Marvel is becoming a world power within Hollywood itself. It’s snagging up A-list talent left and right for the best and for the worst. Its Marvel Cinematic Universe idea has been snagged up by other studios (notably DC in Warner Bros.) to expand a franchise with endless sequels and spinoffs. The most recent outing of Marvel is Doctor Strange, which pushes the boundaries of said universe, and in and of itself makes for a fantastic individual film.
Doctor Strange is the origin story of a new superhero. Steve Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a renowned neurosurgeon in New York. He is extremely arrogant and hard to socialize with; something we see takes a toll with Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a fellow surgeon and ex-lover. However, after a horrific car crash, Strange’s hands are destroyed, and despite attempts to reconfigure them, he can no longer continue with his practice. Desperate to find a cure Strange goes to Nepal where he has heard of a mystic cult led by The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) that might be able to help him. There he learns the immensity of the universe and various multi-verses beyond and he is shown the ability to control energies from these other dimensions through so called “magic.” As he discovers this new world he also finds about Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who had left this magic school in search for immortality through a dark dimension.
The film is extremely enthralling because of the mind-blowing lore and visuals behind it. It certainly earns comparisons to other world-bending films such as Inception and The Matrix, but it also manages to make a space and science of its own. The problem with a complex subject like this is that you could lose your audience along the way, but director Scott Derrickson was able to keep things simple, at a great pace, and with a light tone typical of Marvel movies so that you were able to understand the otherwise incredibly complex functions of the film’s science.
There was a nagging fault however, that has become incredibly apparent in Marvel films: the humor. The film dealt with such dramatic events, that when our characters dropped a joke it seemed out of place and it broke the rhythm of the film. As much as I appreciate a light-hearted tone every now and then in drama, I do find that there needs to be a certain restraint. And while I’m not campaigning for the ultra-dark tones of DC’s films, there comes a time when Marvel gets a little too goofy, and out of place.
As I mentioned before Marvel is grabbing an incredibly extensive list of A-list actors, and the ones in Doctor Strange were very talented. They were able to have a lot of fun with these new characters and really drive them away from any stereotypes. I can speak for everyone when I say that we were left wanting much more from Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen, who barely have ten minutes of screen time and are both fantastic. Benedict Cumberbatch did well in the titular role, he is known for playing arrogant geniuses before; so it was nice to seem him try the comical parts and especially that American accent. The rest of the cast is rounded out with a bald Tilda Swinton, a decent Chiwetel Ejiofor, and a composed Benedict Wong.
Doctor Strange is a great thought-provoking film about time and space, and the incredible visuals are a wonder to behold (especially in 3D). The smart story with an expert and simplified narrative along with a cast that is having a lot of fun, you can’t rule out some generic aspects in the story, but overall it was a good time.