Movie Review: "Doctor Strange"
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a world class surgeon. He is at the top of his field, as he is incredibly successful, is incredibly skilled, and he knows it. Being such a gifted surgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange‘s hands are his livelihood. Sure, even without his hands, he still has the knowledge of a doctor at the top of his profession, but his hands allow him to do what he does and to make a lot of money doing it.
After a devastating car accident leaves both of his hands decimated, Doctor Strange fears he may never be able to perform another surgery, and his colleagues do not disagree. In a search for alternative forms of therapy, Doctor Strange discovers a place that teaches sorcery to its students, and is led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Doctor Strange does not believe in any of this nonsense, but he is desperate so gives it a shot. As he begins to suspect that everything they are saying may be true, one of the Ancient One’s former disciples returns to unleash evil on this dimension.
The Pros & Cons
Doctor Strange & The Ancient One (+6pts)
The Action & The Visual Effects (+8pts)
Overwhelming Visuals (-2pts)
Mordo & Wong (+4pts)
Second Credit Scene (-2pts)
Pro: Doctor Strange & The Ancient One (+6pts)
The Ancient One was an unexpectedly powerful character. As powerful as some other characters were, the movie did a great job of showing that she was on an entirely different level, while also maintaining the mystery of the character. In many verbal exchanges between Doctor Strange and the Ancient One, she was able to hold her own. Then—through a number of epic action sequences—the filmmakers made it very clear that the Ancient One was very much deserving of her status as the Sorcerer Supreme.
Doctor Strange, was portrayed in a way that I found to be oddly similar to Tony Stark, in the sense that both were successful, brilliant in their fields, and arrogant. Much like Tony Stark in Iron-Man, Doctor Strange hit rock bottom in this movie and needed to find a new appreciation for life, as he began his redemption story. I did not like how similar his story was to Tony Stark’s, but it was an effective story nonetheless. This guy was an egotistical jerk, but you want to see this guy redeem himself anyway, and I think the filmmakers deserve a lot of credit for making that happen.
Con: Kaecilius (-3pts)
As has been an unfortunate trend in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the villain in Doctor Strange was pretty underdeveloped. I thought they did a much better job with him than they have done with some other villains—like Ronin in Guardians of the Galaxy and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World—but I would have liked to have seen more. I would have liked to see what drove Kaecilius to seek the Ancient One, as well as what drove him to go bad. The movie very briefly and very vaguely addressed these questions, but if Marvel wanted a more compelling villain they should have developed him further. Again, they did a better job with him than they have with some other villains in the past, but Marvel still has a long way to go when it comes to consistently providing interesting villains.
Pro: The Action & The Visual Effects (+8pts)
This should really come as no surprise, but the visual effects for Doctor Strange were like nothing I have seen before. The closest thing that it could be compared to would be Inception, but this movie took it many steps further. With crazy fight scenes amidst cities folding in on themselves, traveling across space and time, and seeing other dimensions. I can safely say that you have never seen anything like this movie either—when it comes to the visual effects. The interesting thing was that it very much felt like a Marvel movie, while also setting itself apart from the rest of them, as a result of the crazy visual effects. This movie opened the door for a ton of possibilities within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this movie left me interested to see how Doctor Strange would interact with the other heroes, as well as how his abilities could change the game, so to speak.
Con: Overwhelming Visuals (-2pts)
One of my biggest concerns going into this movie was the potentially overwhelming level of visual effects and dimensional travel. The opening sequence was a little overwhelming, but it introduced the craziness that would be shown later. Another potentially overwhelming scene came later when Doctor Strange was introduced to the mystical arts. I did not think it was a huge issue, because it was meant to overwhelm the character of Stephen Strange and we are experiencing everything from his perspective, so we should be as overwhelmed as he was. Regardless, this scene was somewhat of a hallucinogenic trip, and may be too ridiculous for some viewers. My advice to those people would be to just sit through it, the movie gets a lot better.
Pro: Mordo & Wong (+4pts)
These two side characters provided some of my favorite parts of this movie. Wong (Benedict Wong), and his banter with Dr. Strange, provided a lot of comedic moments, and I am sure that Wong will end up being a fan favorite. Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) played a more significant role, and was an important complimentary character to Doctor Strange. I left the movie very interested in learning this character’s backstory, how he came to find the Ancient One and why. Both of these characters—Mordo and Wong—formed intriguing relationships with Doctor Strange and I had a lot of fun watching them both on screen.
Con: Second Credit Scene (-2pts)
There were two credit scenes in Doctor Strange, and the first was after the cinematic credits. It was not a long wait and it was a fun scene between Doctor Strange and another character. The second credit scene was at the very end of the scrolling credits. This scene was not shocking, but it was a significant scene, in terms of the plot of this movie. The scene was fine, but I think it would have worked better if it had been included before the credits began, and not as a second credit scene. The scene was a pretty big cliffhanger, which setup a potential storyline for a future Doctor Strange movie. It will not be a hugely satisfying scene for some people, but I think that is due to the wait, rather than due to the scene itself. I liked the scene for what it implied will happen down the road, but making it a credit scene made it feel like somewhat of a disappointment.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
I was definitely interested in this movie before going in to see it. Marvel had a strong track record leading up to this movie, but none had looked more daring than this one. The mind-bending visual effects, dimensions, and magic was a lot to introduce in one movie. The movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had not been "realistic" before, but the worlds that the unrealistic characters were in were mostly realistic. This movie took a giant step toward the more mystical side of Marvel, and I think it worked pretty well.
The movie was not perfect, but there was a lot to like. It had all of the mind-bending visual effects that Inception had, but added a bunch of sorcerers fighting each other with magic. The visual effects were overwhelming and ridiculous at times, but they were mostly epic, and the action sequences were great, but that is not all this movie was. I liked the redemption story that Doctor Strange was on, and I liked the character of the Ancient One a lot. Unfortunately, this movie fell into the same trap that many Marvel movies before it have fallen into, as the primary antagonist felt generic and severely underdeveloped. The movie was not perfect, but it was pretty good. It was a familiar redemption story, but had incredible, epic visual effects, which made this movie a lot of fun.