+ Spectacular Special Effects
+ Benedict Cumberbatch Shines
+ Refreshing Take on MCU
+ Great Set-Up for Sequel’s Villain
– Mads Mikkelsen Underutilized
– Typical Marvel Formula
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Marvel’s formula once again proves successful with their newest entry into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Doctor Strange. When Stephen Strange, an entitled, egotistical neurosurgeon, gets into a fateful car crash, his hands are crippled and the future of his job becomes uncertain. He learns of a man who was seemingly cured of his paralysis. This man points him toward a place called Kamar-Taj. As Strange arrives, the Ancient One begins to teach him the mystic arts, even though he is skeptical at first. With Kaecilius threatening to summon Dormammu to devour the earth, Strange must decide if he will take up the fight or return to his normal life. There are spoilers ahead, so if you have yet to see the movie, stop reading here.
While a bit formulaic, Doctor Strange successfully hits the high notes I have come to expect from Marvel. The most defining part of the film that separates it from the regular Marvel banter, however, are the special effects. While Strange and company are fighting Kaecilius and his zealots in the Mirror Realm, skyscrapers and sometimes entire cities warp and flip around, creating something of a trippy experience.
While Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto, he has the ability to turn back time, and, during the final battle in Hong Kong, the special effects truly take off. People, cars, and buildings rewind to their pristine conditions as Strange defeats Kaecilius and sends him and the zealots into eternal torment with Dormammu.
The cast is another high point for the movie. Benedict Cumberbatch takes on an American accent to play Stephen Strange, but I could not see anyone better in his place. He brings the arrogance and attitude to the role that surpass even Tony Stark, a character infamous for his huge ego. Chiwetel Ejiofor, known for his roles in The Martian and Twelve Years a Slave, is brought into the MCU as Baron Mordo, one of the Ancient One’s students. This is possibly one of the best origin stories for a Marvel villain yet, as we see Mordo abandon Strange and Wong after defeating Kaecilius to pursue his own convictions.
Kaecilius, Strange’s enemy in the movie, does suffer from the classic issue Marvel has of properly introducing its antagonists. While Mads Mikkelsen does a fantastic job in the role, we simply don’t see enough of Kaecilius to truly solidify his performance. The only backstory we get is that he used to be one of the Ancient One’s students but followed his own path after discovering she draws power from the Dark Realm to keep herself alive. Maybe as an opening scene, we could have seen this backstory expanded upon somehow, showing Kaecilius progressively distancing himself from the Ancient One as he begins to doubt her and learn her secrets. Here’s hoping Mordo will serve as a better villain when the sequel is inevitably released a few years from now.
Doctor Strange is another solid entry from Marvel Studios as the second film in Phase 3 (following Captain America Civil War earlier this year). While a bit formulaic, there is enough to differentiate it from Marvel’s more mundane offerings. If you are a fan of superhero movies in general, you might want to catch this while it’s still in theaters; the next superhero movie to come out in the MCU will be Guardians of the Galaxy 2 next May.