Review: ‘Doctor Strange’ would expect nothing less of his film Special

Posted Nov 7, 2016 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Doctor Strange’ is Marvel’s strongest movie in years, matching the best qualities of the studio’s first big picture success.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in  Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in 'Doctor Strange'
Marvel Studios
With the studio scheduled to release two to three movies a year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is expanding relatively quickly. Introducing new characters from the comics via brief appearances in other vehicles or their own standalone pictures, they maintain their complex personalities and bring to life storylines previously reserved for the printed page. Most importantly, after some success, Marvel has proven no longer afraid to bring some of their lesser-known heroes to the screen. Doctor Strange is the latest superhero movie to hit theatres and although he wears a cape he’s not your typical comic book protagonist.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a famous surgeon, specializing in the repair of severe nerve damage and other challenging maladies. His success has made him both arrogant and ambitious — qualities that make him equally compelling and deplorable. However when a terrible accident cripples his hands and career, he exhausts every known possibility for recovery… and then he moves to the unconventional ones. Travelling to Katmandu, Strange searches for the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who is said to have unparalleled healing powers. After careful consideration, he is accepted to train at the Ancient One’s temple where he is taught magic and set on a path for improvement – though not necessarily the kind he sought. In the meantime, a former student named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is threatening to rip a hole in the fabric of the universe and release a darkness that will consume Earth unless they can stop him.
This is possibly the best Marvel cinematic origin story since the first Iron Man movie. The script is excellent, finding the perfect balance between action, drama and comedy. Strange has a sarcastic sense of humour similar to Tony Stark’s, but more cheeky. He’s also incredibly intelligent, applying the same drive and cleverness he used to conquer the medical world to fast track his magic training; though he learns knowledge is not the same as skill. The Ancient One and her apprentice, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), take a special interest in Strange’s learning, each personally teaching him certain lessons and chastising his nonchalance when required. Strange is a charming character, challenging for the crown of most likeable millionaire.
This is also one of the studio’s most visually stunning pictures. Their magic is represented by visible gold drawings that are suspended in the air and can be manipulated by the creator to open portals or be used as a weapon against an enemy. Each outline is an ornate yet fleeting piece of art that actually looks very attractive in 3D. There are numerous scenes involving astral projection, including ethereal fistfights unbound by walls or other physical obstacles. These are some of the most entertaining sections of the film. However, the most eye-catching moments consist of moving landscapes and reimagined buildings. The characters appear trapped in an ever-changing M. C. Escher painting, from endless hallways to spiralling staircases to nowhere. Writer/director Scott Derrickson employs the same CGI technology used in Inception, but it’s been much improved and is presented on a grander scale.
The production was delayed to ensure Cumberbatch’s involvement and with good reason as he is a fantastic Doctor Strange. He flawlessly captures the character’s sarcasm and determination, convincingly delivering every smart-aleck line and displaying a mix of vulnerability and strength. There’s been some controversy around the casting of Swinton, but regardless she is more than capable of portraying the ageless mystic. One of her key contributions is the genuineness with which speaks and moves as each is performed with such deliberateness and a hint of centuries-informed humour. Ejiofor has the gravest personality, taking the defense of the world and the temple’s rules very seriously. And Mikkelsen makes a great villain, playing someone who truly believes in their convictions in spite of how crazy their solution may be.
Overall, this is definitely one of Marvel’s greatest accomplishments and one of the few instances in which watching it in 3D may actually be worth that extra admission cost. They seamlessly tie it into the already existing universe and, even more impressively, setup a sequel with seemingly no effort.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton