With the abundance of superhero movies dominating the box office, one would imagine it would be increasingly more difficult to differentiate each subsequent film from its predecessors, but Marvel once again proved that they can deliver a stellar blockbuster that still feels fresh and entertaining with their latest entry Doctor Strange. The film follows renowned neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange as he struggles to regain control of his hands after crippling them severely in a car crash. He journeys to a place in Tibet called Kamar-Taj in search of healing, but becomes caught up in an unknown world of mystical arts. Here a mysterious teacher called the Ancient One helps Strange hone his newfound abilities in order to keep a rogue student from awakening an evil from another dimension.
Overall, there was a lot I really liked about this movie, but there were also some things that I had problems with. Starting with some of the pros, the film’s special effects were absolutely amazing, as were the fight scenes. The effects were mesmerizing to watch, with buildings folding over each other in a kaleidoscope-like fashion and characters leaping onto walls and ceilings. The fight choreography was also topnotch, plus you could actually see what was happening most of the time, unlike the jittery, incoherent camera-work we see all too often in action flicks now. When combined, these two elements made for some of the most interesting action sequences I’ve seen in quite some time. I think my favorite scene in the entire movie was the climatic battle in Hong Kong, where Doctor Strange is facing off against villain Kaecilius and his followers while also “rewinding” time around them to fix the city. It was a very cool scene to watch unfold.
I also thought all of the performances were great, though Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton undoubtedly stole the show in my opinion. Cumberbatch really nailed Doctor Strange’s egotistical personality, while Swinton embodied the Ancient One’s collected yet mysterious nature with ease. The characters introduced here were all well-developed and intriguing; I definitely look forward to seeing some of them return in future Marvel projects. I want to also mention that the film’s score is memorable as well, which is always a plus for me. Michael Giacchino’s psychedelic music coincides perfectly with the films weird themes, further adding to the film’s over-the-top theatrical flair.
In terms of cons, I didn’t really find that many issues with the film, but there were certainly areas that I felt could have been improved. For example, one of my biggest problems was the fact that Strange’s training felt a bit rushed. It was probably sped up to prevent too much lingering on normal, weak Strange so they could highlight Strange’s new powers sooner, but it still seemed a little underdeveloped. Strange essentially goes from being a rookie who’s finally starting to master his first spell to a full-blown sorcerer in what seemed to be the span of several minutes, when it was actually inferred that a significant amount of time had past. There wasn’t really any build up or transition to really demonstrate his growth so I had a hard time believing that Strange was capable of defending himself, let alone leading the rest of the sorcerers against Kaecilius’ attacks. It wasn’t awful by any means, but I think just adding something to show him really coming into his own would’ve been so much more rewarding.
Now I know a lot of people really liked the villain Kaecilius, and while I did think the character was decent as far as villains go, I didn’t really find him all that intimidating. I think this has more to do with him only appearing in a few scenes throughout the movie rather than Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of him. Mikkelsen’s a great actor, so I expected him to almost share the spotlight with Cumberbatch, but instead we only got a small glimpse of him. I really liked what I did see of Kaecilius, but it just wasn’t enough. He seemed like he was a pretty complex character; it’s a shame he didn’t really get explored more. Speaking of villains, Kaecilius’s henchmen, the Zealots, also added to the mediocrity of the “threat” presented. The Zealots didn’t really seem like they were really that much stronger than the other sorcerers, even with their stolen dark magic. Plus, it seemed like the sorcerers greatly outnumbered the Zealots, so it was somewhat unclear as to why more sorcerers weren’t shown trying to defend the Sanctums. This is a minor gripe, but it’s still something that bugged me.
In the end, I really enjoyed Doctor Strange, and I think any fan of action or superhero genre should check this out if you’re looking for a fun movie. As far as superhero origin stories go, this is one of the most unique and entertaining to date. Lots of mind-blowing action; there aren’t really any dull moments here. Though it’s not without its faults, it’s an exciting visual treat if nothing else.
Boasting spectacular visuals and superb acting, Doctor Strange is a wonderfully weird blockbuster. However, a somewhat lackluster villain and some muddled story beats keep this film from reaching its fullest potential.