By Matt Reinstein
Overall Rating: 3/5
Marvel’s Phase Three, it’s most daring phase to date, is filled with movies featuring characters that are not well known to many people other than comic-book geeks. Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel are among these heroes. Then again, not many people had heard of Iron Man prior to 2008, as crazy as it sounds.
We also saw this with Guardians of the Galaxy– unknown characters became household names after Marvel put their names in front of a movie and raked in loads of cash as a result. With Doctor Strange, Marvel will probably take in around $250-300 million domestically, and much more internationally, while continuing to be one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, if not the biggest.
The reason for the company’s success is because Marvel has figured out a similar way of producing each of their movies, which is to give the project an “unlimited” amount of production money, not including marketing, big name stars (because who doesn’t want to say that they were in a Marvel movie), and amazing visual effects– which, if this movie doesn’t win the oscar for, I will lose all of my respect for the Academy.
Though all of these aspects seem redeeming in a movie, which they are, we’ve seen this movie 13 times already. Marvel’s biggest message with Doctor Strange has been that it will be “so different from all the rest,” but in reality, it’s yet another stereotypical Marvel movie being added to the plethora of stereotypical superhero movies.
That being said, Marvel does know how to make an entertaining movie, which at times, when not smothered by exposition, this movie manages to be.
Doctor Stephen Strange (an American-accented Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant, egotistical doctor who’s the best in the business, and he knows it, not unlike a certain Tony Stark. Everything’s going well for him until he gets in a life-shattering car accident that causes irreparable nerve damage in his hands, costing him his job and his sanity. Seeking full recovery, he sets on his way to Kathmandu, Nepal to find the mysterious place, Karmar-Taj. This mystical monastery is where he meets allies, such as The Ancient One (a bald Tilda Swinton), Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Wong (similarly named Benedict Wong). There, Strange learns the Mystic Arts and how to cope with his damaged hands. But when former student of The Ancient One, Kaecilius (raccoon-eyed Mads Mikkelson) steals pages from an ancient rituals book and threatens to destroy the gates that protect Earth, Doctor Strange and his friends must use their mystical powers to prevent the end of the world. Strange does all this while he struggles to fix relations with a colleague-with-benefits, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).
From the first shot of the film, you know exactly what this movie is going to be: psychedelic eye-candy resembles an LSD-fueled viewing of Inception. At times, it feels as if the studio was too focused on creating mind-bending visuals to distract the viewer from the generic plot that all Marvel movies conform to: superhero defeats disposable villain while going through hardships. Yep, that’s the movie. Sadly, despite it being a visual masterpiece, it can’t escape the generalization that most moviegoers won’t realize– it’s just another Marvel Movie.
It has everything that a Marvel movie has, and nothing much different other than the kaleidoscope visuals. It consists of a lot of quips, cheesy love interest, and a too-long a run time of 115 minutes. One difference it does have is it’s climax.
We’ve grown bored of the blue laser shooting up in the sky while aliens come pouring down from the sky, so director, Scott Derrikson (Sinister) makes the wise choice to revert the climax in a backwards moving, Groundhog Day-ish, colorful experience that only Crayola crayons can illustrate properly. It’s quite a feat, and very fun to experience.
Cumberbatch brings to Doctor Strange what Robert Downey Jr. brings to Tony Stark/Iron Man, providing toned portrayals of their character, though at times a bit sarcastic and goofy. Cumberbatch was made to play this role, for he himself shares characteristics with Doctor Strange– both restrained and quirky, while also being charming.
Swinton also portrays her character extremely well, showcasing her great acting experience. Swinton brings mystery, making the audience curious and eager to learn more about her character. There is controversy of white-washing with this character, but Swinton did manage to nail her performance.
Ejiofor was good, along with McAdams, trying her best to overcome her clichéd lines, but the unsung hero and comic relief of this movie was Wong. Bringing humor and severity to the big screen at the same time is very hard to do, but Wong somehow manages to do so with a hilarious scene of him listening to Beyoncé. But, while this humor from him is funny, the humor from Cumberbatch is at times forced and awkward, which can take away from the gravity of some of the more serious scenes of the film.
But, once again, this is Marvel being nervous about losing their trademark. The contrast with the comedy and the violence (which is pretty adult and graphic) doesn’t always work and can be unfunny and take away from the well-shot and fantastically performed action scenes in the film.
In the end, Doctor Strange’s outstanding visuals and solid performances do save this movie, despite the inconsistent screenplay, humor, and Marvel’s inability to add something vaguely different to its cinematic universe. Strange did do its job, though. It made me excited to see Doctor Strange fight with the Avengers, but while it’s entertaining while audiences watch it but it’s a bit tad forgettable after the theater experience.