By Greg Canzio (Fort Pierce, FL, US)
It feels like just yesterday when people were going nuts that an Avengers film was actually happening. Now, fans have grown accustomed to seeing the superhero heavyweights sharing the big screen. Marvel has had the challenge of adding their lesser known superheroes to the franchise. So far their track record has been pretty damn good. Audiences are now able to see the magical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their spellbinding 14th film, Doctor Strange.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an acclaimed, yet overly confident neurosurgeon. Think of him as Tony Stark with a Ph.D. Strange’s life is forever changed when he gets into a car accident resulting in massive nerve damage to his hands. Determined to regain control of his hands and more importantly, his life, Strange turns to Eastern medicine. He discovers Kamar-Taj, a home to sorcerers and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who teaches Strange about the world of magic and other dimensions. Strange must use his newly discovered abilities to defeat Kaecilius (Mads Mikelson), a former apprentice of the Ancient One who worships a dark power that threatens the entire world.
Doctor Strange is a vibrant and dazzling visual spectacular that blends top-notch acting and storytelling. While not the strongest entry of the MCU, Doctor Strange certainly succeeds as an origin story. The character of Doctor Strange has been around for a long time but has never been a household name compared to other superheroes. But this is why the film works so well. Much like last year’s Ant-Man and 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a great amount of awe, mystery, and excitement when watching Doctor Strange.
When Marvel announced there was going to be a Doctor Strange film, fans pleaded for Cumberbatch to take on the titular role. Boy does he not disappoint. Cumberbatch plays Strange with wit, self-confidence, and a sense of confusion. Strange has a rather difficult time processing the mystical world. This has to do a lot with his ego, but Strange is determined in mastering his new craft. Audiences will have an easy time rooting for Strange as Cumberbatch brings this likeability to the character. He is able to find a perfect balance of arrogance and charm.
Chiwetel Ejiofor does a great job as Karl Mordo, a student of the Ancient One, who struggles with the recent discoveries about his teacher. It will be exciting to see how this character evolves in the upcoming films. Tilda Swinton portrays the Ancient One with much grace and wisdom. Swinton’s casting was in the hot seat for whitewashing an Asian role. But that is the decision Marvel made and it is important not to prejudge her performance. Mads Mickelson, a highly underrated actor, does his best playing, Kaecilius. A villain that is slightly underutilized, but certainly intriguing. By this point, Marvel fans are used to underwhelming villains, but when Kaecilius is on screen, he is one of the better-written villains of the MCU.
Doctor Strange is going to be regarded as a benchmark in special effects ranking among likes of Avatar, Inception, and The Matrix. The moment when Strange is first introduced to the astral plane and other dimensions is breathtakingly trippy. This is by far Marvel’s most unique addition to the MCU. The action scenes are overall exciting to watch, but not as well-crafted as Marvel’s previous films. Maybe it is due to the fact that this is director Scott Derrickson’s first action film. Doctor Strange also suffers from comedic timing. Some of the comedy sticks while other moments come off forced. But for the most part, the action and writing in this film are superb.
Doctor Strange is a cinematic event that Marvel fans will welcome with open arms. It will be very interesting how the character will fit into the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars, but audiences can agree that an interaction between Strange and Tony Stark is something to look forward to.