While the crazy visuals and magic featured in Doctor Strange’s promotional material, may lend the idea that this is a fresh new film from Marvel Studios, its formula and plot are unfortunately not as experimental or original as its digital effects. However, the movie isn’t exactly ruined by this one caveat, still remaining an enjoyable superhero popcorn flick.
Like a cross-breed between Iron Man and Batman, Stephen Strange is a wealthy and arrogant individual, whom after having his hands ruined in a car accident, sets off to an exotic locale in search of help. Eventually, he finds this in the form of a teacher known as the Ancient One, who educates him on the mystic arts as well as wider concepts of multiple universes and dimensions. From there, Strange tangles with opposing sorcerers who seek to bring Dormammu (a powerful being from the dark dimesnsion) to earth, for the ultimate promise of eternal life for all.
The story is one we’ve seen plenty of times before, with a selfish and reluctant hero, transforming into a humble saviour. However, that arc isn’t even fully realised here, as Strange goes from desperate cripple to burgeoning Sorcerer Supreme, in only a few scenes. And by the end, there’s also no clear reason as to why he’s now a better person. Stephen Strange is basically just told to save the world by other people, and then proceeds to do exactly that.
Doctor Strange’s narrative is at its best though, when it does away with superhero origin fluff and delves straight into the surreal and magical aspects of this world. Learning about sorcery and how it can be harnessed to deliver spells, is just as engaging as when those spells are put to use in creative ways. Because of the unique powers these characters’ possess, action scenes are some of the most fun seen in a Marvel film, butting up against the likes of Civil War’s airport battle and Age Of Ultron’s Hulkbuster showdown.
The writers and filmmakers behind Doctor Strange must be commended for their great job at introducing such a bizarre and alienating thing such as magic, and doing it in a way that fits in with Marvel’s established world from previous movies. However, I wish they would’ve taken some of these concepts further. Cities are bent around and fully manipulated, but this affects the characters only minimally, making things come off as little more than spectacle. I wanted Doctor Strange to challenge the characters’ perception of reality as well as the audiences, but the movie always revealed when something trippy was about to happen. Furthermore, I was also disappointed that time itself didn’t play a larger role in the story, other than being used as a solve for the movie’s big villain.
Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Stephen Strange, and while it’s certainly not an amazing performance, he manages to pull off an entertaining character that has the personality of Tony Stark and the intelligence of Sherlock. Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor also do fine jobs as the Ancient One and Strange’s future baddie, Baron Mordo. One of the Night Nurses’ also play a role in this story, with Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, a character that helps ground the story and often pops up whenever the narrative gets too full of fantasy.
Although it doesn’t ruin too much for the movie, it’s disappointing to once again see another forgettable Marvel villain. Without a somewhat interesting motive, Kaecilius is just another force to be stopped.
My main issue with this film, is that it has no real structure to call its own. After nearly a decade of closely knit MCU films, origin stories especially, have to do something to stand out. Ant-Man was able to distinguish itself by adopting the layout of a heist film, and Guardian’s Of The Galaxy was a comedic sci-fi adventure. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange can only be described as a superhero fantasy. Because of this, the film is essentially just an origin story, with an evil villain’s plan then thrown in to give the movie a third act.
If Doctor Strange had been released earlier into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I am sure that a lot of the aforementioned issues would have been glossed over. However, as it is the fourteenth film from Marvel Studios and the seventh character introduction, you’d at least expect something a bit more different than what Doctor Strange offers, in terms of a hero’s origin. The amazing effects and action sequences manage to make up for some of the film’s shortcomings, but Doctor Strange is a film that may wind up being one of the more forgettable movies of this universe.
Doctor Strange Is A Competent Movie