The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a train that never seems to stop providing entertainment, even though the experiences are fleeting and all blend together after a while. Recently, Marvel has been taking more risks, with the lesser-known “Guardians of the Galaxy” skyrocketing to success in 2014, followed by the hilariously re-imagined “Ant-Man” in 2015. Now they undertake the more mystical side of the Marvel universe by exploring the multiverse with the film debut of Doctor Strange, where Marvel once again proves they still set the standard when it comes to building universes.
“Doctor Strange” follows the titular character played by Benedict Cumberbatch, a renowned and impeccable neurosurgeon with an inflated ego and immense arrogance. Following an overblown and crazy car accident that should have ended his life, Strange suffers immense damage to his hands, ruining his life and sending him on a soul-seeking journey to Nepal to find a cure. There he meets a coalition of sorcerers led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who offers Strange not only a cure for his hands, but also multiple dimensions. His journey is assisted by Master Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong). The villain is Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One, who wishes to bring the “Dark Dimension” to Earth.
Now, whatever is said of the film in the coming days, it cannot be denied that this is quite possibly one of the most eye-popping films of the year, if not in the past few years. Visual effects are almost always amazing these days, but I have not been so enamored by the aesthetics of a film since “Inception.” From duplicating buildings to kaleidoscope effects, everything is awesome.
The performances are solid all around, with Cumberbatch never ceasing to amaze. Swinton, in a casting that was surrounded by a whitewashing controversy, does well by injecting some levity and charisma into the film as the mystical leader of the sorcerers. Ejiofor is serviceable, but his character, like the other secondary characters, is not given too much to do beyond being Strange’s reluctant partner. Wong serves as a straight man throughout with some nice bits of comic relief here and there. Mikkelsen is fun to see as yet another antagonist, but his character joins the ranks of the other passable yet forgettable Marvel villains, which essentially wastes his talents. Another player wasted is Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, a fellow surgeon and former flame of Strange who does little more than be the obligatory love interest and sometimes helper.
Action sequences are terrific throughout, playing on the eyes and mind of the viewer with mind-bending magic. Comedic elements in the film sometimes felt rather forced, as if to fill the quota of the quips and jokes necessary in a Marvel film. Furthermore, it does feel played safe despite the reach into the mystical aspect of Marvel. The movie straddles the fine line of a conventional superhero origin film, and it is disappointing to see something so unique played familiarly.
Nonetheless, I still had a bit of fun watching the film, as I always do, but this film does nothing to alleviate the superhero fatigue that is starting to set in. What it gets right, it gets right for the most part, but there comes a time where playing it safe and conventionally cannot cut it any longer. However this movie passes due to the craft and care shown in the effects, writing and directing, so no harm, no foul.
Production: “Doctor Strange”
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Release Date: Nov. 4 (U.S. Release)
Rating: 4 out of 5