In an increasingly expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange chooses to explore an uncharted territory in the mystic side of Marvel’s titanic franchise.
The result from this is an entertaining trip (in more ways than one) into worlds and wonders without end, that might just open an equally infinite amount of doors to potential properties for future exploration.
The clear winning feature of Scott Derrickson’s foray into the MCU is its visuals. From Inception-on-steroids style folding buildings to just pure psychedelic imagery that’d make Steve Ditko himself proud, Strange’s visuals are nothing we’ve ever seen before. This lends itself into its action scenes, giving us fights that are literally off the wall–No, these fights don’t even /need/ walls. If I saw this in IMAX, my head would probably still be spinning as I write this.
With a star-studded cast, almost everyone shines in their own way. Benedict Cumberbatch, no stranger to arrogant and insufferable characters, plays the admittedly clichéd character arc well with a dry wit and a fair bit of magical ineptitude. Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One is a more affable, more ‘human’ take of the traditional old master stereotype, and one more easy to be emotionally invested into. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo is one of the movie’s standouts, turning the traditionally villainous character into the ‘straight man’ in the Strange-Mordo double act and a worthy foil to Strange, while building on his eventual rise of darkness well. Mads Mikkelsen is, to be blunt, sadly an origin story victim in his role as Kaecillius, in another example of Marvel squandering great actors in forgettable villain roles. With a little more development, Kaecillius would’ve been the perfect Anti-Strange but alas, it was not to be. Benedict Wong’s…Wong differs from the tea-serving manservant of Strange in the comics into more of Strange’s take no shit peer im a way, and provides a healthy helping of humor in most of his scenes. Rachel McAdams’ Christine ‘Not-Night Nurse’ Palmer, does well as the muggle caught up in magic and provides a good enough anchor for Strange, but sadly she wasn’t quite memorable enough.
As with most origin stories, Doctor Strange suffers from a case of Originitis, with its almost wholly predictable plot that hits all the beats of your usual Superhero Origin. That’s not to say the script isn’t anything to write home about, though. The movie still manages to distill and simplify the concept of Marvel magic into an almost-science, leaving not many questions as to how it works. The film seems to also take a few cues from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s excellent Doctor Strange: The Oath, with several notable scenes and characters echoing the book. Michael Giacchino’s scoring also works really well for the movie, sounding very much different from past Marvel movies with its use of strings that’s slightly reminiscent to JRPGs or just RPGs in general.
Easter egg hunters will have a field day with this. Just about almost every entity Strange has ever invoked in the comics, with a few notable exceptions, were namedropped in the film, even other cosmic entities. And with some of the secondary characters’ relations to major players in the Marvel universe, one can’t help but wonder how these more famous relatives will figure into the MCU next.
While the plot is nothing special, by merit of its eye-popping visuals and amazing scoring, Doctor Strange is another very solid addition to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or could we be expanding beyond universes?