The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry comes in the form of the strangest (ha) entry to date. Enter Doctor Strange, a metaphysical film about spirituality, dimensions and realities. And while the film stumbles a bit here and there, it is certainly the most visually engaging film I’ve seen in years and poses many questions for the future of the MCU.
Off the bat, Benedict Cumberbatch is a fantastic choice to play Stephen Strange, the arrogant yet equally talent surgeon whose so talented he’s considered more of a celebrity than a doctor. Living a life of luxury, Strange finds his life turned upside down after a car accident renders his hands unable to preform surgery. They constantly shake, making him unfit to practice. When western medicine fails him, he turns to the east and ends up in Nepal, following a miracle lead that cured a once paralyzed man. It’s here that Strange meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a wise monk living in a temple who acts as the protector of the Earth from the mystical forces (while the Avengers protect it against physical). Strange is quickly thrust into magical training, in hopes to eventually stabilize his hands. As this is happening, the film’s antagonist, Kaecilius (Madds Mikkelsen) uses an ancient script to set the conflict into motion. Rounding up the cast is the always terrific Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, a higher up in the mystical organization who acts as a mentor to Strange.
Right off the bat, lets get this out of the way. The visuals are some of the best and most stimulating I’ve seen on screen since Inception. Imagine a kaleidoscope effect altering the geometry and positioning of the world we can see. World’s transform in trippy ways, rotating and spiraling and folding on top of itself-and that’s just our dimension. It’s really breathtaking and one of those films that honestly has to be seen on the big screen and in 3D if you’re so inclined.
Performance wise, the acting is overall pretty good, with Cumberbatch juggling arrogance, snarky remarks with humble learning and empathy. Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One steals the show though, giving a cool, calm and calculating aura to her character. Ejiofor also gives it his all (as always) and ends up being one of the more interesting characters in the film. Rounding up the cast however is a batch of forgettable performances. Despite an attempt to humanize, Kaecilius is another generic and uninteresting villain and is ultimately the gateway to another even less interesting villain. Rachel McAdams is also in the film as a former love interest to Strange and she’s passable acting wise but doesn’t stop the character from being uninteresting or terribly important.
My main criticism against the film however comes from the dialogue, mainly the humor. Quite often, a serious scene would jarringly be interrupted by a joke or a gag-often in a redundant and repeated fashion (think Family Guy). A joke about having only one name could have been funny with one or two quips but doing six or seven proved to drain the humor from the scene. I found that with the spiritual tone the film was going for coupled with the fine acting talent, the often awkward humor was out of place. Some of the humor hit, but I believe Strange should’ve been a more serious film. Guardians of the Galaxy is the place for that kind of humor.
In the end, Doctor Strange was a good movie with great visuals that could have been great if it had some better dialogue and a better villain. A fine cast and wonderful visuals kept me invested for Stephen Strange’s origin tale, from surgeon to sorcerer. Stay tuned for both after credit scenes as they both present interesting and important clues to the future of the MCU.