It’s been eight years since “Iron Man” kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since then fans have been treated to a generally positive portrayal of various characters and story arcs within the beloved comic empire. Films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” have taken rather obscure characters, at least to general moviegoers, and transformed them into favorites of mainstream pop culture. As the 14th film within the MCU, “Doctor Strange” seeks to continue the trend by diverging deep within the heart of Marvel.
Like most comic films, “Doctor Strange” hones in upon an origin story for majority of the film. As a skilled neurosurgeon, with his talents only rivaled by is self-fondness, Dr. Steven Strange is surrounded by only the financial support from his work; due to pushing everyone he knows away. After a crippling accident, one that left his hands useless within the surgical field, Strange takes great lengths in finding a cure; leading him to Nepal where he meets the mystical Ancient One who redefines all preconceived notions of the modern world.
Though Strange may be an unfamiliar character to most, Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance brings an accurate and equally enjoyable depiction of the cocky and defiant character. Gone is the saving grace charm, one that keeps Tony Stark lovable, leaving an individual who can be truly seen as an unlikable figure. Cumberbatch is left with the difficult duty to flip the audience’s viewpoint on the egotistical character. Through elongated character development and Cumberbatch’s suave acting
talents, Strange beings to grow on you, especially during the second act. Unfortunately, the humor surrounding him fall flat majority of the time, but this is due to the poor comedic timing rather than delivery. That being said, Strange fits within the ongoing franchise, promising some very entertaining interactions with the rest of the MCU catalog.
Despite the backlash and controversy of the casting choice of the Ancient One, Tilda Swinton is spell-bounding (yeah I went there). The film is as much of Swinton’s as it is Cumberbatch’s. Blending together authoritative with kindness is a walk in the park for Swinton, as the true complexity of the character is spread out onto the screen. The prowess of juggling multiple personalities encased under a soothing surface is what makes the Ancient One as mesmerizing as her physicality. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo is another great character whose humor and sensibility carry the journey of Strange. Less of a sidekick, the counterpart works as a branching point for Strange to connect the world he knows with that of the spiritual and magic realm.
Sadly, the film’s villain is yet another underwhelming addition to the MCU. By no means is Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen, the worst of the series; however, the script only gives him a handle of scenes to work with. The scenes in which Kaecilius is in exhibits a character whose ideologies are conflicted with the three sanctums and the sorcerers who inhabit them. Adding a few scenes explaining the overall personal shift would have given Kaecilius a stronger presence for it allows the full logic of his actions.
Indeed, “Doctor Strange” is yet another origin story, the film manages to deviate from previous installments of the MCU simply by its visuals and expansion of the universe. Incorporating both astral planes and multiple dimensions is a great deal to absorb, but the film nails it on the head. By gently skimming the surface how much larger the universe is, audiences are left in pleasure yet yearning for more. Along with precise dialogue given by Swinton, the CGI encompasses pure comic bliss of splash pages of interdimensional travel and the cosmic realm. Without a doubt, the CGI is one of the film industry’s in both the city centric action sequences and LSD-fueled trips. Witnessing “Doctor Strange” without 3D is a cinematic injustice, as it has become a celebrated visual achievement similar to James Cameron’s Avatar. Having sorcerer vs sorcerer battles could come off as hokey interpretations of wizardry, yet both fight and magic-centric hand choreography sell the true wonder of the film.
Marvel’s score has been a repetitive disappointment for majority of the MCU, but Michael Giacchino’s work may have sparked the uprising success. Although its main theme is reminiscent to Giacchino’s “Star Trek” theme, it prevails upon portraying each distinct motif. Whether it’s the use of sitar or warping brass and sings to reflect interdimensional play, the score only enhances the experience.
Even with its flaws, “Doctor Strange” elevates the MCU for simply its use of time and the multiverse. Selling the what could have been ridiculousness of magic, “Doctor Strange” emerges as a centerpiece of comic book splendor as it showcases the true capacity of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer.