Review – Doctor Strange (2016)

Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now actually begun! You say, “Hold up, young guns! Civil War kicked all that off.” Yes, officially, we began Phase 3 months ago with that Clash of the Titans, Captain America and Iron Man. We were introduced to Black Panther there as well, but still, Civil War was very much in line with and a continuation of what preceded it. Doctor Strange breaks new ground from everything so far…new dimensions even. What a trip!

Ever since his casting, I’ve been in high anticipation of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch take his place in the MCU. An early fan of his work on BBC’s Sherlock, I’ve waited for him to truly explode as a household name (even if many might scratch their head, puzzled at pronunciation). His talent is undeniable, and even here in a “franchise” film, I’m amazed to see his versatility as an actor. His take on Stephen Strange, which some have claimed up to a rehash of Tony Stark, is unique in the MCU. Yes, the two begin with an arrogance and heavy pull of self-centered gravity, Strange has an arc beyond Stark, even in one film. While Stark is attitudinally near the same in the time we’ve shared with him across several films, but by films’ end and into the end credits (*SPOILER ALE…Oh c’mon, you fans know the drill), Strange is a changed man. I don’t want to divulge too much into the story, but the thrust of the story is one of creating a humble man from great arrogance. Cumberbatch fully sells the role.

While on the topic of casting, this was all spot-on. First things first: Tilda Swinton was great as The Ancient One. I had no issue with her presence sure brought or the movie’s twist on the character’s gender. It all worked, and we got another powerful female character (more on that in a minute). Chiwetel Ejiofor is another favorite of mine, and his Mordo didn’t disappoint. I hope to see him develop for years to come in the role, as he has a shifting worldview at play here that should make for interesting material moving forward. Benedict Wong (that’s right, folks: we get even more Benedict for one money), as Wong, established a fun report with Strange that will only get better from here. Mads Mikkelsen is a vastly underused presence in Hollywood, and I hope that’s corrected after this. I’ve been all about his craft after his unforgettable role as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, an instant favorite Bond villain for me. He isn’t given as much screentime as I’d like, but he makes his presence known throughout the film. Rachel McAdams, while still a love interest, plays a female character who is never a ‘damsel-in-distress’. It was refreshing to see.

I purposely try to avoid spoilers or story recaps in my reviews, if I can, so I will here as well. I will say that, while this is an origin story, seeing a character experience a dynamic change in the way this film presents makes it unique enough to me to warrant attention. The theme of broadening the mind extends to one’s heart and spirit as well. The entire story works as a great analogy of emptying oneself to serve a bigger purpose beyond selfish need. While not inherently Christian, being that the film revolves around the Sorcerer Supreme coming into his own, I still felt Scriptural parallels emerge here, which was refreshing.

Lastly, those visuals, man.  I saw it in 3D, and you should too. After many films that didn’t need it, I thought it was VERY effectively used here. Astral projection is just one part of what’s at play here. I daresay they’re are things on display here that haven’t even been attempted in live action. I want more Doctor Strange just so I can go on another trip into the impossible. I can’t wait see all that follows the full plunge on display here into the Cosmic realms of Marvel.

Before ending, content-wise, there was some language, but I believe it occurred in the arrogant and frustrated stages of Strange’s character. I remember one conversation where it is asked if two people were “sleeping together” early on in the film, but nothing sexual is displayed in the film. There is blood from injuries shown, a severe car wreck and the ensuing injuries, and an off-screen decapitation. Some of the trippy visuals may be intense for some viewers, so be advised.

To conclude, Marvel brought the goods again! There are some seriously good things on display here. Some of the jokes here or there fall a little flat (something that will happen less in any sequels, I feel), but the world-building here is amazing and full of opportunities for the MCU. Don’t miss out Marvel fans on something strange!

SCORE: 8.0 (out of 10)

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