Many people have that “one” movie they have been looking forward to all year; for some it’s Jason Bourne, for others it’s Suicide Squad, and for everyone it is Star Wars: Rouge One. But for me, it is Doctor Strange. Even though I have read only a few of his comics, every time he made an appearance I felt a giddiness that only my favorite superheroes (e.g. Captain America, Batman, and David Dunn) can create. Unlike DC (who can’t put out a good movie this year), Marvel has continued to impress with a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting origin story.
Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson, and written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill. Stars-Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachael McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, and Benedict Wong. Premise-The origin story of Dr. Stephen Strange who, while seeking spiritual healing after an accident, learns mystical secrets and gains powers to defeat unseen enemies.
What’s that? A pink (or in this case white) elephant in the room? Yes, Tilda Swinton is not Asian. Even though I believe that white-washing still exists, I do not believe that it was practiced in this movie. For one, why would they risk a Ghostbusters (2016) level of bad press especially when they need this movie to be successful to expand their universe? Secondly, Derrickson himself said “Certainly our intentions were to subvert racial stereotypes and to create the best possible diversity between within the cast.” I think this was a good decision. Look at the cast members I listed; that is a far more diverse cast than other recent Marvel movies. If you needed any more proof, the cast is incredible!
Each actor is thoroughly lost in their role (whether it be over-the-top, philosophical, comic relief, or dramatic), and the characters they play are well-developed and have great chemistry. My only gripe with the characters is the Marvel formula. The lead character is egocentric, really good at one specific thing that will get him noticed by higher-ups, he makes a lot of quips, poorly treats his loved ones, and fights a one-dimensional villain. The Marvel formula has worked for a reason, but I am just getting a bit tired of it. What made Deadpool different was the R rating, what made Civil War different was the emotional divide between the Avengers. Doctor Strange would be a stronger character if I wasn’t reminded of Tony Stark so often. As for the villain, well, he is about 20% better of a villain than Apocalypse or whoever the villain in Ant-Man was. The mere intensity of Mikkelsen is enough to save the character, but he is essentially the villain who abused his teacher’s power and betrayed them (you may have seen this cliché in Ant-Man, Attack of the Clones, The Force Awakens, and a dozen other movies). Despite this, the characters are still fleshed-out and their interactions are natural.
What really makes this movie worth watching, multiple times, are the incredible F/X, action sequences, and humor. Think of the F/X in Inception (especially the “Paris folding in on itself” scene); now add the spell-casting visuals of Warcraft or Harry Potter. I have been very hard on CGI in movies (especially when it is not needed or if the story can’t support it), but Doctor Strange has some of the best visual effects I have ever seen in a movie. Scott Derrickson directed Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil (2014), and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I have no idea how Disney (who owns Marvel) keeps casting directors that seem like odd choices, but makes them turn out extremely well. Derrickson’s direction in this movie is extremely underrated. Since this movie is based on comics that explored interdimensional travel, you should expect some trippy stuff on screen, and I cannot express how much fun it is to mimic some of the moves the characters do in the movie. The action scenes are very well-choreographed, and the jokes are gold 90% of the time.
There were two things that surprised me, first, the philosophy, and second the ending. No, I’m not talking about the end credits scenes; I mean the last third of the film. Throughout the movie, we are treated to some legitimately intriguing and creative philosophy and themes. There is one particular scene between Strange and The Ancient One (Swinton) that is just them looking out of a window contemplating death. This is when the strongest moments of character are present, and it cleverly opens the door to future plot points.
I am so glad that one of my favorite movies of the year came out in my birthday month. God knows I needed it after watching Trolls…ugh. I took very few notes when I watched it because I didn’t want to miss anything. Thank you for your time, now go watch this movie. Even if you don’t get into the story, the visuals and action scenes are definitely worth the price of admission. Doctor Strange gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A-.