"Doctor Strange" (2016) - Rated PG-13 / Runtime: 115 minutes
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen
Review by: JJ Mortimer
Though heavy on exposition and a little less coherent than some of the simpler Marvel Studios comic book adaptations, Doctor Strange is nevertheless a visually impressive, magic-filled adventure that introduces us to yet another confident, competent, and charismatic lead to the Avengers-based team.
Here's the thing: If you like the MCUs (Marvel Cinematic Universe) characters and the Avengers-based films, you're going to like Doctor Strange. The film looks like and follows the typical Marvel/Stan Lee tropes for origin stories, and does obvious tie-ins to future Avengers films. Strange has a very familiar formula, but luckily ads a little spice to the visual atmosphere we've come to expect from these films. It's magic and Eastern mysticism is a welcome change of genre than what we've seen so far.
WARNING: If you're a psychedelic drug practitioner, do NOT partake before watching this film. Doctor Strange has a few scenes that look like Inception as filmed by an LSD-addled Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in the late 60s. Stephen Strange learns of the "astral world" and is thrown into the environment-bending craziness that is a wonder to behold. The films grasps and flies with the "strange" and has a lot of fun with it. In the end and after all is learned, said, and done, I feel as though Doctor Strange will have a HUGE part to play in how the Infinity Wars plays out. So, do your best to pay attention to all the details in this film.
Marvel movies aren't director's movies. I feel Marvel didn't hire director Scott Derrickson (Sinisiter) because of his singular vision, but because he's workmanlike and will deliver exactly what the company asks him to. These films are products of the producer, but luckily Marvel head producer Kevin Feige has the entertainment of the fans on his mind. The only film from the current MCU that had a singular director's vision was Shane Black's Iron Man 3, but even that had more to do with his writing, combined with the delivery and comic timing of its star.
Speaking of stars, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange is quite magnificent, playing an egotistical, self-absorbed asshole brain surgeon who, after losing the use of his precision handiwork, learns from a mystical teacher known as the Ancient One (a bald-headed Tilda Swinton) in how to channel his inner sorcery for the powers of good, and in turn become a self-sacrificing, caring leader who finds another powerful use for his hands. The film deftly shows us how important his character is and will become, and at one point made me feel like they may have shown us a little TOO much that may hinder future tension should devastation occur to the Avengers team.
Doctor Strange is a little bit different than the other Marvel films. We've had science fiction, grounded technology, historic war, mythological fantasy, and now we are introduced to the realm of mysticism and magic. I feel like implications made in this film and this character will have the largest impact on the future of where these stories from the MCU lead us.
The visuals of Doctor Strange are made for the big screen. If you have a chance, see this film in IMAX and try not to get dizzy or freak the fuck out when Strange breaks the space/time continuum, or when the villain bends New York City in ways that will make people under in the influence shit their pants.
Doctor Strange is yet another successful Marvel-ous generation of a charismatic lead character that I would like to see again in future films. There may have been a lot of exposition for the film to get through, but luckily it is all in the presence of good bits of humor, impressive and colorful artistic design, cinematography, and effective uses of computer generated imagery (although Michael Giacchino's score did sound an awful lot like his current Star Trek themes). And at under two hours, the film does not overstay its welcome, which is great because you should stay for the customary two post-credit sequences.