Everything they explained in the film I understood but I wanted more of a struggle to get there, he does but I think it could have taken longer. I wonder if someone can be the hero with magic without having to actually be destined… ya know?
Overall, I think Doctor Strange is going to be a nice addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was a good send off to the MCU’s involvement in 2016 and I can’t wait to see their next films. The characters are interesting and solid some more than others, it’s funny, it’s visually stunning, the mystical element (for an origin film) is handled well and Stephen Strange himself is an interesting and strong leading character. I think this is going into an interesting and new direction for Marvel Studios, previously the films shied away from magic, outside of Loki’s sorcery, using science and experiments as ways to propel characters and plot forward and including magic, will expand their growing universe into other dimensions. I’m excited to see what’s to come.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars.
P.S. There are TWO credit scenes. One mid credit and one after the credits, you need to stay for both of them.