Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong
‘Doctor Strange’ had the potential of being the best Marvel character we’ve seen on screen so far. He’s got the humor and arrogance that we love in Iron Man, the brute power that makes Thor and Hulk appealing, and even got the sense of duty and good looks to rival Captain America. The mythos and creativity associated with this character is endless, and this movie promised to give audiences a little bit of a stranger side to the MCU. Unfortunately, there’s always the mainstream audience to please, and for me, it shows up where and when the studio came in and said just that.
The first thing people want to know is if the movie is going to be fun. The answer is a resounding yes. The action scenes in this movie are astonishing, the characters each have great moments, there’s good jokes, and there’s bits that send chills down your spine. But is it the most fun Marvel movie out there? I don’t think so. I had more fun with ‘Civil War’on the MCU side of things and ‘Deadpool’ if we’re looking more broadly into Fox’s Marvel offerings.
What plagues ‘Doctor Strange’ in terms of negatives is that the story is incredibly undercooked. There’s noticeable cuts to what would’ve made the main character and his backstory so much more rich and interesting, and also to his training sequences. If anything, I wanted to see more Doctor Strange and more of him making that transition from antihero to hero. Instead, he just flips like a light switch, which was a little jarring. The pacing in this film is too fast. I turned to the people I saw it with and said that this movie was too short, which meant two things. One, it means I wanted more. Two, it shows that they clearly cut too much stuff out, because otherwise I would’ve gotten more!
Other big issues I have involve the villain and more of the character development (don’t worry, there’s still a whole positives section I’m getting to). For me, the villain wasn’t utilized enough. His backstory was cliché, like a lot of this movie, and his presence I didn’t feel was intense as it could’ve been. Much of what makes up the core of the plot of this movie is cliché. I could see where everything was going in advance, and though it didn’t bother me while watching it, I was hoping that when Marvel were making something as obviously weird as this premise, some risks were going to be taken. No risks were evident, other than the visuals.
Speaking of the visuals, I would argue that the VFX and the action scenes involving the twisting landscape and the defiance of gravity and time are some of the best made to date. The VFX absolutely make seeing this movie in the theater worth the price of admission. It’s a visual spectacle that earns every special effects award it gets nominated for. I would say that seeing this movie is warranted just on these effects alone. For other good things, I was impressed with the direction of the basic dialogue scenes. What hindered ‘Deadpool’ was the exposition and dialogue scenes felt bland and generally average in terms of execution. ‘Doctor Strange’ does have more style to it, and it’s more compelling. Scott Derrickson, an unknown director to me (he makes horror films that’s probably why), delivered a fun experience with this movie, if only there was more of it.
All of the performances are good, as is the Marvel standard; the casting is generally always excellent. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the physical aspect of being a superhero well, also bringing a lot of nuance and depth to the role. Tilda Swinton also had great subtleties added to her performance, where you can tell the duality of morals that she faces without her having to say it out loud. Supporting actors do well in their tropes of roles. Chiwetel Ejiofor seemed to be the popular favorite after the screening, and his character is definitely one of the more engaging ones. I wish he had some more backstory, but the runtime has to be under 2 hours, right Marvel? Rachel McAdams plays generic love interest, but she actually is a useful character rather than someone on the sideline. My biggest performance issue comes from the villain, Mads Mikkelsen’s character. I love this actor, and it was so disappointing to me to see him reduced to such a bland and vague character. I blame mostly the script, but it was a performance that didn’t bring much intensity to the role. As far as villains go, the power and threat factor are high, but he’s got almost no charisma, and it makes him hard to engage with.
In summation, I do recommend seeing it, and when they eventually make a sequel, I’ll be ready to see that too. The VFX are among the best to date, the character is really interesting, and the action is great fun. My grievances with the plot didn’t prevent me from having a good time while watching it, but it did have an effect on the overall quality of the actual movie as a whole. Who knows, we may get an “extended edition” that supposedly fixes everything I just griped about.