Time for another Marvel movie! I knew nothing about Doctor Strange before going in, but the trailer looked very psychedelic, and I'm a fan of Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Mads Mikkelsen (who I had just seen in Rogue One).
Being a general Marvel fan, I had to check it out before it left the theater. I'm late seeing it, so that's why this review is very late. Some spoilers follow, so beware. But you've probably already seen it. (I think it's out of the theaters, by now.)
There's lots to like about Doctor Strange, and Marvel continues to churn out good (if not great) popcorn action movies.
- The visuals. This is the best part of the movie, hands down. The visuals are spectacular; there's no other way to put it. Probably the best in any Marvel movie, to date, frankly. So many to choose from... where to begin? The psychedelic trip that the doctor first takes is a work of art that builds on ideas from Kubrick's 2001, without being a ripoff. The kaleidoscopic city fights are all beautiful to behold, and a lot of fun. It feels like a trippy carnival ride. I even have to point out the "magical" designs on the insignia, shields, and more. If you're into geometric art, your eyes will have a feast with this movie.
- The ideas. As I mentioned, I'm not familiar with the comic book or the character, so I don't know how much is from the books and how much was written for the script. However, I was enthralled with the time travel and control, time loops, teleportation, and multi-verse. These are all pseudo-scientific ideas, but were built into the world imaginatively and "realistically"... for this world, anyway. The writers did a good job of making it seem scientific, but easy enough for the hoi polloi to understand. The visual team also came up with quite a few creative ideas to express these concepts. My favorite was probably the room that can dial in other geographic locations instantly.
- The acting. Everyone turns in a solid, if not Oscar-worthy, performance. Rachel McAdams is sorely underrated; she was fantastic. Cumberbatch stole the show, of course. I saw some critics calling his performance a rip off of House, M.D. but I didn't see it that way. Doctor Strange had to go through fear, doubt, loss, and desperation, as well as the quippy, snarky stuff. Cumberbatch delivered.
- The resolution. I loved the ending of this movie. I won't spoil it, but the plan that Strange came up with to defeat the Big Bad was brilliant, and it came out of left field. Just watch the movie and you'll see what I mean.
While I found Doctor Strange to be very enjoyable, I noticed some glaring flaws which keep it "good" and prevent it from becoming "great."
- The humor. This was a pretty depressing story when you pause to consider it. So adding jokes to the script is kind of a weird choice. For me, the humor just didn't work. There wasn't a lot of it, thankfully. Only one joke made me laugh, and I forget what it was at this point.
- The story beats. This being an MCU movie, and an origin story, the movie had to hit certain beats. When it stuck to the familiar Marvel formula, it was a bit dull. When the movie was allowed to become its own animal and break the rules, it really shined. I wish the folks at Marvel would trust their audience enough to know that we understand that these movies are happening in the same universe. Let the artistic teams and the director take chances!
- The villain. Mads Mikkelson was fine, but his character was either misused or underused. The idea of a rogue sorcerer who believes himself to be on a righteous quest is a very interesting concept. How do you make that bland and predictable? Marvel's heroes are great. To date, the only great villain (on screen) has been Loki.
Doctor Strange has a lot going for it, but is hindered by the MCU, just like every other Marvel movie. It's a good movie, but it's not great. I think the reviews are a little bit too generous. The movie is enjoyable, though, so if you're into big budget spectacles (or the Marvel MCU), Doctor Strange is worth your time.
Story: ★★½ of 5
Action: ★★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★★½ of 5
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