Marvel’s latest movie introduces magic and mysticism into the MCU. But is it a spellbinding experience or a cheap trick?
A lot was riding on Doctor Strange – the weirdest Marvel movie to date. Would it succeed in introducing magic and mysticism into the MCU? Would it launch the titular hero – who will no doubt be important in the future of the franchise – in a winning way? Anyone who knows how reliable Marvel’s output has become will know that the answer to these questions is a resounding yes.
The first thing that has to be mentioned when talking about Doctor Strange is its astonishing visual pallet. Through dealing with heroes and villains who can manipulate reality around them, Doctor Strange offers up some mind-bending action sequences of the kind seen in The Matrix or Inception. Director Scott Derrickson and cinematographer Ben Davis have to be commended for making this the most interesting-looking Marvel movie we’ve ever had.
The cast was also much talked about before the film’s release – as it includes an impressive three Oscar nominees and one Oscar winner. As it is, some fare better than others. Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo give great performances as fascinating supporting characters. Meanwhile, Mads Mikkelsen and Rachel McAdams do the most with what they can in fairly generic roles as power-hungry villain and love interest respectively. In particular, I’d like to see more from Ejiofor and McAdams in a sequel.
But this is Benedict Cumberbatch’s film through and through. We’ve never seen him lead a big CGI blockbuster before, but he does so effortlessly here. Arrogant, rude, funny, heroic and surprisingly humble in turn, he draws much from the same well as Sherlock Holmes to play Stephen Strange but there is a humanity and, in the film’s first half, a desperation that is not there in his performance as the World’s Greatest Detective. His New York accent slips occasionally but not enough to take you out the film.
The script is probably the area of the film that needed the most tweaking. On the one hand, it’s an exercise in economy. With so much world-building and character work to be done, there is nary a moment that’s wasted. On the other hand, while certain other superhero movies would do well to follow Doctor Strange‘s example, it does mean that the film feels like a brisk race through important moments. Punchy storytelling is all well and good, but it’s still nice to let things breathe once in a while. It will be fascinating to see Doctor Strange and his mythology further explored in a film that doesn’t have the heavy weight of the origin story around its neck.
As it is, Doctor Strange is yet another solidly enjoyable (and surprisingly funny in places) Marvel movie, one that will be primarily remembered for its fantastic cinematography and for introducing an exciting new superhero into the fold. We love the usual Avengers, of course, but on occasion it’s good to be strange.