Written by Tommy Tracy
Wow, what a trippy film! If people thought Doctor Strange was going to kickstart the era of Marvel fatigue, thing again. Doctor Strange is officially the most unorthodox (sorry Guardians), weird action-packed (sorry Ant-Man) Marvel film to date and it succeeded on so many levels.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr. Stephen Strange, a surgeon whose arrogance is on par with Tony Stark’s. After a vicious car crash, Strange becomes unable to use his hands and fears losing everything he has worked so hard for. He makes the journey to Nepal to meet with The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), after hearing that her practices have rehabilitated the crippled. What he comes across, however, is not medicine, but magic, and Strange must then master sorcery to become whole again. Naturally, superhero films would be nothing without a villain and one of the Ancient One’s former protégées, Kaecillius (Mads MF’N Mikkelsen) has discovered a way to bend time and wants to bring upon a very awesome villain (who I won’t spoil here as I didn’t know this person was in the film).
Yes, this film is strange (pun fully intended) and that is its biggest strong suit. The writers of this film were handed a task of creating a hero that most thought would fail and yet, they made the character interesting and his powers easy to understand, something I know the comics have not done. Adding director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) was a smart choice as well. Derrickson has a hand in horror and supernatural and blends them together to awe and frighten the audience. His use of steady cam is fantastic and he finds a way to create shots that are very old school but much appreciated here. The CGI used in the film is also incredible; you know it isn’t real but that doesn’t stop the mind from taking in these images and believing they could exist. It pops incredibly well in 3-D, which surprised me even more as I can’t stand 3-D but this is one of the rare times I’ll advocate for it. Lastly, being a Marvel film, there is a lot of light comedy in here, most of which works very well (look for the Beyoncé joke).
Cumberbatch is incredible here (duh)! The man puts his all into this role and what really struck me was the way he was able to nail arrogance down to a science. He’s overbearing and scared; the perfect concoction to create your typical asshole. As much as I love superhero films, I don’t advocate them during awards season but I will be very upset if Cumberbatch is snubbed from the Best Actor race because he proves here that he is a chameleon, changing and adapting to the situation with every role he takes. When Strange hurts, we hurt because Cumberbatch makes you pity him with his performance, even if the doctor does not deserve the pity. Rachel McAdams is also here as Christine, a nurse who is the love interest of sorts. What really works with her is her lack of being a damsel in distress. When called upon she is there to assist Strange and she has a fair bit of comedy as well. Chiwetel Ejiofor kills it as Karl Mordo, another student of The Ancient One who believes Strange is right for the job. Swinton is amazing, per usual, showing a silent fierceness that escalates fear. Yet it’s Mads Mikkelsen who truly surprised me. Marvel villains have been pretty weak for the most part but with Mikkelsen, we get a man with purpose. We understand why he is doing what he is doing, even if we don’t agree with it. Hell, even Strange understands why Kaecillius wants to change time and space. While not as great as Loki, Kaecillius can make a strong case for the second best MCU villain.
So is there anything not great about this film? Well, of course there is. The first third can be a little slow and some non-comic readers may wonder where the mystic is at the start. I even heard someone ask why Strange is such a douchebag and how Marvel expects us to root for him. Guess this person forgot about Tony Stark. There’s also a very weird jump in time that seems to come out of nowhere. The viewer doesn’t really know how much times has passed once Strange begins to learn and it may deter some.
Marvel has done it again. Fourteen films in and none of them have been bad. Yes, some haven’t been GREAT (looking at you Iron Man 3) but even the “worst” of this universe have still been decent, interesting film. Derrickson and company have taken an obscure character and made him fit right into this universe (look at the mid-credits scene for further proof). They took a silly concept, made it look and feel authentic and awesome; a feat many didn’t expect.
I give this film the Supreme (get it?) score of 9/10
P.S. I can’t believe I’m saying this as it should be second nature by now, but stay all the way through. There are two credits scenes and you should also show respect to everyone who worked on the film by staying anyway!