In late October 2014, Kevin Feige took to a New York City stage to declare the upcoming slate of movies that will be classified as Phase 3. Those included the much Captain America 3, Guardians 2 and Thor 3. However, what people were not expecting were the announcements of characters such as Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel! All characters that die-hard comic book fans have been begging to see done properly for many a year gone by!
It was announced that the first of these debutants would Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange (played enjoyably enough by Benedict Cumberbatch). Marvel stated on its announcement that:
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the supernatural, that involves everything from quantum mechanics to string theory. The idea of this film is to open up a whole new corner of the cinematic universe. We want to enter, through Strange, the world of parallel dimensions
But did this mean that Doctor Strange would be a wash of mind-bending, reality altering socercy jargon? Or would Derrickson manage to ground this otherwise unknown character and provide another clinical victory for Marvel’s Cinematic Juggernaut?
Before I start I want to get one thing off of my chest: Am I supposed to root for Doctor Strange? Or should I appreciate the journey he’s taken from the beginning of the film to the end? Because to me, Doctor Strange is completely at fault throughout this entire film. Unlike characters such as Tony Stark, Stephen Strange’s story seemed more of self-fulfilment than of wanting to make a difference for the right reasons?
Anyway, back to the plot. Stephen Strange, the self professed number 1 neurosurgeon in New York City is unfortunately involved in a fairly serious car accident causing sever nerve damage to his hands rendering them essentially useless. With the depression of not being able to get back to work weighing heavier by the day, Strange begins to seek out more unconventional methods of returning his body to its once great form. What ensues is a litany of psychedelic adventures that sees Strange and a band of Sorcerers give battle against Mads Mikkleson and his army of devout Zealots.
The positives of this story is that the bits involving the multiverse actually made sense. The commitment to this premise seemed genuinely legitimate even if I had no clue what most of the words they were saying mean. It was also aided by the brilliant visual effects that managed to compliment the way in which Tilda Swinton would navigate around this entirely new concept to the way the world works.
The negatives were that the villain was ridiculous! All I could think of was Green Lantern! Which if you were not is a very poor sign. What is Marvel’s issue with creating plausible villains that provide genuine interest to the viewer. Instead I know from the moment I sit down that the Protagonist will prevail regardless of the seemingly impossible task placed before them. I also didn’t understand the need to have Rachel McAdams look longingly at Strange throughout the film’s duration. I appreciate the need to the tether the characters to normality, however there are surely better ways than having a talented actress such McAdams swoon whenever Cumberbatch clicks his fingers.
ROUND 1 SCORE: 7/10
Round 2 – Characters
As mentioned above, the characters are probably the weakest element to “Doctor Strange”. Strange himself I found very difficult to root for. In fact I found myself sympathising more with Chiwetel Ejifor’s character than the titular character himself. I appreciate that Cumberbatch is a talented actor, The Imitation Game is brilliant, however does he really need that silly American accent? I’m English and even I found that difficult to listen to. Why can’t he just be English? Why make thugs sound so difficult?
Mikkleson does what he does best in his role as the movie’s main villain, Kaecilius. His deliveries were sharp and his action sequences did not detract from the quality of his performance. However I feel the script let him down in various areas as the motives of the good guy/bad guy become entirely lost. I again felt consideration for Mikkleson’s character instead of towards Strange.
ROUND 2 SCORE: 6/10
Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment
It is the enjoyability of Doctor Strange that gives this film the result it deserves. Director Derrickson manages to brilliantly include not only visual transcendence, but also return to his horror movie roots with a couple of well shot jump scares for good measure.
From the moment Strange is sent crashing in to the River in the opening 10 minutes the film proves it is going to look fantastic! The jokes we come to expect from a Marve Film are passable, and the tone borders on Harry Potter without ever managing to go full Wizarding World at Christmas. However overall a very enjoyable film that I’m sure will get better the more it is watched.
ROUND 3 SCORE: 9/10
FINAL SCORE: DOCTOR STRANGE WINS BY DECISION 22/30
Doctor Strange is an enjoyable fantasy adventure that does everything it says on the label. If it’s not gleefully staring down the lense again making fun of the non-sensical concept this movie is undertaking, its twisting the very ideas of the Universe held by the audience, comforting and manipulating them to believe that with the proper training, they too could pass through to other realms.